The Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year is here. While some people might choose to hibernate on this darkest day, why not celebrate it with fun and unique activities?
Kids will love these activities that help them connect to the natural world and get in touch with their inner creativity. So bundle up, and let’s celebrate the winter solstice together with games and activities.
I wanted to find a way to open our children’s eyes to the beauty of the solstice from a scientific standpoint but even more so the significance to us human beings and those with whom we share the earth.
Here are a few beautiful ideas for celebrating Winter Solstice. The idea is to create warmth, spirit, and light around this dark (as in little daylight, particularly here in the Pacific Northwest) day.
Solstice Versus Equinox
Solstices and equinoxes are the changing of the seasons, but they are opposites.
As the Earth travels around the sun, it is slightly tilted. So, the Earth sees more or less sunlight at different times of the year. If there were no tilt, the Sun would always be the same distance from the Earth (or the Equator). So, there would be no seasons. That is not the case; thus, we have solstices and equinoxes.
We have two solstices in June (20 or 21) and December (21 or 22). In the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter solstice is the shortest amount of daylight, while the Summer solstice is the most extended amount of daylight of the year.
In the Northern Hemisphere, June solstice marks the start of summer: the North Pole is tilted closest to the Sun, and the Sun’s rays are directly overhead at the Tropic of Cancer.
The December solstice marks the start of winter: at this point, the South Pole is tilted closest to the Sun, and the Sun’s rays are directly overhead at the Tropic of Capricorn. (In the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are reversed.)
The equinoxes happen in March (about March 21) and September (about September 23). These are the days when the Sun is above the Equator, which makes day and night equal in length.
Winter Solstice Activities
What Can the Winter Solstice Teach You?
Our ancient ancestors regarded the longest night as a time of spiritual renewal: the darkest time of the year, after which the sun would gradually return, bringing new life, growth, and warmth.
These days, we can accurately calculate the winter solstice to a specific minute between December 19th and December 22nd, often falling on December 21st.
While we may no longer believe in darkness as a force of evil to be conquered by the returning sun, there are lessons to be learned from the coldest, darkest day of the year.
What Do Animals Do Around Winter Solstice?
All good woodland animals know that winter is a time of hibernation. Days of longer light are perfect for foraging, stocking up, and working to provide for the household – the winter chill is ideal for bundling up and making like a grizzly.
Wear your most comfortable pajamas, fix yourself a cup of hot cocoa (marshmallows and whipped cream optional), and burrow down with a good book or that long-awaited box set. Who can feel guilty for keeping cozy when it’s cold outside?
Lessons to Share with Children
In older days, the sun’s return was not a scientific certainty based on our understanding of the universe. Instead, it relied on our behavior: were we virtuous enough? Pious enough? Did we please the gods?
We know now that winter will turn to spring regardless of how we behave in our day-to-day lives, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take stock of our actions and how they have affected the world around us.
Use this winter solstice to consider your treatment of your friends, family, neighbors, environment, and yourself.
What are you proud of?
Where can you improve?
When New Year’s Eve comes around, you’ll be ready with resolutions tailored to make you the best version of yourself.
Ancient societies thanked the gods for another year of continued health and happiness while grieving the year’s losses. Acknowledge all your feelings about the past twelve months: the good, the bad, the boring, the frustrating, and the hopeful.
What is your most cherished memory? What is your greatest regret? What are you looking forward to in 2020? Being honest about how this year has gone is a healthy way to figure out what is and isn’t working in your life.
Like our ancestors, we can balance our joy with our sorrow and move towards a better, more integrated future.
You don’t have to believe in a benevolent god of light and growth to look forward to the coming of spring. Most of us find the winter, with its inconveniences and extra expense, as something to get through rather than enjoys.
But if you use the winter solstice to nest, appreciate what you have, and evaluate what you want from your life, you can find modern value in even the most ancient celebrations.
Winter Solstice Games for Kids
These winter solstice activities are fun for the classroom or homeschool.
Plants of Winter Solstice
Study the Plants of Winter Solstice! These plants include evergreens, yew, oak, mistletoe, holly, rosemary, pine, and ivy. Each of these plants has a specific meaning, especially when celebrating the winter solstice, the return of the light.
The Celts believed the sun stood still during the winter solstice. So, the Yule Log was burned for 12 days in the heart, hoping to encourage the sun to move, thus making the days longer.
Craft Like There is No Tomorrow
These classic medallion snowflakes from One Dog Woof might be the perfect winter solstice craft for kids. My boys are 3 and 4, so their cutting skills develop as I write. I thought it’d be fun to save one each year to observe how their snowflakes change over the years.
Take Care of Nature
We live in the mountains with lost animals, adapting to the colder months. I find watching these birds, especially, adapt as the seasons change. No matter where you live, helping these animals during colder months is always a good thing.
Sheri Silver’s Orange Bird Feeder is not unique, but it looks pretty hanging in the yard! What fun to make too!
Reading stories out loud is always a pleasant and heartwarming activity with friends, especially around special celebrations like Solstice. Last year I collected several books to add to our collection. Check out the list of Winter Solstice Children’s Books!
Move Your Bodies
What better way to bring in the day with the least light than a fun Winter Solstice yoga storytime to get our bodies moving? This yoga session for children tells the story of a raven bringing light.
Meditate & Teach Kids to Meditate
I also researched a few short Winter Solstice poems appropriate for children. Long enough to have meaning to the child yet quick enough to keep a child’s attention.
All we want to do is provoke thought and questions. Plant any seed to ignite further learning. Poems are a great way to achieve this goal.
Learn about the solstice with this fun science demonstration.
Make a Winter Solstice Light Lamp
This Winter Solstice ice lamp is a fun way to celebrate the shortest day of the year.
Feed the Birds
Celebrate the winter solstice by making homemade treats for your backyard birds!
Make a Winter Lantern
This easy winter lantern craft for kids is perfect as a winter solstice craft or an easy craft to bring light into your home during the dark months.
Lanterns for Winter Solstice
The lanterns they made for St. Martins Day from Red Ted Art are PERFECT for Winter Solstice crafts. They are magical, beautiful, and EXCITING to make.
Tin Can Lanterns
Tin Can Lanterns are so pretty and cozy. They are beautiful for sharing as homemade gifts too.
Happy Winter Solstice!