(Updated to fix the time stamp)
I picked up the book "Astronomy for Every Kid: 101 Easy Experiments that Really Work" by Janice VanCleave at the latest library book sale. Janice VanCleave is a name that abounds in the science section of my library. She is a prolific writer of experiment books. I have not read her other books, but it seems that in getting to 101 experiments for astronomy, she included a number of poor choices. I have a version of the book copyrighted in 1991.
Some of the experiments in this book are good. Some are OK. It is for this reason that I felt compelled to add my two cents for which experiments should be skipped.
In this experiment, the child is supposed to learn why it's hard to look through Venus' atmosphere. So the author has the child try to look at a flashlight beam through waxed paper. Apparently this is supposed to emulate the way that more carbon dioxide in Venus' atmosphere bounce the light around more and make it difficult to see the surface. An experiment with no value whatsoever.
10. In Place
This is the worst one. This experiment is supposed to demonstrate the center point of the Earth-Moon gravitation system, the barycenter. Use a pin to secure the center of the circle to the eraser of a pencil with a bit of clay on the tip to represent the moon. Put a black dot on the pencil half an inch in from the edge of the circle. Now rotate the circle and notice the dot stays about a half inch from the edge of the circle. What you just demonstrated was that you are good at cutting out circles, finding their center, and drawing dots in from the edge.
14. Sun Prints
Use developing paper to make a print. This is done by taking specially treated paper that changes color when left in the sun. Parts of the paper that are not exposed will not change color. Hold onto your hats--this is supposed to demonstrate some ideas about why Jupiter has vary colored clouds. "Scientists think that the colors may come from chemicals in the clouds because of Jupiter's lightning or that the Sun changes the colors as it did the special light-sensitive paper." It's a bad experiment mostly because it relies on 'magical' paper (to the kids, anyway) and has a very wishy-washy theory to support that is probably wrong. It may be due to the age of the book.
Feeling warmth after vigorously rubbing your hands together is supposed to show that conservation of energy is why atoms bumping together in Jupiter's dense atmosphere do not cause a change in temperature at the surface of the planet. So a kid is supposed to generate heat to understand why heat is not generated.
27. How Far
To show how Pluto can sometimes be inside Neptune's orbit, draw any two ellipses where part of one ellipse is inside the other. You are not even constrained by one of the foci (you know, the Sun) being the same for each orbit.
The experiment has kids tracking the trajectory of a marble as it shoots from a straw and then falls according to gravity. The experiment is fine, but the title is completely mistaken. The experiment is designed to show how planets move in curved paths, ellipses, because they are captured by gravity. Though I may be picky, the path traced by a projectile with constant horizontal velocity under the acceleration of gravity is a parabola. They could have found a less inaccurate name.
Put a magnet under a piece of paper and sprinkle iron filings on top of the paper. When the magnet is moved the iron filings move with the magnet. "Purpose: To simulate the presence of planets with magnetic fields." Perhaps there was a type-o? Maybe the purpose is to show what a magnetic field looks like?
46. Sky Path
Use a piece of paper and a glass bowl and a whole day to demonstrate that the Sun moves from East to West across the sky. This is just time consuming. The point is that the Sun just looks like it's moving--it's really us.
48. Moving Target
Make a pendulum using a washer and string. Set it in motion and then try to hit the washer with a wadded up piece of paper. It is hard. You need to aim for where the washer will be after the paper has left your hand and had time to travel. It is like getting to the Moon. Except NASA had the most advanced computers at the time, the math and laws of Isaac Newton, and some of the best scientists and engineers working on the project. The point is not that the experiment is bad, it is just that the experiment will make the kid frustrated. I would not want any kid to get the idea that NASA just had good luck--which is what the kid would need in order to hit the washer. They could hit the washer with great equipment, precise timing, the fundamental equations of motion, and superb calculating ability. Which is not to diminish the great accomplishment of the moon landing--but to point out it was not luck and we had a lot more on our side than the poor kid who will probably not hit the washer.
I only went trough the first 51 of the 101 so far. I started to ignore other experiments that included demonstrations where the observed behavior kind of matches the observed behavior 'out there' without actually using any of the same causes of the real behavior. I also tried to ignore the many experiments that show the opposite of the point actually being made--like the marble rolling in the funnel falls to the bottom due to friction slowing it's forward velocity and allowing gravity to pull it down and satellites stay in orbit because there is no friction.
(Updated to fix the time stamp)