Space Exploration and Fun Ideas for Future Astronomers
Children love to build rocket ships, stare in wonder at Saturn, and pretend to be astronauts. Even us parents can’t help but gaze in awe at the number of stars in the sky.
Below, you’ll find some space-tastic places to visit in Kalamazoo and beyond, astronomical things to do, and enough games and crafts to fill up the cosmos.
We’ve compiled some of the best space museums in the country, but don’t forget to check with science centers and children’s museums no matter where your travels take you. They often offer unique hands-on space activities that you won’t find anywhere else.
Air Zoo | 6151 Portage Road, Portage, MI 49002 | 269-382-6555
Visit the Air Zoo’s Space: Dare to Dream Exhibit where visitors can explore Galileo’s study, learn about ancient cosmology, experience the rumbling Saturn V as it leaves Earth, and even learn how an astronaut lives in space. Don’t forget to stop in the gift shop and pick up some delicious astronaut ice cream!
Adler Planetarium | 1300 S Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605 | 312-922-7827
The Adler Planetarium is a museum full of exhibits for all ages of space-lovers! Basic admission allows entrance to the regular exhibits plus one planetarium show of your choice. The museum is located near the Shedd Aquarium and The Field Museum.
National Air and Space Museum | Independence Ave at 6th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20560 | 202-633-2214
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center | 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly, VA 20151 | 703-572-4118
With two locations, visit both the National Air and Space Museum which contains robotic explorers, satellites, the spacesuits worn by Apollo astronauts on the moon, and traveling exhibits, and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center which is home to the Space Shuttle Discovery.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex | SR 405, Kennedy Space Center, FL 32899 | 1-855-433-4210
Take a tour of historic launch sites and working spaceflight facilities, view the Space Shuttle Atlantis, walk through the rocket garden, use high-tech simulators to train like an astronaut, and if you’re lucky, watch a rocket launch! Plan to spend the entire day at this fun-filled and educational museum for young astronauts.
Space Center Houston | 1601 NASA Parkway, Houston, TX 77058 | 281-244-2100
Space Center Houston offers extensive educational programs including science shows, a museum of space artifacts and exhibits including the Apollo 17, Gemini V, and touchable moon rocks.
Visitors can tour the NASA Johnson Space Center via a tram. Another not-to-be-missed part of the Space Center is the International Space Station Gallery, where there are live presentations and exhibits from the International Space Station. Younger kids will enjoy the Kids Space Place full of hands-on activities.
U.S. Space and Rocket Center | 1 Tranquility Base, Huntsville, AL 35805 | 256-837-3400
The second largest research park in the United States, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center has the ultimate summer camp – Space Camp. Kids 9 and up spend the week training like an astronaut using real equipment, build rockets, design their own Martian colony, and handle simulated missions.
There is also a museum with hands-on exhibits, educational activities and presentations, and a tour of the facility by bus.
Cosmosphere | 1100 N Plum Street, Hutchinson, Kansas 67501 | 800-397-0330
This space museum offers three levels of space-themed exhibits, a planetarium, an IMAX theater, a fun rocket show, and simulators.
Kalamazoo Valley Museum | 230 North Rose Street, Kalamazoo, MI 49007 | 269-373-7990
The KVM offers a wide selection of planetarium shows for all ages. Favorites rotate throughout the year, and there are always new shows to interest frequent visitors. Perfect Little Planet, One World, One Sky, and In My Backyard are perfect for youngsters!
This hands-on room is dedicated to visitors ages 5 and younger. Themes rotate and often contain space themes. Within the room is a little spaceship – perfect for pretend play – complete with outfits to wear while toddlers and preschoolers blast off!
In mid-April, the KVM participates in Statewide Astronomy Night (SWAN) where there are a number of space-related activities for all ages, free of charge.
Located at the Kalamazoo Nature Center, the KAS sets up a variety of telescopes for your family’s viewing pleasure near the Owl Observatory. Need to learn how to use your own telescope? The KAS is happy to help at the beginning of each session and offers a one-on-one tutorial! During each session, one of the veterans offers help in finding constellations in the night sky.
Participants are asked to bring a red-lighted flashlight (or a regular flashlight covered with several layers of red plastic) in order to preserve night vision.
What better way to hear a story than read by a real astronaut while in space?
Jaime has developed an entire series of yoga videos for kids that you can watch for free. Stories like Mike and Muttnik on the Moon and Mike the Cosmic Space Monkey get kids (and their parents) practicing yoga in fun and clever ways.
Kids Learning Tube offers more than 30 catchy and educational astronomy songs for kids including our two dwarf planets!
Dice Tower offers this list of their Top 10 Space-themed Board Games, perfect for tweens/teens.
Here are 20 fun arts and crafts with a space theme including moon rocks, galaxy slime, puffy planets, and astronaut self-portraits!
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What other space-related fun have you had as a family? Share your experience in a comment below.