Astronaut Pretend Play

When we study the planets and space travel in our Family Inventors’ Lab, we have an amazing opportunity for pretend play. While you may not be able to re-create this at home, here are lots of ideas to inspire imagination.

We use silver colored bubble wrap and styrofoam insulation panels with a silvery coating to create a “space ship” climber. We put out a squishy egg carton mattress to be the planetary surface to walk across. Then we add tables with equipment for mission control.

Our “high tech equipment” is actually low tech… old telephones, headsets, joysticks, a steering wheel and gas pedal from an old driving video game, a soundboard, keyboards…

We add dress-up clothing. We have inexpensive astronaut helmets (affiliate link), large sponges they can rubber band onto their feet for “walking on the moon”, and spacesuits made from insulated bags with stickers of American flags and NASA mission badges.

You can make helmets with paper grocery bags, like this one from the Painted Toddler. You can find full instructions on Kitchen Floor Crafts.

We also make jet packs. Search online for “home-made jetpacks” and you’ll find lots of ideas. Our basic design was: take a clean, dry plastic bottle (juice bottle, 2 liter soda, whatever). Fill with bits of Poly-Fil. Put the lid on, then tape crepe paper flames (or felt flames or paper streamers) to the bottom of it. Take bias tape, ribbon, or other strings. Lay them on one side of the bottle in an X shape and tape it on. Decorate, adding buttons and such. Then tie on by putting it on the child’s back, and crossing the ties across the chest.

You could also make jet packs or walkie talkies or other “space gear” by covering cardboard boxes with foil and decorating.

Pretend play is always enhanced when the children have a good sense of who they’re pretending to be, what they’re pretending to do, and what the setting is they are trying to re-create. So, I would encourage you to:

  • check out any of the books about astronauts or checking out the apps and videos that I list in my post on planets and space travel
  • or watch this Ready Jet Go summary, this National Geographic kids, or any of the other segments that were created for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11
  • or, consider watching Fly Me to the Moon, which is currently on HBO or rent for $3.99 from Amazon. I have not watched this, but have watched clips and read reviews, and many say that despite the fantasy premise, there’s actually lots of good accurate content about the space program and the Apollo 11 flight in a format that’s accessible to young children.

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