6 Amazing Constellations for Kids to Discover
We are reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn affiliate commission.
On a clear night, what’s better than looking up at the stars and making up stories about what you see? Humans have shared tales of these celestial patterns for thousands of years. Stargazing is a fun and educational experience for the entire family, encouraging kids to learn some history, spend time outside and think creatively about what they see. Learn more about constellations for kids and how to teach them about astronomy.
Why Teach Kids About the Stars?
People of all ages are fascinated by the stars — and kids are no exception. There are many reasons to teach kids about constellations, ranging from pure enjoyment to furthering their minds and education.
Stargazing is a fun pastime for children of any age. They might get to stay up later than usual and go outside in the dark, adding a bit of excitement to their day. Identifying stars and listening to the age-old myths about them — or making up their own stories — is an engaging and hands-on hobby. You can teach them about the history of the myths or help them create their own tales.
Learning about constellations is also a great way to foster a love of science. You can even customize lessons or resources based on age. Younger students will love pointing out the stars they can see or making star-shaped arts and crafts. Older kids and teenagers can take a more active role in the hobby, like using a real telescope to see galaxies, studying the science behind the moon’s gravitational pull or reading up on ancient Greek myths about constellations.
Combine history, science and some fresh air when you take the kids out for a night of stargazing. Learning about constellations will encourage a fascination with the mysteries of the universe. It’s important for the next generation to take an interest in space and science.
6 Constellations for Kids to Find
If your kids are eager to start watching the night sky, you can begin with a few primary constellations. Depending on your location, the time of year and any nearby light pollution, some star patterns will be easier to spot than others. Here are six constellations for kids to find on their own or with a little guidance.
For many young stargazers, Orion is the first constellation they learn to identify on their own. Orion is named after a hunter in Greek mythology and it’s typically depicted as a man holding a shield and raising a sword or club above his head.
In the Northern Hemisphere, Orion is visible from late fall into spring. While there are seven main stars that make up this pattern, the three stars in Orion’s belt are the most recognizable — they form a straight line across the night sky that’s sure to catch your eye. You can also look for Betelgeuse and Rigel, the two brightest stars in this constellation, which make up Orion’s left shoulder and right knee, respectively.
2. Canis Major
Is your family full of dog lovers? Kids with furry friends will love looking for this dog in the sky. Since Canis Major is so close to Orion, it’s often portrayed as a loyal canine companion accompanying Orion on the hunt.
You can locate Canis Major by looking for the brightest star in the night sky — Sirius, also known as the Dog Star. Sirius marks the chest of the celestial dog. There are seven other main stars that make up the constellation’s head, body, legs and tail.
3. Ursa Major
Ursa Major might be known as the Great Bear constellation, but it’s perhaps most famous for a smaller star pattern within the bear. The asterism’s seven main stars make up the Big Dipper, an easily-recognizable “spoon” or “bowl” with a handle in the night sky.
Both Ursa Major and the Big Dipper have centuries of lore in many different cultures, including Greek, Roman, East Asian, Hindu, Germanic and Native American traditions. Whether you’re looking for the bowl or the bear, you can locate this constellation in the northern sky all year round.
4. Ursa Minor
Located nearby its larger counterpart Ursa Major, Ursa Minor — also known as the Little Bear — has been a useful navigational tool since humans first looked to the sky. That’s because it features Polaris, the North Star.
Polaris sits almost exactly above the Earth’s northern pole. While other stars move in the night sky as the seasons change and the planet rotates, Polaris stays still and always marks true north. You can teach your kids some simple navigation skills with Polaris in Ursa Minor. Wherever they are, identifying Polaris will point them northward.
With its distinctive W-shape, Cassiopeia is a great constellation for kids to learn to identify on their own. In Greek mythology, queen Cassiopeia claimed that she and her daughter, Andromeda, were more beautiful than all the ocean spirits. This boast enraged Poseidon, the god of the sea, who punished Cassiopeia by chaining her to a throne in the sky.
Cassiopeia’s throne is made up of five main stars that create an easily-recognizable W pattern in the night sky. It is visible year-round in the Northern Hemisphere.
6. The Zodiac
Many constellations are based on stories and beliefs other than Greek mythology. For example, all 12 zodiac signs have corresponding constellations:
The northern half of the zodiac constellations are in the eastern sky, while the southern six zodiacs are located in the western sky.
Several of the zodiac constellations are among the easiest patterns to spot in the sky. For instance, Gemini is located near Orion. Its two brightest stars, Castor and Pollux, represent the heads of the Gemini twins. While astrology isn’t a science, your kids will have fun searching for their zodiac sign in the stars.
Stargazing With the Whole Family
Astronomy is a valuable hobby for kids of all ages. Watching the stars is an age-old tradition that inspires awe. They’ll feel more connected to the universe, learn ancient myths or create their own stories and discover a passion for science. Who knows — maybe you’re raising the next Carl Sagan or Mae Jemison!
Like what you read? Join other Environment.co readers!
Get the latest updates on our planet by subscribing to the Environment.co newsletter!
About the author
Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.