Some parents I know risk their feet and balance daily to toy cars, Barbie dolls or little plastic animals. In our house, it’s the Solar System – a collection that’s been growing for well over the past year and a half.
I try to get Declan help me to put all of them away in bins every night – inevitably making the floor a blank canvas for him to lay solar systems all around the room the next morning.
We’ve gone through periods of obsession with particular planets, and he’s long since rejected soft blankies with dogs on them in favor of shimmery fabrics from the craft store that he calls “the fabric of space and time.” He might be astrophysicist Brian Greene’s youngest groupie.
I replaced one of the shades on my back car window with window clings of the planets last year. And there’s nary a spherical object in our home that hasn’t, at some point, been substituted as a planet, moon or star.
The first acquisitions were paper and cardboard planets. One system went on the wall on his second birthday, but it only stayed there for a couple of weeks while he memorized their order. He learned their names when he was about 20 months old, during a watershed language-accumulating phase – one week colors, the next week shapes, then numbers and then planets – at his insistence.
Ever since, he’s wanted to hold his planets, to lay them out on the floor in order, to whoosh them past his face, one by one. The glow in the dark asteroids are used to make the asteroid belt sometimes. Other times he’s made it with a bunch of crumpled scraps of paper.
These are from a lunchbox full of small & mostly handmade things, there are dried balls of Play-doh that he made and Fimo shapes we made together (the flat sparkly one is Andromeda galaxy). There are also eight big marbles that his dad got for him, which Declan promptly gave planetary names.
This week’s most popular solar system is made up of balls from around the house. There are 10 because this collection includes Pluto and Charon, its moon. (I’m never sure which planet’s moons are going to make it into the mix.)
This is a nesting toy that readily became the outer planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and missing Pluto (which has rolled somewhere else in the house).
We have a couple of different solar system floor puzzles (gifts) that he loves and has started to mess up and reassemble without my help in the last couple of weeks. And the last page of this Teddy Bear book (based on the jump-rope rhyme) has nine bears, which he renamed as the planets (again, Pluto included) several months ago.
These bath letters represent the solar system and more, straight out of the Interactive Universe web site he loves – they are (counter clockwise): Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Hale-Bopp comet, Haley’s Comet, Helix Nebula (subbed the backwards 2 because we didn’t have another H), Orion nebula, Proxima Centauri (the nearest star to us after the sun), Black Hole, Milky Way (Y, because we only had two Ms) and Andromeda Galaxy.
Recently, all of this playroom space travel started to develop into a deeper appreciation for Earth – its oceans and continents, its gravity, all of the unique ingredients it possesses that made us possible.
Because he insists that we continually remain on this galactic ride, that new appreciation for the earth, our place in the universe is all of ours, not just his.
Also see Jupiter in its earthly incarnations.