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Here is a fun and interactive way to teach children (and adults) about the solar system!

There's even a fun twist on the traditional spinner (and a bonus keepsake!) that takes it further than just "right hand on Pluto."

It's time for: Solar System Twister!

Step 1: What You'll Need

Here are the things you will need to begin your out-of-this-world adventure:

  1. A large sheet, tarp, or item to be used as the base to your game (you will paint on this). I used an old queen-sized bed sheet because it's soft (less-slippery than plastic), and can be folded up tightly to take anywhere.
  2. If you are using cloth (like a sheet), make sure to put a tarp or something under it (in the picture, you can see I used an old sleeping bag). If you don't put anything under it, the paint will seep through the porous fabric onto whatever is under it.
  3. A large lid to a skillet, or other circular item that is the right diameter for putting feet on and the size of your base.
  4. A ruler or tape measure (if you want to get technical about where your circles will go). I didn't use it, but you can if you'd like.
  5. Paint in various colors. The colors you absolutely need are: red, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, and black.
  6. A sponge brush (if painting on cloth, otherwise use a regular paintbrush).
  7. A thin-tipped brush (for writing words and outlining anything needed or painting details).
  8. A poster board or other base for making the spinner.
  9. A pen, pencil, crayons, markers, colored pencils, etc to draw the details on the spinner and color them in.
  10. Glue (for adhering the facts to the spinner).
  11. Computer with printer (or just have your kids write out the facts) for making the facts to put on the spinner.
  12. Scissors
  13. Split pins

NOTE: I had Tempera paint on-hand. The nice thing about this type of paint, versus acrylic paint, is that when used on cloth, it doesn't crinkle up and harden the fabric when dry (like acrylic paint does). It also has a kind of watercolor effect to it, which is pretty cool for this application. However, the downfalls to using this type of paint for this particular project are: it takes longer to dry (acrylic paint can be dried with a hairdryer very quickly), it isn't permanent and can't be washed (acrylic paint can be set by ironing it, and then becomes washable and permanent), and this paint bled when stepped on (when we played the game, it bled through on to the floor a bit--just the RED one though--and it got red on our feet and hands which transferred around the surface of the game a bit). However, it's all I had to use, so we made it work. :)

Step 2: Prep

OPTIONAL: If you are using fabric, lay down the protective barrier (mine was an old sleeping bag).

1. Place the game base down (mine was the sheet over the protective barrier).

2. Decide how many circles you need to fill up your game base. This will be dependent upon how many things from the solar system you want to include in your game and how that number can divide evenly. I used 10 total items repeated twice (one set of 10 on each half of the game base), for a total of 20 circles. I used: the sun, all eight planets, and Pluto. Basically, it's whatever you want to include facts about. I put my 20 circles into 4 rows of 5.

3. Using the skillet lid (or whatever you have on hand that's round and the right size), press down on the fabric game base OR use a pencil or permanent marker to trace around the circle onto the game base (if using a tarp or other material).

FUN FACT: If you are using fabric (such as a sheet), all you have to do is simply push down the lid into the fabric, and it makes the perfect circle imprint into your fabric that you can use as your outline for painting. No fabric markers necessary. :)

Step 3: The Sun

Contrary to the way the sun looks from earth--yellow--the sun is actually a giant orange-red-yellow mass. We wanted to reflect the way the things in our solar system look in real life, as if you were in outer space with them.

1. Using your foam or regular brush, outline the circle shape with your paint color choice.

2. Have your children paint the things you're including on the game...it makes it fun for them and less work for you ;)

3. Since we doubled everything on the game, we had to make 2 suns. My son decided to put the same star/planet/dwarf planet directly across from their same spot on the other side of the game base (so they were basically mirrored images of each other).

4. Label the sun with black paint and your thin headed paintbrush. NOTE: For labeling the items on the game, we mirrored the words so half the words were facing the long side of the sheet to the right, and half were facing the long side of the sheet to the left. That way they could be read from either side.

5. We took into account our paints, and in the effort not to waste them, we decided to do all the planets at the same time that used the red, yellow, or orange color scheme. Then we did the same thing for the cool tone planets (purple, blue, green). NOTE: The order I have them listed in this 'ible is not the same as the order we did them in.

Step 4: Mercury

Different pictures of Mercury will render different colors. Some look brown, while some look gray. Choose whichever you prefer. Knowing that the inner planets are rocky solids, we went with the brown-ish colored one.

1. Using your foam or regular brush, outline the circle shape with your paint color choice.
2. Have your children color in Mercury.

3. Repeat on the second half of the game.

4. Label the planet.

Step 5: Venus

Likewise, Venus looks different in different pictures. Some look more yellow, others look more brown. We used the image above that was a brilliant orange.

