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When it comes to what kids want to be when they grow up, “astronaut” is right up there with “cowboy” and “ballerina.” Here’s a great activity to help your child make an imaginative, inexpensive spaceship from recycled materials. As well as practicing their craftsmanship, young ones can also improve their basic math skills – like counting! When the spaceship is ready, you can teach your child to count backwards from ten down to one and then BLAST OFF!

Improve Basic Math Skills

What You Need:

  • Newspaper
  • Paper plate
  • Empty paper towel tube
  • Small cup
  • White paint
  • Any other color paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Construction paper
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Red paint or crayon
  • 3–4 cotton balls
  • 10 pieces of scrap paper (they can be small or you can use 5 pieces cut in half if you’d like)

What You Do:

  1. Spread newspaper on top of your table and make sure your child is wearing something that she can get paint on.
  2. Squirt white paint on a paper plate. Give your child the paintbrush and let her paint the paper towel tube white. She doesn’t have to worry about painting the inside—that part won’t be visible.
  3. Squirt a different color paint on the paper paint. Your child can paint the Dixie cup this color. When she’s done, set it down next to the paper towel tube to dry.
  4. Have your child draw two small triangles on construction paper and cut them out.
  5. Choose an end of the tube to be the bottom and place a line of glue on either side. Let your child stick the “wings” onto the ship so that one edge of the triangle is glued to the side of the ship and another edge rests on the table.
  6. Using red paint or a red crayon, help your child draw the U.S. flag on her tube. Write USA under it. She can also draw a window with herself (or some other luck astronaut) inside
  7. Put some glue inside the bottom of the tube. Have your child create “smoke” by sticking some cotton balls to the inside of the tube so that they poke out the bottom. For an extra special effect, pull on the cotton balls a little before gluing to make fluffier, more dramatic smoke.
  8. Have your child attach the paper cup to the top of the tube. It will seem to naturally fit! Now your space ship is ready for take-off.
  9. Ask your child to help you write the numbers 1-10 on your 10 pieces of scrap paper. Now, ask her to help you arrange them in backward order!
  10. As your child prepares her spaceship for launch, hold up the numbered pieces of paper one at a time, starting with ten and ending with one. Ask your child to read each number dramatically as you hold it up.
  11. When you get to one, it’s time to BLAST OFF!

improve basic math skills

When the ship has launched, encourage your little astronaut to explore “deep space”! Bedrooms make excellent uncharted planets, and it’s easy to re-imagine pets as furry aliens.