I’ve always been fascinated by space. When I applied to college, I actually listed Astronomy as my intended major. Something about the vastness of the universe and the insignificance of our little planet on a cosmic scale brings me comfort. How can my problems possibly be worth stressing out over when I think about what happens outside of my narrow little universe, let alone the ACTUAL universe?
I made this hands on activity as a way to show my kids how tiny planet Earth is with respect to other planets in our solar system. (I’ll save the mind-blowing discovery that those planets are small compared to the sun and that our sun is just an average, little, insignificant star in our galaxy for another day.) I used Wikipedia’s data regarding the radius of each planet, so I’m fairly confident of the printable’s accuracy, though I will happily fix it if an error is discovered.
There are a several different ways to use this printable. A young child can just hold them and examine them, possibly while reading a book about space that talks about each of the planets such as this Little Kids First Big Book of Space by National Geographic. By being able to manipulate them and compare them directly, they will get a better idea of the relative size of each planet.
Older kids can try to memorize the names of all the planets and the order of the planets in terms of distance from the sun. A control card is included in the printable for the kids (or parents) to use as reference. For older kids, I recommend National Geographic’s Space Encyclopedia. For kids that need to move around to learn, I might hide the planets around a room and make the child hunt for them, then match them up to the control card so that they will be able to tell when they’ve found them all.
ETA: I am updating this post to add that if you like this post, you might want to check out my post on how to create a Sun on the same scale. Also, I recently added another post that provides everyone’s favorite dwarf planet, Pluto, on this scale as well. Enjoy!
Recommended Age Range: Preschool, Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle School, High School
Time Required: ~1 hour
Cost: About $1 in used supplies (though could be even cheaper if lamination was done with contact paper.)
- Paper (for printing Relative Sizes of Planets printable)
- 5 Laminating pouches (or contact paper)
Supplies & Tools:
- Paper trimmer (optional, but it makes cutting the straight lines easier)
- Laminator (or you can just iron laminating pouches)
- Circles template (or a quarter or bottle cap in a pinch)
- Pen or marker
- Print out Relative Sizes of Planets printable. (Note: Last page does not need to be printed. It just contains legal information about sharing and where the images came from.)
- Cut out each planet, name label, and “Our Solar System” control card.
- Laminate everything with laminating pouches or contact paper. Not that the 4 smaller planets are so small, that before cutting them, I used a marker and circle template to draw a bigger circle around each one so they would be harder to lose.
Click here for more Astronomy activities for kids.