3D Phases of the Moon - STEM for Kids - Edventures with Kids

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3D Phases of the Moon - STEM for Kids

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When my son brought home his Phases of the Moon project from school, he wasn't very happy.

I thought he'd be thrilled with the whole "school permission to stay up past bedtime" :) but instead he was really bothered by the white worksheet with little boxes.

"Mom, the moon is white!  How are we suppose to draw white on white paper?"

"I think they just want you to draw the shape of the moon" I told him.

"Well, that's not much fun."

I could see his point -- as we went out to observe the moon each evening, he would notice some of the details of the various moon phases in addition to just the change of shape.  We knew we could find a better (and more fun!) way to learn about the phases of the moon!


Phases of the Moon project for kids


Phases of the Moon Project for Kids

The first thing I thought about was that my kids are hands-on learners -- they are MUCH more likely to WANT to learn about something if they can build, create, manipulate items with the activity.  Many kids are like this so it's always great to have some interactive activity to get them more fully involved in learning a new concept. 

And as I've shared in the past, both of our kids have also struggled with their writing and fine motor skills .  So I try to take every opportunity to encourage them to use their fingers and manipulatives (which include any object that a child can use to learn concepts in a hands-on way).


Phases of the Moon project for kids

 For this project, you'll need a few items:

• black or dark blue paper (to resemble the night sky)

• white & gray colored Play-Doh or Model Magic clay

• plastic caps from a jar or bottle

• chalk or Chalk Markers

• a pencil


The goal of the Phases of the Moon project is to have the kids observe the moon each evening (or almost every night) and ask them to mold the moon's shape. 

As my son will point out to you -- the moon DOESN'T change it's shape!  We just see a different shape due to the position of the Earth and the Sun but if you look very carefully, you should be able to see the darker outline of the moon that isn't lit by the Sun each night.


Phases of the Moon project for kids

First, mix the clay or playdough to create what the kids will call a 'moon look'.  You will notice as you observe the moon each night, the colors will change -- sometimes it will look bright white, other times there will be a gray marbled look to it. So as they are looking at the shape of the moon, they are also looking at the colors and texture and realizing that those also change as the moon phases occur.

We used the pencil to create moon craters (indentations) on the evenings we could see those on the moon's surface.


Phases of the Moon project for kids

The plastic caps are used to cut out moon shapes.  They make it easy to create a circle and then also trim off part of the circle to create cresent shapes.

I also love that the kids need to hold, push and twist at the same time when using the caps!  This is a great activity to strengthen their finger muscles.


Phases of the Moon project for kids

 As you track the moon each night, use the dark paper to label the date.  We cut a piece of cardstock in half and used these cool Chalk Markers to record the day and section off each day.


Phases of the Moon project for kids

When lined up, the kids can see how the part of the moon we see gets larger or smaller as the month goes on.  I really like this Phases of the Moon graphic which details the names of each phase along with the names of the full moon each month!  Yes, each month the full moon has a special name -- it's really cool to learn those.


Phases of the Moon project for kids


What We Learned about the Phases of the Moon:

Since we were looking at more than just the moon's shape, we discovered some really cool things:

• We noticed that we saw more gray areas during the week leading up to and after the full moon.  This could be due to the fact that we were able to see more of the moon's surface.

• Sometimes, the moon's shape looked just like it did the previous night -- like the night before a full moon.

• On a few cold nights, it looked like the moon had a glowing circle surrounding it.  We learned that this was due to the ice crystals in the air on those evenings.  You could even track that type of sighting on your moon chart!


This is really a wonderful project for kids to do at different times of the year -- explore the moon during the winter and summer months and compare your findings!

And I highly recommend reading a book or two before you head out to begin this activity.  These books include affiliate links with more information and will provide the kids will some of the vocabulary and sights they will see on their moon walks!




Faces of the Moon is a unique book that clearly explains why we see different shapes of the moon and how that occurs each month.

The Moon Book by one of our favorite science authors, Gail Gibbons, explains the movement of the moon along with it's phases and other interesting facts (such as tides and eclipses).



Creating a Water Cycle with LEGOS

Astronomy for Kids: Marshmallow Constellations

Does Your Food Sink of Float? Physics for Kids


And for more fun ways to use Manipulatives with Playdough this month, be sure to visit all these great activities!


 Playdough activities for Kids


Letter Formation with Play Dough from Still Playing School

Bug Lab - A Fun Bugs Kids Math Game from Learning 2 Walk

Learning with Playdough Letters and First Words Flash Cards from Crafty Mama in ME

Play Dough and Alphabet Beads from Mom Inspired Life

DIY Play Dough Tools To Explore Texture from Play Dough & Popsicles

Playdough Scene Creation from Powerful Mothering

Simple tools for making words with play dough from The Kindergarten Connection

Initial Sounds with Play Dough Cutters from Adventures of Adam

Learning Letters with Playdough {Learning with Playdough Tools from Squiggles and Bubbles

Letter Sound Activity with Play Dough Tools from Raising Little Superheroes

Patterns and textures with Play Dough Rollers from Play & Learn Every Day

Phases of the Moon from Edventures with Kids

Roll and Build a Play Dough Spud from School Time Snippets

Scissor Skills Practice with Play Dough from Modern Preschool

Count & Smash Play Dough Math Activity from Stir the Wonder

The Ultimate DIY Play Dough Kit for Toddlers and Beyond from Lemon Lime Adventures

Play Dough Exercise for Thumb Wrap Pencil Grasp from Sugar Aunts




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