Today we understand that a solar eclipse is a natural phenomenon, an occasional reminder of our place in the Universe. We understand that whether we continue about our day, stop and observe it quietly, or run around shrieking like a headless chicken, after a few minutes the Moon will pass on by, the Sun will shine fiercely onto our planet once more, and normality will be restored.
But for ancient civilisations solar eclipses were impossible to explain, and were often met with a sense of terror.
Use these games to explain how solar eclipses have been understood over thousands of years.
Ancient China - Bang The Drums
In ancient China it was believed demons were attempting to steal the Sun. The people would flock together during an eclipse and bang pots and pans as loudly as they can to scare away the demons.
To recreate this in a game you will need a big yellow ball or balloon to be the Sun, and whatever noisy implements you can find (saucepans and wooden spoons should do the trick).
Your children can be the demons to start with. Their job is to try to steal the Sun from wherever you’ve chosen to display it. If you catch them, you must bang as loud as you can, and they will abandon their efforts. This is a great game because provided you keep an eagle-eye out for little demons, you can get on with some chores while the little ones are plotting their plan of attack.
You could just play for fun, set up a points system or even offer yummy rewards for successful total eclipses.
If your children fancy a turn banging the pots, just switch roles.
Vietnam - The Giant Frog
In Vietnamese culture it was believed that the Sun disappeared as a result of a giant frog taking a bite out of it. Of course the Sun was too powerful for the frog and after burning his mouth the frog let the Sun go free.
Turn the classic ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf’ into the Giant Frog game.
Your children are giant frogs and you are guarding the Sun (use a pile of yellow clothes or a Sun made from segments of yellow card). The children call out ‘what’s the time’ and when you answer them they must jump forward like frogs, instead of taking strides. Every time a child successfully reaches you they can take a piece of the Sun and run back to base. But if the Sun gets angry, you must chase the Giant frogs away.
Vikings - The Chariot And The Wolves
The Vikings believed the Sun was pulled around on the back of a chariot, perpetually chased by wolves. Every now and then a wolf would catch up and take a bite out of the Sun, causing the darkness, before the chariot sped away, taking the Sun to safety.
You can recreate this story with a simple game of chase, each taking turns to be the wolf or the Sun.