Do you have a toddler or preschooler who has started to ask questions about the moon and stars? I've found that at around three years of age my children start to ask about the moon and begin to point out things they can see in the night sky (and tell me when they can see the moon during the day). We have a lot of children's space books so I wanted to share with you some of our favourites.
As a Montessori family accuracy is important to us. Many children's space books are cartoonish or overly simplistic. These books all use accurate language with educational and inspiring imagery. Here are our top five first planet and space books.
a. Little Kids First Big Book of Space: National Geographic Kids by Catherine D. Hughes. This is the space book I see the most in Montessori environments. It covers all of the planets, meteors, asteroids, dwarf planets, comets, the universe, galaxies, nebulas and so much more. The illustrations are superb, as life-like as possible, and interesting. The publishers recommend this for ages 4-8 years. It is a thick book at 121 pages and it contains a lot of information. However, it is not too much, it feels spot-on for the 4-5 years+ age group. The text is large and there are around 4-5 paragraphs on each topic.
b. Look Inside Space by Usborne - includes over 70 flaps to lift, board book. This is very full and is almost overwhelming for young children. We like to flip through the pages and look at different parts each time, we don't read it from front to back. It covers lots of interesting topics like the International Space Station, the Moon, and Star Gazing. It has a huge number of flaps and flaps underneath flaps that entertain and captivate children. It has a four-page open spread in the middle showing the planets in order from the sun. All of the pictures are illustrations but I find them realistic enough to be educational. I read this with my three-year-old but feel it would be most suitable for 4-5 years+.
c. My First Book of Planets: All About The Solar System For Kids by Bruce Betts, PhD. This contains photographs and illustrations and the author notes when pictures are not to scale and when they are drawn (artist's drawing) and detail orientated children (and adults) will appreciate this. It is a paper book so perhaps not for toddlers but definitely for the preschooler to primary age. I like the size comparisons, "If you think of the Moon as a tennis ball then Earth would be a little bigger than a basketball" and in relation to planet size, there is often a comparison to Earth "Almost 7 Mars could fit inside Earth". I also appreciate the length and detail, I think it's perfect for the preschool age range, 3-4 years+.
d. Planets and the Solar System: First Discovery Books by Smithsonian Kids, Board Book. It is a sturdy, smallish size board book that is suitable for toddlers and young preschoolers. It is tactile, the planets, stars, and some of the other features are raised and some are glossy, making them interesting to touch. The planets (past the first open spread) look photographic. The text is in short paragraphs which makes it fun to look through and read a different fact, or read about a different planet each time. This really hits the spot for me, it is sturdy enough for young children yet contains accurate illustrations and facts which aren't overly simplified. I recommend for 2-3 years.
e. Our Solar System: Science for Toddlers Board Book, American Museum of Natural History by Peter and Connie Roop. I recommend this whole series including Tadpole to Frog and Caterpillar to Butterfly. I love this for toddlers as it is short and is in a great shaped board book format. There is information on one planet per page and it's easy to read the whole book from start to finish with a toddler. There are two to three sentences about each planet. Children love the shaped pages. I like the Meet the Expert section on the back about the author, an observational astrophysicist, so you learn a little about jobs people have too. I recommend for 2-3 years.
If you are looking for a stunning space book for older children 5-6yrs+ I recommend Visual Galaxy: The Ultimate Guide to the Milky Way and Beyond, it's beautiful and inspiring, and makes you want to know more about what is out there! This is a lovely book to have in your adult's collection and to bring out and share with younger children.
Not mentioned here is Montessori Planet Work by Bobby and June George. While I like the concept of this book it isn't one of our favourites, the images just don't compare with those in these other books. Let me know what you think.
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