Learning about the solar system can feel disconnected from everyday life and very far away. This solar system matching activity uses a learning tree to bring lessons from outer space a little closer to home.
We began by putting the planets in order by their distance from the sun. This first step is physical, visual and practical, and helps kids see and understand the solar system.
Play A Solar System Matching Game
First, I wrote the names of the planets on index cards then attached paper clips and a loop of wire to each. This made it easier to hang each tag on a tree branch. Christmas decoration hooks or twist ties can also work. We simply used what we had on hand.
Index cards labelled with each planet’s name
Add a loop of wire or an ornament hook for easy hanging
Then, we hung the sun from the ceiling of the living room. Because the inflatable sun is so large, it made sense to hang it up above the tree to provide more space for the planets.
Next, we hung the index cards around the tree. Mercury, the planet closest to the sun, sat at the very top and was only a few inches away from the inflatable sun hanging from the ceiling. We circled the rest of the index cards around the tree in the same order of the planets in the solar system.
Mercury at the top of the tree followed by Venus, then Earth.
The index cards circled the tree matching the order of the planets from the sun.
Each inflatable planet (and the sun) has convenient loops on the plug that make it easy to hang up.
Then, my four-year old daughter got to work. First, she identified Mercury in the row of planets we’d set out earlier and then looked for the matching index card.
At four, she is pre-reading, so I asked her to find the index card that started with “M” near the top of the tree. She found the match and hung the planet up.
Then we moved on to Venus, Earth, the moon and the other planets. One by one, she matched each planet to its tag on the tree.
With a larger tree, most of the planets will fit. With a smaller tree like ours, Uranus and Pluto sat on the floor.
By the end of the activity, we had a Christmas tree loaded with planets, my daughter had a new visual understanding of the solar system and she recognized and matched the planets with their name tags.
How will you use the Giant Inflatable Solar System in learning with your kids?