How to Explain the Moon Cycle to Children


The moon goes through several phases throughout the its cycle. Each new phase tells a story about the moon's relationship with the sun. Teachers can integrate hands-on activities that teach students these phases and inform them about the why and when of the moon's cycle. After teaching some simple concepts, the child will be able to thoroughly explain why the moon looks differently throughout the month.

Things You'll Need

  • Construction paper
  • Moon model
  • Sun model
  • Large flashlight
  • Teach the students about the major players in the moon's cycle, including the moon itself, the earth and the sun. Explain to the children the four phases in the moon cycle: new moon, first quarter, third quarter and full moon. List each phase on the board, overhead or powerpoint, and draw a corresponding picture of each phase or make models of the phases out of construction paper.

  • Explain to the children that the earth and the moon both have orbits. Illustrate to the students how the earth revolves around the sun once every 365 days using a globe and another large, round item. Teach the students how the earth also rotates on its tilted axis every 24 hours by spinning the globe on its axis. Show how, because of the earth's rotation, the earth experiences night and day. Explain how the moon revolves around the earth every 28 days.

  • Explain to the children that the moon reflects the light that comes from the sun. As a result of the moon revolving around the earth and reflecting the light of the sun, its cycle displays the different phases of the moon that reflects sunlight at the time of its revolution.

  • Hang the four phases of the moon's cycle from the classroom ceiling. Ensure each phase clearly displays the part of the moon that is dark and the part that is reflecting the sunlight. Have the students lie down on the floor facing the ceiling. Turn the lights off in the classroom and take a large beam flashlight and flash it on the different phase of the moon as if the moon was revolving. Stop at each phase and reiterate the description of the moon phase and why it looks the way it does at each particular point in the moon's cycle.

  • Give the students black and white construction paper. Have the students cut the papers out into circles. Provide the students with an example of each phase of the moon. Instruct the students to make a model of each moon phase with the black and white construction paper. Once the students make the moon phase models, have them to write the name of the moon phase on the back of the model. Students can drill each other by naming the different phases using the paper models.

  • Tell the students to write a story about the different phases of the moon. Students can attribute human qualities to the moon as it goes through the different phases. For example, during the new moon phase, the moon is experiencing very little light from the sun. This is a dark time in the moon's life, but this phase does not last for long. Soon the moon will shift to the first quarter phase.

  • Tell the students to take a 30-day calendar and draw the phase of the moon for each day. Students must observe the moon each night. Students also can take pictures of the moon to document each phase change of the moon. At the end of the month, allow students to compare their calendar drawings and pictures.


  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/ Images
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