Make and Learn Moon Phases with Play Dough Mooncakes!

Moon cake moon phases with playdough - Chinese and English science solar system learning

Ever since the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节/中秋節), my daughter has been making pretend moon cakes, a popular Chinese dessert, with homemade play dough almost every day!  To indulge her mooncake obsession, we reviewed the moon phases with play dough mooncakes!

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Exploring moon phases on evening walks

My children are always fascinated by the moon and following the moon phases in the sky!

During the winter when the sun sets early, they were able to check the night sky for moon and stars before bedtime.

We had a lot of fun going for evening walks as a family and observing the different moon shapes! 

Since my children and I speak both Mandarin Chinese and English together, we learned about the moon phases in both languages.

Chinese is the minority language for our family, so I try to make Chinese learning extra fun for my kids! And lets be honest – I need a little motivation while re-learning this language, too!

Other favorite moon phase learning activities

Moon cake moon phases with playdough - Chinese and English science solar system learning

Moon phases: Important vocabulary in Chinese, Pinyin, and English

Here are important words that we reviewed together in simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Hanyu Pinyin, and English.

  • 月球 (Yuèqiú / Moon)
  • 月相 (Yuè xiàng / Phases of the moon)
  • 新月 (Xīn yuè / New moon)
  • 眉月 (Méi yuè / Waxing crescent) – Right side 1-49%
  • 上弦月 (Shàngxián yuè / First quarter) – Right side 50%
  • 盈凸月 (Yíng tú yuè / Waxing gibbous) – Right side 51-99%
  • 满月 / 滿月 / (Mǎnyuè / Full moon) – 100%
  • 亏凸月 / 虧凸月 (Kuī tú yuè / Waning gibbous) – Left side 51-99%
  • 下弦月 (Xiàxián yuè / Last quarter) – Left side 50%
  • 残月 / 殘月 (Cányuè / Waning crescent) – Left side 1-49%

For nomenclature reference, we used the Moon Book by Gail Gibbons and Guavarama’s Moon Unit Study.

Using mooncake molds with homemade play dough

What you need to make mooncake moon phases:

  1. Homemade play dough and moon cake molds – please see our easy play dough recipe and recommended moon cake molds in this post!
  2. Knife
  3. Large dark tray (eg, baking tray)
  4. Paper
  5. Pen
  6. Printable bilingual moon phase labels:
    1. English and simplified Chinese
    2. English and traditional Chinese
  7. Optional: rhinestone stickers!
Moon cake moon phases with playdough - Chinese and English science solar system learning

How to teach moon phases with play dough mooncakes:

  1. Prepare play dough moon cakes
  2. Cut moon shapes with knife (cargiver/teacher or child can do this depending on age)
  3. Label moon shapes with paper and pen
  4. Keep track of moon phases with printable journal; use play dough to create the shape seen in the sky!
  5. Optional: Use rhinestone stickers to create a tactile Chinese character moon

Have you made moon phases with play dough?

If you try this Play Dough Moon Phases activity, let us know in the comments!  We hope your family learns and has fun with it, and we would love to see how it turns out!

If your child is fascinated by the night sky, try these Twinkle Twinkle Little Star activities!

Chinese solar system books

Educational Solar System toys

Of these 3 puzzles, the last one is the best in my opinion.  The pictures are most realistic and show the planets in proper order.

Learning activities for every topic!

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Happy playful learning, friends!

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