A lunar eclipse is an exciting learning opportunity for kids. Make a night of it with these fun and educational lunar eclipse activities!
October 28 is the next lunar eclipse of 2023. A partial lunar eclipse will be visible from eastern Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.
Get your kids involved in learning about the next lunar eclipse with educational lunar eclipse activities. These will help them learn and engage in the topic while they learn hands-on.
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The Night Sky As a STEM Teacher
The vast night sky is fascinating to almost everyone – especially kids. There are so many concepts to spark your child’s interests. Just going outside and looking up can open a whole world of questions. It also teaches kids how to be okay with the fact that we can’t know all the answers.
Diving into fun projects like these can help explain complex science topics in a way that makes STEM accessible to all kids. And it can create budding scientists. Nearly 70% of kids develop an initial interest in astronomy between the ages of 4-12 years old, according to a 2023 study.
These activities are for kids of all ages, and will be fun for adults, too! Watching and learning about a lunar eclipse is interesting for kids and a wonderful way to connect as a family.
Try these 7 hands-on and educational lunar eclipse activities and resources for kids:
Lunar Eclipse Activities for Kids
If your children are new to the concept of space science, introduce the topic by spending some time stargazing with your kids. This is a wonderful way to have a peaceful moment together while contemplating the vastness of space.
Before you start any project with your kids, explain what a lunar eclipse is in words they can understand. This will vary based on their age and knowledge of planets and is a great place to start.
According to NASA, a lunar eclipse occurs when the Sun, Earth, and Moon align so that the Moon passes into Earth’s shadow. In a total lunar eclipse, the entire Moon falls within the darkest part of Earth’s shadow, called the umbra.
Once your child understands the basics, offer some of these activities and let them choose which ones sound the most fun and engaging for them. Don’t get too worried about perfection. The most important this is to make learning fun.
1. Movable Lunar Eclipse Craft
This simple lunar eclipse craft has moveable components and is easy to make with a shoebox, craft paper, and paint. It displays the basic concept of a lunar eclipse in a very simple way that even younger kids can understand.
- First, cut a square window out of the shoebox lid, leaving a 1″ border.
- Paint a black background on the opposite side of the box, or glue black paper.
- Cut slits in the top of the box, close it, and decorate the front.
- Use this optional template to cut out shapes to color and make into a sun, moon, and earth.
- Then glue them on popsicle sticks, and put them through the slits to make a moving visual of how a lunar eclipse happens!
You can get preschoolers involved in helping to create this lunar eclipse activity, and many grade schoolers could do it on their own.
2. Lunar Eclipse Fact Cards
If your child is into facts, make a set of lunar eclipse fact cards. Use index cards, and let them draw pictures of each fact on the other side.
Identify facts, talk about them, and write them down on each card. As you watch the lunar eclipse together, talk about what you wrote on the cards to reinforce the science details.
Here are some facts that we wrote down and drew on each card:
- A lunar eclipse only happens on a full moon, but not every month.
- A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth casts a shadow on the moon.
- The longest a lunar eclipse lasts is 3 hours and 40 minutes.
- There can be 3 lunar eclipses in one year.
- A lunar eclipse happens more often than a solar eclipse.
3. Watch and Measure a Lunar Eclipse
Learning how to measure a lunar eclipse is a great activity for tweens and teens. This activity uses the Danjon Scale of Lunar Eclipse Brightness as a tool to understand and evaluate a lunar eclipse.
For this project, you can print a paper to record the various brightness of the lunar eclipse and record the times and varying brightness. This project is fun if you can get some of your kid’s friends to do it from their own homes.
We found the kids didn’t all record the same brightness at the same times, and it’s interesting to discuss why that would be. Personal perception, or perhaps their different locations, clouds, or smoke? It leads to a discussion of why they chose the point on the scale that they did.
Find a scale of brightness, pictures of the rust color of the moon during an eclipse, and the worksheet to record and implement this project here.
