How to organize an eclipse event for kids: 9 things to do before, during and after the total solar eclipse 2024

 A child wearing an astronaut costume observes the Annular Solar Eclipse with using safety glasses at the facilities of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City, Mexico on October 14, 2023
From a space-themed buffet to learning about the solar system, here's how to organize an eclipse event for kids. (Image credit: Photo by Daniel Cardenas/Anadolu via Getty Images)
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North America's total solar eclipse on April 8 comes just after spring break, but where kids will be depends on where you live. Some schools are closing for the eclipse for safety reasons, while others are doing so because the eclipse coincides with the end of the school day. 

Either way, the stakes are high. "Every adult has a few childhood memories that stand out vividly from the blur that becomes our history," said Debra Ross, publisher of, Chair of both the Rochester Task Force for Eclipse 2024 and Co-chair of the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force, to "The upcoming eclipse presents a once-in-a-childhood opportunity for parents to help shape a lifelong memory for their kids and create a vivid bond with them that will resonate into their future."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has also put together a great list of teaching tools and activities designed to educate and inspire young minds. You can view some of their eclipse-specific learning materials on their website

Before: learn about the eclipse

If you prepare kids well for what is about to happen, they will get more from it. "In advance of eclipse day, help your kids learn the basic science of what will be happening and what they will see during the partial and total phases," said Ross. A good place to start is What Will the Eclipse Look Like from My City? for useful simulations by eclipse expert Dan McGlaun of Also handy is Timeanddate, which will give you an exact schedule of what will happen, when, and what to look out for for any location. 

Before: make a space-themed buffet

A space-themed buffet is a fun way to celebrate the big day, and it's hardly a challenging task for kids during a trip to a store. Chocolate MoonPie marshmallow sandwiches, Mars bars, Milky Ways and Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies are a given, as are Starburst, Sun Chips, SunnyD and Capri-Sun. 

Although a space-themed buffet is just for fun, there is a way of using Oreos as a learning opportunity. Forget the new flavors of Oreos, such as chocolate creme, and go for a pack of originals. That way, you can separate each one and create a montage of the stages of a solar eclipse, laying the dark biscuit (the moon) across the white cream on the other biscuit (the sun) to create a more and more obscured sun.  

Before: create eclipse-viewing masks

Children with decorated eclipse glasses during the 2017 total solar eclipse.  (Image credit: Photo by: VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Making and decorating eclipse glasses is a fun and creative way to get kids excited about the eclipse. Using any pair of solar eclipse glasses as the centerpiece, create almost any thing you want to go around them. The easiest way is to combine a paper plate with some eclipse glasses, which is also a good way of protecting skin against the sun while outside for several hours (though that may not be a significant issue in April). Decorate the plates with markers, stickers, or paint.

Before: make a pinhole camera

If you can't get hold of eclipse glasses, the best way to view the partial phases of any solar eclipse is through a pinhole camera, which produces an image of the sun on a screen. It's easy to make from things you can find around your home — a shoebox, tinfoil, a sheet of paper, tape, a pin or needle and a box cutter. Our sister site, Live Science, explains how. You'll want to start this a few hours before the eclipse's partial phases begin.

Before: make pinhole cards

Teacher Russ Day holds a kitchen colander as the round holes show the shape of the partial solar eclipse at Lexington Junior High School in Cypress, California, on Monday, August 21, 2017.  (Image credit: Photo by Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

Any regular-sized hole will project an image of an eclipsed sun onto any surface below it. Colanders work well. So do spaghetti spoons. But so does anything created using a hole punch. So, get kids to write their names using a series of holes, and they can project crescent suns through them. A photo can make an excellent souvenir memory of the day. "If you don't have eclipse glasses, you can make a pinhole camera or use a button, colander, RITZ cracker, or your own two hands," said Janet Ivey-Duensing, CEO and Founder of Janet's Planet. "Place one hand on top of the other and let the sun shine through your fingers onto a white piece of paper, and you will see mini-reflections of the eclipse."

During: wear eclipse glasses

Solar eclipse glasses are a must. (Image credit: Daniel MacDonald / via Getty Images)

These are, of course, essential during the partial phases of the eclipse. 

"Teach your kids when and when not to wear their eclipse glasses — any time one looks at the sun, including during the partial phases," said Ross. "But also when not to — you must remove them during totality, or you'll miss seeing the sun's corona." The latter only applies to those in the path of totality.

NASA gives some excellent advice on its website about how to use eclipse glasses, which is worth practicing with kids: "Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. After looking at the sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the sun."

During: talk about totality

Eclipse chasers fixate on seeing the totally eclipsed sun. The sight of the sun's corona is undeniably the highlight for many who travel to the path of totality, but it's not just a visual experience. If you're on the path of totality, prime kids for the scope and scale of what they're about to experience. "Immediately before totality, remind kids that people process the world with their eyes, ears, skin, and emotions," said Ross. "Let them know that afterward, you'll be all talking about what you saw, heard, and felt inside and outside." This will help them focus on all of their senses separately and give them more to notice during totality, says Ross.

After: capture the emotion

As soon as totality ends, there's a rush of adrenalin and emotion as you all collectively try to put into words what you just experienced. Few people can resist the temptation to take photos of the eclipse with their smartphone. Still, it's videos taken just after totality that best capture the emotion of the occasion for posterity. "If you're with a group of friends or family, have someone video people's reactions after totality using a smartphone," said Alan Dyer, solar eclipse photographer and author of How to photograph the solar eclipse, in an interview with He recommends assigning the task to kids. "Fresh reactions right after the eclipse are priceless and come before people have had the chance to think about it."

After: start a discussion

A great way to do this in a group of kids is to ask the right questions, preferably on camera (though it's the audio recording that's most precious years later. "Everyone will be talking excitedly anyway, so focus the discussion with questions like What did you see? What did you hear? What did you feel?" says Ross. 

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Jamie Carter
Contributing Writer

Jamie is an experienced science, technology and travel journalist and stargazer who writes about exploring the night sky, solar and lunar eclipses, moon-gazing, astro-travel, astronomy and space exploration. He is the editor of and author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners, and is a senior contributor at Forbes. His special skill is turning tech-babble into plain English.