April 24 is the 25th birthday of the Hubble Space Telescope. Is a child in your house celebrating a birthday? Why not host an astronomy themed backyard birthday party? Or just enjoy a family stargazing slumber party with kids? Wait till summer vacation or bundle up and have a spring campout! Here’s all you need for this easy, inexpensive (darn near free) family stargazer fest.
Walk the beach if you can. Sleep on the beach if possible. That’s the best sky panorama. Or just sleep outside under the stars. No need for a fancy-schmancy RV. You bring the backyard or apartment deck , Mother Nature does the rest.
Pitch a tent. Don’t have a tent? Borrow one or make one by hanging a tarp over a suspended rope and securing with clothespins. Stay close to home in case rain drives you indoors.
Don’t have expensive camping sleeping bags? Haul out old blankets and pillows and make a tent-wall to tent-wall family bed. Plan on family pets nabbing the choicest napping spots.
Have a campfire. Campfires lend the ambiance. Portable fire pits are fairly inexpensive, like $35 at Walmart. Some communities allow you to dig your own (line it with a few old cement blocks). Collect brush. Burn recycled paper. Sing camp songs. Ultimate Camp Resource has lyrics for all the old camp songs we learned as kids (and some we’d like to forget). Teach fire safety. Have a bucket of sand at the ready to douse the flames and first aid kit.
S’mores and hot dogs are camping haute cuisine, but you can simply roast marshmallows if it’s easier. Make your own roasting sticks by whittling down tree branches. (many pointed ends means more marshmallows). Teach knife safety and whittling for good survivalist-scouting lessons.
Dress warm. Summer nights can be brisk. Young children may wet the bed (or sleeping bag) if they get cold, even if potty-trained. Make sure they’re bundled up. If it gets hot they can peel. Wearing long clothes means kids won’t need as much bug repellent.
Have kids make stargazer’s survival kit (another great scout activity) Pack in waterproof container: flashlight, cheap notebook (to draw stars, constellations, night sky), water bottle, midnight snack, field glasses, portable telescopes, cuddle toy (just in case) and umbrella. Allow nothing digital except to take pictures (no texting, movies, TV, games).
Print an interactive night sky map from Your Sky that you can personalize for day and area. Here are free printable star charts, night sky maps and constellation maps. Here’s a kids astronomy link. Help kids track stars and learn the names of the constellations they’re seeing. Provide notebooks and pencils and let them draw stars and constellations.
Throw a stargazing party and wish Hubble Space Telescope, “Happy Birthday!” For more awesome family parties and birthday parties, visit my blog DIY Party Planner.