What Are The Best Solar System Toys? – 2018 Edition
Teaching your child about science is best performed in the environment of play. Especially when it comes to astronomy, there are a million excellent solar system toys which you can use to streamline the process.
But how are you supposed to know which solar system toys are the ones that your child needs to grow? In this article, we’ll review the best solar system toys for education and recreation so that you will know which ones to purchase for your child.
Solar System Toy Reviews
Our #1 Choice – University Games Great Explorations 3-D Solar System
The University Games Great Explorations 3-D Solar System is a toy set which you can place in your yard to have glow-in-the-dark fun with the planets.
- Contains excellent factbook
- Glows in the dark
- More than enough planets to share with other children
- May be somewhat misleading due to glowing planets
With over 200 different planetoids in the set, this solar system is considerably bigger than the one we live in. This means that the kit is great for teaching lessons about the cosmos outside of our solar system in addition to playing pretend regarding the planets we know of.
There is a great informational booklet which comes with the set that you can use to educate your child regarding the most important features scientists look for in the cosmos when they are hunting for new planets.
You can easily have your child design their planetary system once they get going with this kit. The only real downside is that the glowing of each planet is not entirely accurate. Planets need to be lit by a star before they are visible, but this is a very minor concern for your young astronomer.
Our #2 Choice – 4M Solar System Planetarium
The 4M Solar System Planetarium is an excellent tool for teaching your child about the basics of planetary orbits in a fun and easy-to-use format.
- Easy to use 3D solar system
- Tools for plotting planetary orbits
- Assorted arts and crafts materials
- Quiz book is too superficial to learn very much
With the Solar System Planetarium, you’ll get a scale model of the solar system mounted on rotating arms. These arms will show you the approximate orbit of the planets relative to the sun, while also teaching your child regarding the relative position of the planets in relation to each other.
If you want to teach about orbital dynamics, you can easily plot the traverse of the planets in the kit using the accompanying stencil kit and a piece of paper. There are also art utensils in the kit for those who would rather decorate than learn.
Finally, you will get a small quiz book and a little informational packet with the answers when you purchase this kit. While there are many other kits which will provide more in-depth educational materials, the real strength of this kit is the 3D representation of the planets.
Our #3 Choice – Space: A Visual Encyclopedia
Space: A Visual Encyclopedia is more than a learning tool. It’s a source of wonder that will inspire your child to learn more about the solar system for the rest of their lives.
- Beautiful images
- Extensive knowledge base
- Works great with any other space related toy
- Perfect for a wide age range
- No active play potential
- Minimal constructive play potential
Space: A Visual Encyclopedia has all of the trappings of a winner. For the younger children, the images of the solar system and beyond are beautiful and awe-inspiring. For older children, the fact-packed text of the book serve to enlighten and empower.
You’ll enjoy this encyclopedia, too. It’s the perfect companion to practically every other solar system toy that you could think of. If there is a celestial body that is proximal to Earth, it will have an extensive article in the encyclopedia.
Unlike other encyclopedias, this one is perfect for a quick browse. You and your child don’t need to commit to hours of reading to figure out the answers to your questions — but you might want to.
The downside of this encyclopedia is that raw knowledge is not very interactive. For active play, you will obviously need a different thing.
Our #4 Choice – Melissa & Doug Solar System Floor Puzzle
The Melissa & Doug Solar System Floor Puzzle is a great constructive play set which your child can use to create a beautiful tapestry of the solar system for their room or somewhere else in your home.
- Huge size
- Great for learning the major planets
- Not too complicated to assemble
- Oddly scaled image
- Only 48 pieces
Jigsaw puzzles are entertaining because they build your child’s visual and motor skills along with their ability to recognize and match patterns. This puzzle is no exception. With this puzzle, your family will have access to a wonderful perspective of the planets in the solar system from the surface of the moon.
The point of view depicted in this puzzle is interesting because it is rare that a solar system toy would try to display the Earth’s moon as well as some of the other major moons in the solar system.
While the perspective depicted in the puzzle isn’t perfectly accurate or to a single consistent scale, it is still an attractive way of displaying the celestial bodies in the solar system. Your child will have a lot of fun putting together the image of the planets splayed against the darkness of space.
Our #5 Choice – National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Space
The National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Space is a simple yet educational tome of space-related facts.
