The moon has a round face

moon phases


My Dad taught us this game. It’s a common campfire game and it’s annoying. I like to use it to spark a conversation about the Moon and its attributes. AND it’s a great way of discovering the children’s prior knowledge.


A stick or pen

How to start

To play the game, tell the children to copy you exactly. Draw a round face, and as you do so say, “The Moon has a round face, two eyes, a nose and a mouth.” Then, pass the stick from your right hand to your left before passing it on. OR, for a slightly easier version, you could nod while you are drawing. The children not only have to draw a face but also notice how you pass the pen on (or nod at the same time). 

I love this easy activity because it is great for starting a conversation about whether the Moon does have a round face. Sometimes we see a full Moon, sometimes not. It can even appear during the day. Have the children noticed the Moon coming out in the day? At night? Do they know why the Moon changes shape? Does the Moon glow by itself? And if so, what powers it? How is it lit up? Does the Moon look like a face? Many investigations, conversations and ideas can spring from this simple game!

Waxing gibbous moon
Waxing gibbous moon*
Waning crescent Moon
Waning crescent Moon*
Moon phases
Moon phases*

*as seen from the Northern hemisphere

What’s the STEM?

The Moon shines at night because it reflects the Sun’s rays. It can look quite bright even though it reflects only about 8% of the sunlight that hits it. The Moon waxes and wanes because we cannot always see the entire surface that is lit up by sunlight. We explain the phases of the Moon in more detail in this article, which also gives you an idea of how to explore the phenomenon further with the children.

Observations, conclusions and extensions

This could lead anywhere! Paintings and planets – what is the difference between a moon and a planet? (Hint: One goes around the other!). Stars and stories – the Moon is a wonderfully rich subject for investigating other cultures. Moon exploration is one that caught everyone’s imaginations around here. Dramatic play, Moon walking and pretending to walk on the Moon ourselves. Designing a city on the Moon and investigating gravity. The possibilities are endless.

STEM language

Use your explorations to introduce this STEM vocabulary to the children: full Moon, waxing, waning, gibbous, crescent.

Hayley Bates
Article author: Hayley Bates
National Certifications Coordinator

Hayley has an insatiable thirst for learning – about everything! Her sheer joy of discovery and passion for professional development makes her the perfect person to run the Little Scientist’s House Certification program.

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2 thoughts on “The moon has a round face”

  1. Michael Baxter

    “The Moon waxes and wanes because the Earth causes a shadow on the Moon’s surface.”

    Hi, Hayley

    The above statement isn’t quite correct. Very occasionally, we see part of the Moon’s lit surface darkened by Earth’s shadow. That is a lunar eclipse: our planet is blocking sunlight from reaching some of our satellite’s surface. However, most of the time that we see a partly lit Moon, it’s because Earth isn’t facing the fully lit side of the Moon.

    Picture a half moon. (umm, First Quarter or Third Quarter phase) While the Moon is in this circumstance we are, in a sense, half way around, looking at this scenario from the side. Actually, the moon is out at the side of Earth – half way between being in full moon phase, and new moon phase, in its orbit of the Earth. The moon is nowhere near the shadow Earth is casting out into space.
    One side of the moon is facing the sun, fully lit by sunlight. The other half of the moon’s surface is facing away from the sun, and in shade. When we see a semi-circular lit shape, we’re able to see some of the lit side of the moon, the margin where the sunlight dims, and if we’re lucky we can just discern some of shaded side, which is out of the sunlight.
    Hope that makes sense!

    This page has helped my students to make sense of the Moon’s apparent changes, and learn of its orbital path.

    Many thanks! 😀


    1. Kerstin Johnson

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, M.B. We have amended the sentence and refer readers to another article on our website that explains the phases of the Moon in more detail. We are very glad the article was useful to you and your students. If you would like to share some of the children’s projects, we would love to hear from you via our Contact us form.

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