Teaching kids about the stars can be far more interesting by including the constellations.
For millennia, different cultures around the world studied the pictures in the stars, created myths around them, and used them for divination and navigation.
So here are some kid-friendly constellation stories that carry the gist of why a constellation is named a certain way.
Greek and Roman mythologies have some intense themes, so these are the dialed-down versions of the myths.
Here are some of the most famous kid-friendly constellation stories.
They’ll get their interests piqued about star-related myths!
Orion was a great hunter who was the son of the sea god, Poseidon, and the daughter of the king of Crete, Euryale.
Thanks to his father’s status as the ruler of all bodies of water, Orion could walk on waves.
He loved hunting and had a huge club made of solid bronze that was so heavy, but he could easily carry it.
He used to go hunting with the goddess of the hunt, Artemis. One day, he promised to kill all the animals on land.
The goddess of the Earth, Gaia, wasn’t too happy about that.
She promised to kill him, but since gods don’t do that themselves, she sent a giant scorpion, Scorpius, to do the job.
Scorpius succeeded in killing Orion, and Gaia wanted to keep a memorial of his death.
That’s why she asked Zeus to put Orion and the giant scorpion among the stars.
You can tell Orion’s constellation by three stars arranged in a row, called Orion’s Belt, right above the stars forming his legs.
As is the tradition among hunters, they all have helper dogs that sniff out the prey.
Orion had two dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor, who helped him pursue animals like Lepus, a rabbit-like creature, and kill Taurus, a giant bull.
Other stories related to Canis Major and Canis Minor describe the bigger one as Zeus’ dog, Laelaps, the most accomplished hunting dog.
It was given as a gift to a Phoenician princess called Europa.
The dog was destined to catch any prey it set its eyes on.
The smaller figure in this story isn’t a dog; it’s a fox called the Teumessian Fox.
It was faster than all the other beasts on Earth, and nobody could catch it.
So, when Europa’s husband was out hunting with Laelaps, the dog saw the fox and went chasing after it.
This created an endless chase because the dog was destined to catch the prey, and the prey was destined to run free.
To put an end to it, Zeus turned both the dog and the fox into stone and then put them in the stars to commemorate their chase.
Canis Major contains the brightest star in the night’s sky, Sirius.
In Greek mythology, Taurus was one of the many animals Zeus would pretend to be when he wanted to talk with ordinary people.
In this case, he was trying to speak with Europa, the Phoenician princess from the previous story.
In Babylonian mythology, Taurus was called the Bull of Heaven that was sent by the goddess Ishtar to kill a hero named Gilgamesh.
To ancient Egyptians, it was part of their star signs and was associated with the arrival of the spring.
Taurus is the oldest known constellation.
We know that because images of the stars forming it were found in cave paintings dating back thousands of years ago.
It was also known to many cultures, always being drawn in the shape of a bull with horns pointing forward or backward.
In Roman mythology, Jupiter, the greatest god of all, fell in love with one of the beautiful creatures called nymphs.
This nymph was called Callisto, and she had a son named Arcas.
Jupiter had a wife called Juno, who was very jealous of Callisto.
That’s why she turned Callisto into a bear—called Ursa in Latin—so that Jupiter wouldn’t like her anymore.
When Callisto was walking around in bear form, her son Arcas saw her and almost shot at her with his arrow.
To prevent the son from killing his mother, Jupiter intervened and turned Arcas into a bear as well so that he would follow his mother.
The two bears are known as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.
Ursa Major is a very famous constellation because it points to Polaris.
It also contains a well-known smaller star formation, called an asterism, known as the Big Dipper.
Cassiopeia was the queen of Ethiopia.
She was known for her vanity and her pride in her beauty.
She had a daughter named Andromeda, who was very beautiful.
Cassiopeia made a boastful remark that Andromeda was more beautiful than all of the Nereids, the enchanting sea nymphs that were blessed with great beauty.
So they got angry and asked Poseidon, the sea god, to punish Cassiopeia.
Poseidon first wanted to send a sea monster called Cetus to attack Ethiopia, where the queen lives.
However, her husband Cepheus asked the sea god to spare his people.
So, Poseidon told Cepheus that the only way to save his country was to sacrifice his daughter to the monster Cetus.
Unfortunately, poor Andromeda was chained to the sea in wait for her fate as a victim to Cetus.
But at the last minute, a hero named Perseus came to her rescue and cut her chains after killing Cetus with his diamond sword.
The Andromeda constellation contains the famous Andromeda spiral galaxy.
It’s in the shape of a woman in chains falling down. Cassiopeia’s constellation looks like a woman on a throne and has very prominent, W-shaped main stars.
Constellations have always been a source of wonder and enchantment, so teaching kids about them will spark their interest in learning about space.
That’s why we presented you with these kid-friendly constellation stories so that the heavy themes and complicated mythology behind them would be easily understood.
You might also enjoy learning about:
- Reticulum Constellation Facts
- Draco Constellation Facts
- Can You Breathe on Jupiter?
- Can You Walk on Mercury?
- Nebula vs Galaxy (What’s the Difference?)
- Roman Constellations (A List and Stories)
- Cool Facts About The Moon
- Constellations For April
- Capricorn Constellation Facts
- Cetus Constellation Facts