(Follow the previous steps to paint it.)

Step 6: Earth

This one is very self-explanatory ;)

(Follow the previous steps to paint it.)

Step 7: Mars

Mars--the Red Planet--is actually not just a blob of red. It could be if your child sees it that way :D But, we also wanted to show some details from the planet (to help in figuring out the answers to the spinner Q's when playing), so we made sure to show the polar ice caps, etc too.

(Follow the previous steps to paint it.)

Step 8: Jupiter

I actually, for some reason, didn't know Jupiter had so much white in it! Which, I guess, in some pictures it does look more fully red. But we went with this picture as our reference.

(Follow the previous steps to paint it.)

Step 9: Saturn

No, Saturn doesn't look purple....but we ran out of the paint color we needed (and some pictures showed a little blue in the planet), so we had to improvise. :)

(Follow the previous steps to paint it.)

Step 10: Uranus

We kind of just blended different pictures of Uranus together to get ours. We also made sure to have it be on it's side as that's a key point about Uranus (that it orbits the sun on it's side).

(Follow the previous steps to paint it.)

Step 11: Neptune

This one is pretty self-explanatory as well.

(Follow the previous steps to paint it.)

Step 12: Pluto

Pluto, though no longer recognized as a planet, still has a place in our hearts. There are also a lot of different colors that Pluto looks like -- mostly gray and brown. So we made ours a little of each. :)

(Follow the previous steps to paint it.)

Step 13: Make the Spinner

1. Research facts about each item in your game. A great resource to use is "theplanets.org". It has tons of amazing facts about all the things in our solar system! Here are the links to each of the things we used in our game:

2. Formulate these facts into a Word document so they can be printed. Since there are 4 categories on the spinner (left hand, right hand, left foot, right foot), we need to have 4 facts for every star/planet/dwarf planet that you research (ie: 4 facts about Mercury, 4 facts about Venus, etc). To make mine, I formatted the layout of the Word document to be "landscape" and I created 4 columns with my "columns" tab (this keeps all the facts the same width). Then I inserted my facts throughout the four columns by having all of Mercury, for example, be the top row across all four columns, and worked my way down through each planet. This helped me ensure I was putting in 4 facts per planet. You can do it anyway that's easiest for you, however. :)

3. Print and cut out all your facts.

4. Glue the facts to the spinner base, leaving a little gap where the middle lines will go vertically and horizontally. In my case, I had 10 per 1/4 of the spinner...meaning 10 facts in the "right hand" section, 10 facts in the "left hand" section, 10 facts in the "right foot" section, and 10 facts in the "left foot" section...so that each section had 1 fact from each star/planet/dwarf planet.). I randomized the order in which each section's star/planets/dwarf planet were layed out. So Mercury may be the top third place in one section, but the middle fifth place in the other section, etc. Also, I found it easiest to layout all 10 in each section when I did 3 up top off of center, 1 in the corner (the biggest fact), and 6 down the side.

5. Add your middle lines. You could add your horizontal and vertical middle lines in the beginning, but since I didn't know how much of the poster board I would need, I had to glue my pieces to the spinner base first.

6. Add hands and feet. This is a little BONUS to the awesomeness of this game! As a little memorable keepsake, use your child's hands and feet (or multiple children's hands and feet) to trace out the "right foot", "left foot", "right hand", "left hand" parts. Label them accordingly. You could also add a little date in each and the child's name to keep it forever.

7. Add your diagonal lines. Next, add the diagonal lines by starting every one of the lines from center and going out to the point just past your fact (see picture for clarity). I also added arrows pointing to each fact in each section so I knew exactly which fact was in each area (some of the facts outgrew their diagonal line boundaries, so it needed clarity...and, yes, un-straight arrows may be needed to point to the facts as seen in picture four above).

8. Make an arrow. I had to trim my poster board, so the remnant piece was enough to make an arrow for the spinner. When deciding how big to make the arrow, consider that the length of it should be long enough for the back to go over the center and still have about an inch extra, and the arrow point side should reach almost to the facts (just shy a couple inches) so there's no confusion as to which spot it's pointing to. One last thing, be sure the width of your arrow body can fit into the SMALLEST section of your spinner base. Otherwise, if it's too wide, it could be in two areas at once and get confusing.

9. Attach the arrow to the spinner base. Poke a hole through the direct center of all the sections AND your spinner arrow. Then add a split pin to hold it in place. Test it to make sure the arrow can spin freely.

OPTIONAL: 8. Color the board. We may get around to coloring the board, but after all that painting, we were pooped!

Step 14: Have Some Fun!!

That's it! It's time to enjoy your new Solar System Twister game!

Learning is fun...and always should be :D

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