Inside: DIY stars that glow in the dark are fun and easy to make. All you need is playdough, toothpicks, and glow-in-the-dark paints.
Space, rockets, sparkling stars, and galaxies are among my kids’ favorite things. They love books about space, Netflix space documentaries, and space-themed crafts and activities.
Life among the Stars
One of our recent discoveries is Look Up With Me: Neil deGrasse Tyson: Life Among the Stars by Jennifer Berne. It’s a biography of the inspiring American astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York and science communicator (he makes science easy and exciting). You can read our full review and details about unique photographed paper set illustrations here.
One page in the book shows Tyson’s space-themed room decor and glow-in-the-dark stars when he was growing up. This gave us an idea to explore if stars really sparkle in space. We started by typing “best space photographs” on my laptop for a bit of research and were completely awestruck by the beauty of space.
Do Stars Really Twinkle?
A photograph of a sparkly star on earthsky.com especially caught our attention. Looking at the pic, my six-year-old was moved to recite, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. How I Wonder What You Are.” And my eight-year-old asked, “Do stars really sparkle?”
My ten-year-old just recently researched that very same topic for his astronomy class, and he shared with us that the answer is “no.” It’s an illusion. But stars do make their own light due to the process called nuclear fusion. So we decided to use phosphorescent paint to make stars that would glow-in-the-dark like real stars.
- Photo Credit: earthsky.org
We decided to copy the above image and make DIY stars with six arms and very colorful. Visit Earthsky.org to see the rainbow of colors in the radial arms of Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.
And if you ever wondered why the giant balls of light, aka stars, appear to have points coming out of them, let me share: it’s due to a distortion of the human eye.
“Everything about stars is either illusion or distortion,” concluded one of my kids 🙂
Glow-in-the-dark Sparkly Stars
What you need
Playdough (the body of the star)
Toothpicks (six per star)
White Crayola paint (optional)
Glitter (for extra sparkle)
String for hanging
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What to do
- Shape play dough into balls.
- We used homemade salt playdough because it becomes hard once dry. We have many favorite recipes. For this project, the following recipe worked really well.
Stir together 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt, 1 Tablespoon oil, 1 Tablespoon cream of tartar, and 1/2 cup water. Cook the mixture over medium heat for about 5 minutes stirring constantly. You know it’s ready when it clumps in a ball and pulls away from the walls.
- If you’re planning on hanging your stars, then insert a string into the middle of the ball before shaping.
- You can either insert the toothpicks now or first paint the ball. We tried both and got the most satisfactory results when we painted the ball with white color as a base for glow-in-the-dark paints. Then inserted the toothpicks, and painted with the final colors.
After you inserted the toothpicks, paint your stars with glow-in-the-dark paints and sprinkle with glitter. Stick your stars into playdough or a flower pot for drying.
If you want to make your stars colorful like Earth Sky photo above, then keep adding different colors until you achieve the desired effect.
Your stars are ready!
If you worry about sharp toothpicks poking your children, add silver sequins or beads to the tips. It looks even prettier. To prevent smaller kids from finding a random bead on the floor and eating it, glue small beads and sequins to the toothpicks.
I didn’t realize my toddler painted her elbow until she went to bed and I saw her glowing in the dark!
March is all about Storybook Science: STEM Challenges, Environmental Science (ecology, Earth Day, conservation), Citizen Science, and Space Science. The wonderful series is hosted by Inspirational Laboratories for the 4th year! Click here to check it out if you want to create more opportunities for your children to explore, invent, create, and build!