What Makes Night? A Simple Pre-K Science Activity

by Meghan

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We’ve all been there… you’re trying to just get that first cup of coffee in the morning, cook dinner, or even just driving down the road, when your preschooler tosses out one of their deep questions about the universe. I’ve now got two preschoolers, making for double the ponderings.  After a few years experience, I find these questions are best addressed by simple pre-k science activities.

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Simple Pre-K Science Activities

I love the natural, uninhibited inquisitiveness of my 3 and 4 year old. Their awe and fascination with the world around them, makes me appreciate it more too, and often makes me stop to take it all in despite the constant hustle that is a house with 3 kids under 5.   One night this week, we were on our way home (out later than normal), when my 3 year old goes, “Mommy, what makes night?” As I started to attempt to explain, I quickly gave up and promised a project to answer her the next day.

I find when they ask these small questions with big answers, the easiest way to address them is through hands-on, science activities distilled down to their preschool level. When Lil’ M, my 3 year old, asked me what makes night, trying to explain the sun and rotation of the Earth that night in the car left her looking like a deer in headlights. This simple science project the next day, brought it to life and answered the question in minutes!

Mommy, What Makes Night?

Big M, my almost 5 year old, learned in preschool last year our street address, town and state. If you ask her, she will tell you our address, followed up by “and that’s on Earth.” And, when she looks out our front door, at Earth, it is still and flat.  It is no wonder when I tried to tell the girls night comes because the Earth turns, they looked at me like I might be crazy.

It was late, it was bedtime, this mama was tired… and so I did what I almost always do to put the question to rest temporarily… I promised them a project. And you better believe when they woke up the next morning, it was the first thing they wanted to do.


Large styrofoam ball
Blue and green tempera paint
Gold star, push pin or marker
Foam brushes
Wooden craft dowel

The Earth Turns

After I put all the supplies on the table, I restarted my explanation.  Placing the wooden craft dowel into the styrofoam ball, I proclaimed that the Earth turns.  My *slightly* Type A, almost 5 year old,  immediately stopped me to say that the Earth is not white.

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And so, the girls painted the Earth (note it is not an accurate geographic representation of our planet, but we’ve got some blue water for oceans and green land). While we were at it, I added a gold star representing where we are on the planet.

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My oldest deemed it to be acceptable, and announced she would be the earth.

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The Sun Shines On the Earth

My 3 year old’s disappointment over not getting to be the Earth was quickly overcome when I told her she got to be the sun. And that meant playing with the flashlight! As Big M spun the dowel between her hands to turn the Earth, Lil’ M shone the flash light on it, representing the sun.

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They watched the gold star move from being bathed in the light of the ‘sun’ to being in darkness as the Earth turned. The girls played at this for a while, taking turns being the Earth and the sun, announcing the coming of morning and night with each rotation of the Earth.

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And so, with just a few simple props, and a few minutes of hands on exploration, we tackled one more preschool question about the universe with a simple pre-k science activity.


More Simple Pre-K Science Activities About Space

If you enjoyed this fun science activity for preschoolers, you might also enjoy the rest of my Studying the Stars series, featuring Sensory Play with the Planets, a DIY Constellation Projector, and more. I also love this awesome hands on explanation of How Planets Orbit the Sun from Gift of Curiosity. To add a little art to your space exploration, check out this Planet Sun Catcher mobile from Pre-K Pages.

Find all of these and more awesome science activities for preschoolers on my STEM for Kids – Science board on Pinterest.

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Does your preschooler ask you big questions about the world around them? When my 3 year old wanted to know 'what makes night', I answered her with this simple pre-k science activity, featuring the sun and the Earth. | Space | STEM | STEAM | Science for Preschool | Early Childhood Education

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[…] one for preschoolers. What makes night? Make an earth, take turns being a flashlight sun, and find […]

Mer Mer August 19, 2016 - 11:09 am

If you have a globe you can cut a paper person out to tape to the glow and then follow the same flashlight activity. I did this science exploration in my classroom across the grade levels of Kinder – 5th. Lights off definitely highlight the flashlight’s (sun’s) brightness. Science vocabulary words such as axis, rotate, revolve, spin, turn, dawn, dusk, day, night, etc….can be illustrated through out this activity.

Meghan August 19, 2016 - 6:00 pm

No globe – so we made our own! But that’s a good idea 🙂


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