How Is the Sun Also a Star?

Eliza Clark
October 2, 2009

The scientific education of a preschooler is an amazing thing to witness. A child who looks into the daytime and the nighttime skies hasn’t the slightest idea that the sun, that great big ball of yellow warmth, bears any relation to the twinkling dots that cover the inky darkness of the night.  
The day will come, however, when someone or some book will let it slip that the sun is in fact a star. And then, explanations will be in order. For to a small person who is trying very hard to get a grasp on the world, this new information can seem almost like a betrayal. What do you mean, the sun is a star? It’s not a star, it’s the sun!  (We adore their conviction, even as we are bound to muddle it.)

When this moment comes, you’ll need a good story, and quick.  Something along these lines should satisfy your little inquisitor.

The Sun is a star up seen up close.  All stars are bright balls of burning gas, some bigger, some smaller.  The other stars we see at night are so far away (23 trillion miles or more!) that they look tiny to us.  Our Sun is a typical star, of medium size.  It is special because it the star closest to us, and gives us heat, light and energy.  Without the Sun, our star, none of us on Earth could survive.

And if your preschoolers remain skeptical, you can back up your story with facts and images about the Sun from NASA’s wonderful web site for kids, StarChild.  Because this giant leap of learning only leads to more questions. 

From the Parents

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