A Division of Weston Nurseries, Inc.

Winter Backyard Astronomy for Kids



With winter’s shorter days come more opportunities to explore nature at night. Heading outside and looking up at the night sky for a few minutes is one of the simplest ways for you and the kids to make a nature connection right in your own backyard.

Don’t panic if astronomy isn’t your thing (it’s not mine). You don’t have to have all the answers – you just need to be willing to share in the wonder of the moment.

Before you head outside, make sure you’ve got the basics covered:

The Basics
  • Choose a spot where you have a clear view of the sky, like a lawn, patio, or another open area.
  • Get comfortable. Consider lawn chairs and blankets. Warm clothes and hot chocolate help, too. If you have a telescope, set it up. If not, try binoculars.
  • Turn off outdoor lights and focus only on the night sky. It’ll take at least 20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, so be patient.

What to do once you’re outside? Here are a few backyard astronomy ideas perfect for kids:

Watch a sunset

The night sky adventures kick off with each sunset. Have you ever noticed how long it is between the sunset and total darkness? Or stuck around after a sunset to watch the stars come out?

Start a moon diary

One way to learn about the phases of the moon is to keep a moon diary. You’ll need a piece of paper (or a blank notebook) and something to write with. Then head outside after the moon has risen. Draw or write down what the moon looks like each night for one month.

Count stars

Winter boasts more brilliant stars than any other season of the year. Counting them is especially fun for the littlest explorers – and even better if you have a chance to watch the stars as they first begin to appear in the night sky. Can you find the biggest? The brightest?

Look for constellations

Older kids may enjoy looking for constellations among the stars. Orion is the most prominent during winter, but you can check for others online.

Since I’m not very familiar with the night sky myself, we enlist the help of modern technology. The Big Explorer likes to use the SkyView Free app on my iPhone to spot constellations. You point the screen to the night sky and the app tells you what you’re looking at.

Observe a full moon

While star watching might not be ideal during a full moon, actually seeing a full moon is pretty exciting, even for big kids. Check the Old Farmer’s Almanac for the dates of upcoming full moons near you.

By Debi Huang from GoExploreNature.com

Share this post

Plant Notes

Fall Plants for Bees

Bring in the Bees!   Every plant that requires an insect pollinator will have devised strategies to attract the type of pollinator it needs, but some plants draw a real profusion

Read More »
Plant Notes

Shrubs To Brighten Fall Days

Fall brings an explosion of color to New England’s landscapes with vibrant foliage in hues of yellow, orange and red, along with bright berries in a wide array of colors

Read More »
Plant Notes

Perennials for July Color

By the time July comes around summer is in full swing, and the choice of perennials that could be highlighted is large, so to compile a short list means I

Read More »

Pollinator’s Word

June is pollinator month in Massachusetts and the third week in June is also National Pollinator Week.  Making a space that is pollinator friendly can involve planting a variety of

Read More »
Plant Notes

Spring Lawn Care 101

Lawns tend to play a supporting role in our outdoor spaces, framing the big showstoppers like blooming trees and colorful flowers. But turf is still an important part of a

Read More »
Plant Notes

Women Horticulturists

By Catherine Cooper While many famous names in horticulture belong to men, throughout the centuries there have been many women who have made notable contributions to the various fields of

Read More »