“Does the sun go to bed, Mummy?”… teaching your child about night and day

My toddler and I had a conversation around 2 months ago about what happens to the daylight at night. Nate wanted to know if the sun went to bed, like he did. “Not exactly,” I managed to respond. This was at the end of a long week, and I actually had to think about it for a while!

Eventually I managed to pick my brain up off the floor and we had a lovely discussion about light and dark. I explained how our planet earth spun slowly around on its own axis, and also moved around the sun in orbit. It helps if you have a globe, or I think I used a tennis ball and a soccer ball to show how the two revolve. “Orb-it,” said Nate. “Ax-it.” Close enough.

When our side of the planet faces the sun, it’s daytime, I said. We stood and faced the sun, and felt its warmth on our faces.  And when the earth turns, and we’re facing away from the sun, it can’t shine its light on us. We are in the shadow. Turning away from the sun, the warmth faded from our cheeks and our eyes adjusted. So…that’s what we call ‘night’. And that’s why it looks like the sun comes up and goes down – we are travelling towards it and then away from it. The small one head butted me in the leg, kicked the soccer ball, and ran off up the driveway.

I kind of thought it had gone in one ear and out the other, so I was super surprised when I randomly asked Nate tonight, “Do you remember what the difference is between day and night?” He pushed his toy car up the side of the fridge, screwed up his brow, and announced “the sun goes around the planet.” And then? “Aaaaand…. so it gets dark at night.”

Well knock me over with a large Moa feather! Nice one, Nate. That’s some pretty good rememberating.  (Yes, it’s actually the planet that goes around the sun, but these are minor issues to a two year old.)

Ask your child about the difference between day and night, and see what they say 🙂

postscript: the gorgeous water colour image featured with this post is an original by my clever cousin, Leafy Dumas… featuring Nate, our dog Scout, and the beautiful Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve by night



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