Today's preschoolers marveling at the planets could be tomorrow's astronauts. Pique their exploration interests by helping children work on rocket ship activities that teach important scientific principles.

Understand Rocket Ship Destinations

Help children visualize the solar system by drawing the sun in the center of a chalkboard and then showing them where to draw and color smaller planets. Alternatively, they could gather on the floor and place Styrofoam balls of different sizes around a larger ball that represents the sun. Ask one child to put a small ball -- the moon -- near the one that represents Earth. Children can place small strips of paper that represent rocket ships near different "planets."

Visualize a Rocket Ship

Once kids understand where they can travel in space, let them build a rocket ship that gets them there. Cut one side from a large appliance box and a small hole in another side as a window. This box becomes a rocket ship's crew compartment, which kids can enter and explore. You can also have them tape white paper inside the box and draw controls on the paper. Ask one or more children to create a sign that specifies the type of crew compartment they are building. For instance, it could be one inside a former space shuttle or a smaller compartment you find inside space capsules.

Rockets: Essential Rocket Ship Ingredients

A rocket ship can't go anywhere unless a rocket sends it into space. Show kids examples of small Fourth of July rockets, which they've probably seen before. These rockets can form the basis for a discussion about propulsion. Cut colored paper into shapes that kids can tape together to construct a real rocket. A large, tall rectangle becomes the rocket's body, and two triangles on either side can represent its fins. Create a smaller rectangle that can go on the bottom -- where the engines go. A final triangle goes on top of the body to represent the rocket ship astronauts ride in.

Watch, Learn and Have Fun

Launches and landings are exciting, and nothing beats seeing and hearing real rocket ships in action. Have the preschoolers gather around a TV or large monitor and show them video footage of different space missions where craft orbit Earth and even fly to the moon. You could also make scale models and pictures of various rocket ships available as kids watch the videos.