Night-time family learning activities

Night-time family learning activities
Rethink bedtime and reclaim your evenings as family fun time with light-and-shadows art, lantern-making and star (or satellite) gazing. From dusk until dawn, there's a wealth of learning opportunities to be found in the darkness – and lots of family fun to be had.
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'Night time is the right time for… having fun!' says Kate Hodges, author of On a Starry Night: Fun Things to Make and Do From Dusk Until Dawn (£12.99, Frances Lincoln). 'Coming inside when the sun goes down or firing up the tablets as soon as the curtains are drawn always seems a tremendous waste of precious mucking about time. Playing out after the sun is down (or before it has risen) is exciting; it focuses senses and sharpens sensations.

'In the dark you’ll hear more, feel more, even, um, smell more. Games are more thrilling, crafts take on different dimensions, and creative play becomes more alive.'

In this extract from On a Starry Night we suggest a few creative new activities for your child to try. Click on each image to download a printable page of instructions. Gather the things you need, wait until nightfall and enjoy!

Create silhouettes of your family and friends

Try a Victorian pastime and create silhouettes, black and white cut-outs, of your family and friends. Your models will have to sit very still while you work, so the evening is a good time to ask them to pose for you as they wind down from the day.

Make ice lanterns

These magical lights are very easy to make and look beautiful. You don't have to save this activity until winter – use your freezer instead! Ice lanterns are the perfect decoration for a late-night play in the garden, or place one on your kitchen table (in a plate so it doesn't melt all over the floor!) and have a midnight feast!

Become a pin-prick artist

Pin-Prick pictures come alive when you shine a light through them and everyone can get stuck in creating a masterpiece – adults too! This form of craft was a popular pastime among the upper and middle classes in 18th century Britain and America; special shops sprang up to supply amateur art enthusiasts with fine papers in all thicknesses and colours of the rainbow.

Spot the International Space Station

It might just look like a tiny, bright dot in the night sky, but the ISS is a satellite, home to scientists who live and work while constantly orbiting the Earth. The researchers spend their lives observing weather patterns, performing experiments in the microgravity laboratory, and staking a human presence in space.

Seeing the ISS tracking far above our heads gives us a sense of perspective and respect for the universe and our place in it and the scientist who seek to answer our questions about the world around us.

More night-time family learning fun

The ideas above are extracted from On a Starry Night: Fun Things to Make and Do From Dusk Until Dawn (£12.99, Frances Lincoln).