You can use binoculars or a telescope with this activity, but both are optional. This activity is perfect for older kids to:
- Stay engaged during the event
- Learn to record data
- Discuss and compare their findings afterward
4. Make a Movable 3-D Model
Make a model to illustrate exactly what happens during a lunar eclipse together with your kids. This is a wonderful visual teaching tool.
I used a wire hanger and shaped it for my child, and let them make a sun, moon, and earth with clay. This is a really nice hands-on way to show kids exactly what happens during a lunar eclipse.
This project made it easy to explain the position of the sun, earth, and moon during a lunar eclipse. Having the movable parts shows how the planets align and cast a shadow. I found this to be a very helpful visual!
This tutorial is a great example of how to make a lunar eclipse model. An older child who likes hands-on creations could make it themselves, or a younger child with help.
Here are some tips I found helpful in making this project:
- The wire for the movable parts will likely need an adult’s help to shape it. I used a hanger to make the base for the model.
- It’s possible you can find some springs or other parts that are already in good shape for what is needed to spin the planets. That might be easier than shaping wire. Use what you have!
- Kids can wrap the wire with yarn, and shape the clay into the sun, moon, and earth.
- When the project is ready, kids can move the planets and explore what happens during a lunar eclipse.
5. Moon Phases Oreos
Perfect for the younger set and those motivated by cookies! This Oreo moon phase activity gives a fun and tasty visual representation of when a lunar eclipse will happen.
- First, separate the cookies so that all of the cream remains on one side.
- Then, use a butter knife or spoon to match the phases of the moon.
- Have your child match the cookie moon phase on this printable chart.
- Bonus: As you match the cookie moon phases to the chart, talk about the 8 moon phases and what they are called: new moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full moon, waning gibbous, last quarter, and waning crescent.
This activity works for the whole family, even the youngest children can use their matching skills. It does a wonderful job introducing a complex topic in an easy-to-understand way that is fun for everyone. Plus, cookies!
6. Moon Phase Spinner Calendar
Understanding the moon’s phases is a big part of learning about a lunar eclipse. This hands-on circular spinning moon phase calendar makes a great educational tool.
For this project, you’ll need:
- hole punch
- brass paper fastener
- pencil or pen
- these printables
- First, print out the moon phase paper, and have your child shade in the moon phases with a pencil or pen.
- Then cut out the pieces, punch the hole where indicated, and attach the “moonset” and “moonrise” panels on the back with tape.
- Poke a hole through the middle and use the brass fastener to attach the parts together.
- Spin the calendar to see the moon phase on any date!
I like this lunar eclipse activity to count down to the next lunar eclipse!
7. Paint a Realistic Moon
If your child is an art lover, try this tutorial on how to paint a realistic moon.
While it’s not exactly teaching about a lunar eclipse, it is a very nice introduction to the art of moon painting. This can easily be expanded upon to paint the moon phases and learn some facts through the medium of art.
I found this tutorial really explanatory and it made a very realistic-looking moon starting with a charcoal transfer drawing. Once you have that done, it creates an outline that makes the painting super easy! I would recommend this moon painting to anyone who likes art.
Lunar Eclipse FAQs
NASA’s basic definition is pretty kid-friendly. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Sun, Earth, and Moon align so that the Moon passes into Earth’s shadow. In a total lunar eclipse, the entire Moon falls within the darkest part of Earth’s shadow.
You can make models of the sun, moon, and earth to show what causes a lunar eclipse. Make the phases of the moon from Oreos. Get out the art supplies and paint or draw the moon. Look through a telescope to watch the stages of the lunar eclipse. Anything that gets your child interested in space or the solar system can be fun.
A lunar eclipse is only possible during a full moon.
Lunar eclipses can last for hours, while solar eclipses typically last only minutes.
Because the moon turns a reddish color during an eclipse, long ago people were afraid of lunar eclipses. The ancient Incas thought that the blood red color of the moon was due to a jaguar eating the moon. In ancient Mesopotamia, it was thought the blood red moon meant an assault on the king.
Hotspots appear on the moon’s surface during a lunar eclipse.
If your child loves these lunar eclipse activities and wants to learn more, dive into these solar eclipse activities.