CCA Logo/Homepage link

Explaining and Safely Viewing the 2017 Solar Eclipse with our Smallest Learners

August 19, 2017

A solar eclipse will take place on Monday, August 21 for the first time in the lower 48 U.S. states since 1979. During a solar eclipse, the moon passes between the sun and the Earth and blocks all or part of the sun for up to three hours, from beginning to end. On Monday, the longest period when the moon will completely block the sun—a total eclipse—will be about 2 minutes and 40 seconds and will only happen along the “path of totality” (below).  

The path of totality will span Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.  During the total eclipse, the sky will become as dark as night even though it takes place during the day!  If you live along the path of totality, expect to see more traffic and lots of visitors in your hometown to see this phenomenon.

For those not on the path of totality, we will see a partial eclipse, where the moon partially blocks the sun. The partial eclipse will be visible everywhere in North America.

Safely watching the eclipse with children

Except during totality, where the sun is completely blocked by the moon, protective eyewear must be worn when looking at the eclipse. Looking directly at the sun can cause serious eye damage or blindness due to the intensity of the sunlight; eyes can actually get sunburned!  Those planning on watching the eclipse should use solar viewing glasses, such as the ones found here.

If you don’t have solar viewing glasses, you can make a pinhole projection device by cutting a hole in a sheet of cardboard or using a milk carton  Older children can help make the device!  Use this site from Big Kid Science for step-by-step instructions.

Child care providers, teachers, and parents can use this as an opportunity to teach children about space.  There are many games and activities to help make the eclipse easier to understand for our smallest learners.  Check out some of these resources to help you explain what is happening in the sky:


Looking for child care? Explore our checklists for families.

Topics: Parenting, Health & Safety

Maggie Norton

Written by Maggie Norton

Maggie is the Research Manager at Child Care Aware® of America. She uses data and mapping to determine inequities in communities to help CCAoA target efforts and policy to meet the needs of vulnerable populations.