Parents of young children don't tend to do a lot of stargazing, for obvious reasons. The idea of keeping your preschooler up late enough to see the night sky may seem nothing short of insane.
But the insane, in this case, is also absolutely magical. If your five-year-old misses a few hours of sleep to look at the stars, we don't think anyone will regret it. Especially if you are taking advantage of one of your last nights in a place far away from city lights.
To prepare, you can have no better guide than H. A. Rey's The Stars: A New Way to See Them. Did you know that the author of the Curious George stories also designed a new (in 1952) way of looking at the constellations? It is by no means a book designed for small children, but it is the perfect book for their parents who need a lucid and compelling introduction to the night sky. Rey's brilliance was that of an illustrator: he drew new lines between the stars to make it possible for anyone to see a bear or a lion or a whale in the sky. And he provided a simplified version for children in Find the Constellations.
For bedtime on nights before and long after your stargazing adventure, we also adore Zoo in the Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations. Beautiful illustrations and simple text convey the magic of mythical animals made up of stars. A bit of elemental astrology and star maps of the Northern and Southern skies complete a lovely book for the littlest ones.
And if you can't keep your little one awake long enough to see the moon and stars outdoors, try a Moon in My Room. This very realistic, dinner-plate-sized moon lamp hangs on your child's wall without cords (it runs on batteries, and we would advise buying some extra), and you can use the remote control to set it to various programs that cycle through the 12 phases of the moon. The one we like best goes through all 12 lunar phases in a minute and then shuts off automatically after an hour of repetition. This moon also comes with a CD that describes the moon and the rest of the universe, and there is a setting that you can use to illuminate the moon when your child's room goes dark. Your little one gets to sleep in the moonlight, all the while safely tucked into his wee little bed. (Extra bonus: When you read Guess How Much I Love You before bed, your child will be able to know exactly how far your love reaches.)
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