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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Push Light Planets

I always try to follow the interests of my son when planning fun activities.  My hopes are to inspire him to delve deeper into learning about things he already loves.  He has been interested in the planets/solar system for months now.  He even requested Saturn (his favorite planet) as one of the paintings on his bedroom wall. 

He requests this book at bed time quite often….

This is the book we read a lot - and used for inspiration.

This morning I thought of using push lights to paint and illuminate the planets!  Dollar Tree sells push lights, but in my experience – they stink.  I bought this pack of 4 (small) push lights at Walmart for under $4.00.  The batteries that come with them are horrible, and we had to replace them the next day.

I bought 3 packs of these

I used glass paint (also purchased at Walmart for under $2.oo a jar).  Be aware that slathering on too much paint may cause the push lights to stick after dry.  Ours did not, but I can see how it could happen.  We also discovered that glass paint apparently doesn't adhere well to plastic.  When we pushed the lights to turn them on/off, some of the paint was peeling off.  I sealed it with Mod Podge and it hasn't happened since.


I initiated this activity by asking my son if he would like to help me put batteries in the new push lights.  He played an active role in setting up the entire activity.  We took the time to flip through each page of the book to see which planet he wanted to paint first – Jupiter.

The invitation.  My son played an active role in setting this up.  We paper clipped opened the book for inspiration.
Painting Jupiter.  I asked him why he was painting the sides and he said "because Mommy, the whole planet has color, not just the top".  I stand corrected.

We talked about the colors in each planet, he chose the corresponding paints, and he counted out the number of brushes needed.  He painted one planet at a time at his own pace.



Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter - completed, dried, and illuminated!  Cool!

Venus.  The OCD in me wanted to tell him that the black on the left side of the planet in the picture is a shadow....but this is about so much more than "doing it right".   I think he did an amazing job!


 Here are the 6 planets we have done so far.  My favorite parts of this activity was the dialogue it inspired, watching my son become so engaged in painting (something he RARELY does), and seeing him glow with pride.

painting Uranus with Daddy

Painting Mercury

Painting Mercury

Painting Pluto (and yes, Im aware that there has been some controversy as to whether Pluto is really a planet.)

The Solar System through the eyes of a 3 year old.  He still wants to get a big push light to paint the sun.


Its been about a month since we created the planets with push light and today he was finally ready to add the sun.  I asked him if he would like to use his book as reference and he said, "No thank you.  I know what the sun looks like".

Painting the sun

Beautiful sun

"Let's count them."

The sun and planets

This is how my son set them up when we were talking about the sun being the center of the solar system and all of the planets revolving around it.  AWESOME!!


·         Buy different sized push lights to really represent the size of each planet.
·         Add glow in the dark stars to the wall with the completed, illuminated planets.
·         Encourage reading by using a label maker to label the back side of each planet with its name.
·         Encourage further reading and knowledge by printing fun facts about each planet onto sticker paper sheets and then adding them to the back of each light.



  1. "glow with pride"


    I love it :)

  2. I LOVE this! My son absolutely loves all things space related but he's not so in to painting either... I bet he would really enjoy this and it would inspire him to play with the paints more. This is such a great idea with the tap lights, I can't wait to try this!

  3. Super cool. We love space. My son's room has glowing planets hanging above his bed with big star cutouts and glowing stars on the ceiling. We just put together a giant space mobile too. My friend and I absolutely love this and plan to do it. Thanks so much for all your inspiration, I check y'all out all the time! Y'all ROCK!

  4. AWESOME! Thank you for all the great ideas! I love getting the emails when you update, and don't normally comment since I'm viewing it from my email, but just wanted to say thank you! Thank you for taking the time to share your great ideas so that others (myself and kids) can benefit. I definitely think of play differently now and try to incorporate more meaningful play. Please keep updating; this is such a wonderful resource for creative parenting.

  5. I still want to include Pluto! I think it's funny when I find solar system stickers or displays and it says, 8+1 planets.

  6. I love this idea, what a great way to make the learning really come alive. This could be a really great thing to include when we decorate our playroom, plus I love that you still have more ideas to come

  7. This is great!!! I am going to set this up next week for my little girl! We got her Uncle Milton's moon in my room and glow in the dark stars, and I ordered the push lights online-I think she will be thrilled, so thank you so much for sharing. I love that ya'll will be adding a bigger light for the sun also-would love to do that as well!! :)

  8. This I LOVE! As I was reading I had the thought, man it would be nice to have a larger one for the sun - then I saw the thought at the end of the post :) Might just need to get some of these as my boys will love it.

  9. On a recent trip to Ikea, I ran across this delight, and although it's not a push light, it had to come home with me for my son's room. We hung it on the wall rather than the ceiling, and I just love it. Just an on-topic idea that I thought I'd share. :)


    Thanks so much for letting us in on all the wonderful wonder that you share with your kids! I can't wait to try so many of your ideas with my kids!

  10. probably the coolest idea ever!
    go mom!


  11. really quite amazing....and inspiring. Your children are very lucky and you are an amazing Mother!

  12. Fantastic Blog and what a creative mother :-) I've been on the look out for good beginners book on the solar sytem for my 3 year old too. Please suggest something I can pick up through amazon?

  13. This is amazing, I love the idea. I will be putting this in the "to do" activities when my son is a little older and possibly when he is showing interest in planets. This really is AWESOME!!

  14. I bet sun catcher paints would work really well for this type of project.

  15. love this, will certainly be trying it with my little one. Do these have sticky on the bottom for hanging? My little one cannot use his hands so paints with a brush attached to his head. I need to be able to somehow hold them up at eye level for him to paint. We love your blog and use your ideas frequently.

  16. Did you help pick out the colors? Or did you set them out for him? My son loves to use a lot of colors and I know its more about the experience so just wondering how you did that part. Thanks! Alaina

    1. He chose the colors, but with each planet, I asked him first what colors he saw....he would tell me...and then I would say - "so what color paints do you need?" - and he would pick the colors.

  17. Fabulous! We are having space night Saturday night. I think we'll make these as one of the activities

  18. What a GREAT idea! I love it! Thanks so much for sharing.


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