Jan 25

8 Simple, Fun Ways to Celebrate Groundhog Day

by Meghan Fitzgerald

Hello! We have a brand, new blog post dedicated to celebrating Groundhog Day. Want to see it? Click here!

"Woah, we’re half way there..." (cue the Bon Jovi)—Groundhog Day marks the halfway point between the start of winter and the first day of spring.

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And, it is the day that the famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, is watched as he attempts to find his shadow and predict the course of winter. Even if that tradition feels pretty silly, February 2nd is and has long been regarded as a notable day in the life cycle of a year, and one on which people slow down and celebrate. And, we've found, it's a perfect moment to celebrate with kids!

It wasn’t until starting Tinkergarten that we paid much mind to Groundhog Day, but it has become tradition for us to note and even celebrate it in small but sweet ways. It has helped us connect to the natural environment, look forward to the next season and actually savor the winter season that we’re in all the more.

And, we’re not alone on this. Ancient peoples were very attentive to seasons and the position of the sun in the sky, because their livelihood depended on planting and harvesting at the proper times. Festivals were timed around this half way day between winter and spring—some of which gave roots to holidays still celebrated in our culture. From the Groundhog Day (strikingly similar to the ancient Celtic festival of Imbolc still celebrated by many people across the world) to Chinese New Year, people stop to note this important moment—so let’s make the most of it this weekend!

Why is marking these kids of days helpful to kids?

They connect us to nature.

First, noticing and naming the transitions between seasons and the half way points like Groundhog Day grounds our kids and us in the rhythm of nature. Many of us no longer rely on timing our harvest to survive, but we still need to connect to the natural world in order to thrive.

They teach about cycles.

The world is full of cycles, and the earlier kids develop a sense of the cycle of a year, the more readily they can understand and look for the cyclical patterns all around them.

Traditions ground kids.

Groundhogs are not the only ones who need grounding. Our kids need to develop a sense of belonging to our family and to the Earth. Family traditions give kids just that sense of being part of something. And, when our family traditions include these natural moments, we help solidify kids’ bond with nature. 

They connect us to one another.

No matter what you believe, no matter where you live and what winter looks and feels like there, you’ll notice the change in light—and you will be sharing that moment with all humans on your block, in your region, and, really, in your hemisphere. These changes offer a shared experience that is hard to come by in a divided world. And, when you can find community with which to celebrate, kids feel as if the whole world values nature—what a hopeful and sustaining worldview!

8 sweet and simple ways to make Groundhog Day special

Play with shadows

Hands down, shadow play is our favorite way to celebrate Groundhog Day! Visit tinkergarten.com/groundhog and sign up for easy ways to play with shadows, just like Punxsutawney Phil! Then, tag @tinkergarten and #OutdoorsAll4 to share images or videos with the community.

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Make shadow art!

Follow these easy steps to turn shadows into art!

  • Grab paint, markers or sidewalk chalk. Lay a piece of paper on the ground or just head to a paved surface.
  • Gather objects with interesting 3-D shapes like rocks, limbs or large pine cones. Favorite dinosaurs or other toys are most welcome, too!
  • Line up objects along one side of the paper or ground so they cast a shadow on the drawing surface.
  • Model tracing or coloring one of the shadows.
  • Step aside and welcome kids to use your paint, marker or chalk to follow your lead or make any kind of art inspired by the shadows.

Got clouds? Fear not!

Even Punxsutawney Phil has cloudy days and can't easily find his shadow. But, with a little creativity, you can still enjoy shadow play! Here's some ways to make that happen:

  • Get a flashlight or turn on the flashlight that comes with a phone.
  • Bring a piece of cloth or paper outside and lay it on the ground (Got snow? You're all set!).
  • Shine your flashlight over your hands, sticks or other nature objects to cast a shadow on your paper, cloth or snow.
  • Be playful and have fun seeing how the shadows change as you move!

Make a "rest of winter" bucket list

Groundhog day can be a day to celebrate that we’re closer to spring, but we can also flip it around to recognize that we only have half of winter left—time to savor! And, no matter what winter mindset you tend to rock, there are things to enjoy about winter—and focusing on those Make a list of the things you’ve loved doing so far this winter. Add things that you haven’t gotten to do yet, but want to do. Make a plan for how you’ll grab every bit of what is special about winter in the coming weeks. We promise, you’ll love the back half of winter all the more for it, and you’ll teach your kids to recognize what is so wonderful about the season.

Pledge to play #OutdoorsAll4

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All you need is 2 hours per week to get all of the benefits! If you haven't already, join our OutdoorsAll4 Facebook Group and share inspiration, community support, and inspiration with thousands of Tinkergarten families and educators. 

Enjoy half treats

Since we are half way through winter, enjoy half treats! What are they?! Basically, half treats are any treat your family enjoys...cut it in half! Or, my family loves to bake half moon cookies (also known as "black and white" cookies). You can get even more crafty and Instagram-worthy by doing things like  decorating half of a cake with a wintery scene and the other with spring. Whatever it is, connect some kind of half-sized, sweet celebration with this special moment in the Earth’s year. As long as it’s not too cold, you could enjoy the treats with tea outdoors, too.

Make a fire, light some candles or take the moon for a walk

Every day from here, days will grow longer, which means nights will grow shorter. So, our chances to savor cozy moments, leverage lantern light and take wee ones out in the dark of night are also dwindling. Make the most of these still-dark days by grabbing a lantern (here’s how to make one) and going for a night walk. The chance to be out and to see beautiful lights is dazzling to kiddos, and those memories will stick with them always. When you get back in, enjoy a fire, candle light and cozy blankets too.

Groundhog Day and Imbolc

Quirky though it is, our Groundhog Day tradition clearly has roots in celebrations of the midpoint of winter. Many of us are are quite eager to learn from Punxutawney Phil if spring will come quicker this year (although, his predictions have not proven too accurate over time). If you want to celebrate halfway with the groundhog, wake up early, make some yummy muffins and tune in to watch coverage of Punxatawney Phil. He emerges around 7:20-7:25am Eastern. Looking for a nature-based, time-loved celebration tradition? Learn more about the beautiful ways people celebrate Imbolc.

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Meghan Fitzgerald

Founder

After 20+ years as an educator, curriculum developer and school leader, I have my dream gig—an entrepreneur/educator/mom who helps families everywhere, including my own, learn outside. Prior to Tinkergarten®, I worked as an Elementary School Principal, a Math/Science Specialist & and a teacher in public and private schools in NY, MA and CA. I earned a BA with majors in English and Developmental Psychology at Amherst College, an MS in Educational Leadership at Bank Street College, and was trained to become a Forest School leader at Bridgwater College, UK. My worldview is formed in response to my environment, culture, family, identity and experiences. What I write in this blog will inevitably betray the blind spots I have as a result—we all have them! Please reach out if there are other perspectives or world views I could consider in anything I write about. I welcome the chance to learn and update any pieces to broaden our shared perspective!

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