- Great way to ease into astronomy
- Perfect for independent learning
- Great explanatory text
- Not very awe-inspiring
- Child will outgrow the information in the book very quickly
This book is perfect for children who need an introduction to space. All of the content is easy for children to understand, and the book provides a gentle easing into the process of understanding the outside universe.
The images in the book are less about inspiring awe and more about providing a robust educational foundation for future exploration of the cosmos. For the youngest children, this may mean that the book is not as attention-grabbing as others may be.
Nonetheless, for children who are old enough to read, this book provides an excellent first look at other celestial bodies. While there won’t be any particularly deep lessons taught, the book is a good companion to other toys which allow your child to experience the wonder firsthand.
What To Look For In Solar System Toys
Now that you are familiar with the market for solar system toys, it’s time to consider what you should be thinking about while picking the toys.
There are three main factors that you will need to be attentive to when you are picking solar system toys for your child. First, you will need to clarify the purpose of the toy.
Is the toy meant to be purely educational, or is it meant to be for play alone? Most solar system toys err on the side of education rather than play value. If anything, solar system toys are not very good for active play, though there are a few exceptions.
You should not be afraid to pick toys which purport to be a mixture of education and entertainment. For other toys, these mixtures usually result in a subpar product which has little value to your child.
For solar system toys, however, education is much easier when there is an element of fun. This element of fun could be beautiful images of the universe, an interactive game, or perhaps a kit that needs assembling. Several solar system toys also offer quizzes, but these can feel a bit too academic for genuine play.
Education is one of the primary roles of a solar system toy, but not all toys are equally educational. Many toys are intended for very young children, and it can sometimes be hard to find a toy that is correct for the level of attention your child can bring to bear.
Likewise, solar system toys which are predominantly educational can often be a bit too simplistic, even for a young child. Your child needs to be challenged by the material if they are going to enjoy the learning process. They will grasp the basics of the solar system very quickly.
There usually will not be a need for you to duplicate your informational efforts in multiple toys. Pick one reference material, then complement it with practical and hands-on models that your child can touch and enjoy.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Skills Will My Child Learn From Solar System Toys?
Solar system toys teach your child that the natural world exists beyond our atmosphere, and that the universe outside our planet is as exciting as the area where we live.
Your child will learn geometry, geology, climatology, and a bit about ancient myths when they play with their solar system toys. If you put a lot of effort into enriching your child’s solar system play experience, they could also learn about the general principles of the natural world.
If you take things extremely far, your child could also learn about mathematics — or at least the concepts which mathematics describe — as a result of their play with solar system toys. The sky is literally the limit.
What Are The Best Solar System Toys For Creative Play?
Anything that gets your child into the habit of imagining the world of the night sky will contribute to their ability for imagination. Especially when it comes to the planetary bodies which they can’t easily see, every time they play they will need to be visualizing space.
Many solar system toys allow your child to reconstruct the orbits of our local group. This should not be confused with creative play, however, because there is an objectively correct answer to the order of the planets.
Instead, the solar system toys which are the best for creative play are those which inspire your child to answer questions like “if I wanted to launch a satellite from Earth which I wanted to orbit Neptune, what would the best path be to take advantage of as many gravity wells as possible?”
These questions may seem very complex to be answerable with play — but explain the basic principle to your child and hand them a model of the solar system. They’ll be plotting their stellar voyages in no time.
What Add-Ons Are Best For Solar System Toys?
The answer is that it depends what you consider to be the primary toy and what you consider to be the add-on. The add-on to an encyclopedia of the solar system could very easily be a small telescope.
Likewise, you could make the encyclopedia an add-on to a model solar system. The best thing about solar system toys is that nearly every toy can play well with every other toy.
One thing that you may want to avoid while procuring solar system toys for your child is mixing modes of play. There is not much point in getting your child an encyclopedia of the solar system and also an astronaut costume. If that’s what your child wants, go ahead — but remember that the two don’t work together very well.
Instead, you might want to get your child another nature toy — like a bug or rock collector — to help them make the most of the astronaut outfit’s potential for imaginative play. Likewise, if you purchased your child a model solar system to assemble, they could put their encyclopedia to use.
While finding add-ons for your child’s solar system toys, you may want to focus on additions which contribute to the hands-on play segment of your child’s routine.
Solar system toys are always educational, but many children will find that they need something that lets them dive in and experiment on alone. Without this hands-on component, your child may become bored.
So, while you may not be able to provide your child with an active play potential with solar system toys, you can certainly spruce up an educational toy with a hands-on component as an add-on.