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Exploring Solar Eclipses with Preschoolers

Solar eclipses occur approximately two to five times per year. Here's how to use this natural event to teach preschoolers more about science and space.

Exploring Solar Eclipses with Preschoolers

Exploring Solar Eclipses with Preschoolers

In the worlds of education and nature, few events grab attention like a solar eclipse. The amazing sight of the moon covering the sun sparks curiosity about the universe, even in little ones. How can teachers and families use this celestial event to teach preschoolers about space? From shadow games to stories from long ago, exploring solar eclipses offers a wide array of engaging possibilities.

In this article, we cover the best ways to teach preschoolers about solar eclipses and several interactive activity ideas to try in your preschool classroom.


What is a solar eclipse?

Before diving into how to teach about this topic, it's crucial to understand the phenomenon we are exploring. A solar eclipse happens when the moon moves between the Earth and the sun, temporarily blocking the sun's light, casting parts of the Earth into darkness. There are different kinds of solar eclipses, but to a young child, it might just seem like the sun getting a little hug from the moon.

Eclipses are rare treats, yet they happen often enough that we can share in this marvel without waiting for years between showings.

Solar eclipses occur approximately two to five times per year, but their visibility varies across different parts of the world. On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will cross North America, traveling through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. This natural spectacle offers a wonderful opportunity to witness the beauty of celestial events and spark curiosity in both children and adults alike.

Solar eclipse preschool activities in Indiana and Kentucky

If you’re using a childcare app like brightwheel, you can easily share solar eclipse lesson plans, photos, and videos of activities with families to bring them closer to their children’s learning. Even better—if you’re a licensed provider in Indiana or Kentucky, you can get brightwheel for free, thanks to our partnerships with the state governments!

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How to teach preschoolers about solar eclipses

Preschoolers are at the perfect age to begin understanding basic concepts of astronomy. Their natural curiosity, combined with a world that is endlessly surprising, makes concepts like solar eclipses both accessible and thrilling. Here are some approachable strategies:

Go visual

Start with the basic concept of the sun shining, and then introduce the moon as the sun's "best night-time friend." Use drawings or illustrations of solar eclipses to show what happens when these two friends play peek-a-boo. Visual aids can minimize abstraction and maximize comprehension.

Simplify the science

Don't shy away from using scientific terms with your preschoolers, but make sure your explanation is simple and easy to understand. Phrases like "the moon moves in front of the sun just like a big shadow puppet" will help create a visual link to the event.

Engage their senses

Remember that preschoolers learn by doing. Creating experiences that involve touch, smell, and movement can help solidify abstract concepts. Bring out the play dough to shape the sun, moon, and Earth, or make a moon sand sensory bin. These tactile experiences lend a tangible quality to a celestial event that's otherwise beyond reach.

Link it to everyday experiences

Draw connections to daily life whenever possible. Show how their shadow on the ground changes when the "sun is playing peek-a-boo," and explain that the eclipse is like a giant shadow.

Tell stories

Preschoolers love stories. Narratives about the sun, moon, and stars (perhaps with friendly, relatable characters) that build toward an eclipse can make the event relatable and meaningful. Read the book Total Solar Eclipse: A Stellar Friendship Story during your next circle time.

5 creative preschool solar eclipse activities

These hands-on projects are designed to spark curiosity and learning in a fun and interactive way.

Build a solar eclipse viewer from a shoebox

Constructing a solar eclipse viewer from a shoebox offers an engaging and safe way for preschoolers to witness an eclipse firsthand. This project transforms a simple shoebox into a tool that safely projects the image of a solar eclipse, allowing children to observe without looking directly at the sun. This activity not only provides a hands-on learning experience but also emphasizes the importance of eye safety during solar observations. 

Here’s a simplified breakdown of how to make it:

  • Start with an empty shoebox and cut a small rectangular hole on one of the short sides.
  • Opposite the hole, tape a piece of white paper inside the box as a screen for viewing.
  • Cut a second hole on the side of the box for the children to look through.
  • Over the first hole, tape a piece of aluminum foil and poke a small, smooth pinhole in the center.
  • During the eclipse, have the children stand with their backs to the sun, and watch as the eclipse's image is projected onto the white screen inside the box.

Play with shadow puppets

Shadow puppetry can beautifully illustrate the concept of a solar eclipse. Use a lamp as a substitute for the sun and create cut-out shapes of the moon and various figures. Move the moon in front of the lights to cast different shadows on the wall, and explain how this is like a solar eclipse.

Instructions for shadow puppets:

  • Cut out moon, sun, and Earth shapes from cardboard.
  • Tape or glue these to sticks or straws to create puppets.
  • Position the light source (the "sun") behind the puppeteer and watch the shadows "eclipse."

Make edible astronomy

Celebrate the celestial event with an "eclipse snack." Prepare cookies with a frosting design that mimics the striking image of a solar eclipse. As your preschoolers decorate their treats, you can discuss the shapes and actions of the cookies in relation to the real phenomenon.

Here’s how to make eclipse-inspired cookies:

  • Prepare sugar or shortbread cookies.
  • Use chocolate, Nutella, or another spread to create a large circle on the cookie as the "sun."
  • On top of the spread, use white or yellow icing to create the "corona" of the eclipse.
  • Create the moon's outline using Oreo cookie halves and place it over the spread on the cookie.

Create a solar eclipse mobile

Engage children's artistic sensibilities and understanding of the solar eclipse with a fun, hands-on project to create their own solar eclipse mobiles. This craft visually represents the spatial relationships that create a solar eclipse and can decorate the classroom with reminders of this spectacular event.

Here are instructions to make solar eclipse mobiles:

  • Provide circles of various sizes cut from black and yellow construction paper to represent the sun, moon, and Earth.
  • Encourage children to decorate the sun with yellow and orange streamers or glitter to mimic the solar corona.
  • Use string to hang the "sun," "moon," and "Earth" from a coat hanger, arranging them to show the alignment during a solar eclipse.
  • Add additional decorations like stars or planets to create a more captivating mobile.

Conduct an eclipse science experiment

Conduct a simple science experiment, using a flashlight to represent the sun and a large ball (representing the moon) to demonstrate the passing of the moon in front of the sun. With a darkened room and the right constellation of items, preschoolers can witness their own mini solar eclipse.

Science experiment plan:

  • Dim the lights or conduct the experiment in a darkened room to create a more immersive experience.
  • Place the flashlight on a table to serve as the sun and turn it on.
  • Hold the large ball (the "moon") between the flashlight and a wall a few feet away to project the "eclipse."


Studying solar eclipses with preschoolers shows how early education can have a big impact. By playing, being creative, and giving simple explanations, you can instill a lifelong love of learning about the universe. While young children may not fully understand the cosmic importance of a solar eclipse, these activities will spark their curiosity and kickstart their science journey.

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