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How to Celebrate Winter Solstice With Kids

by Meghan Fitzgerald

Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, when the Earth’s axis tilts us the farthest from the sun we’ll be all year, giving us the least amount of daylight. For the optimists among us, it also marks a turning point and the start of days ahead, each with a bit more light—something that feels promising and hopeful as we tie up this wild year. 

This solstice moment has been marked in special ways and reflected in winter holidays around the world and throughout the ages. Full of the stuff that sparks joy—lights in the darkness, colors, circles and spirals, nature treasures—this timeless human tradition that can provide a real joyful boost today, especially with little kids.

No matter whether or which faith you hold, we all share this special earthly occasion and how it reminds us of the steady, timeless rhythms of our natural world. Helping kids feel and and trust in this rhythm connects them to the earth and gives them strong roots. And, without diminishing our own traditions, it can connect us to everyone around us, both those similar to and different from us, something our world needs now and always. 

So, here are fun ways you and your kids can celebrate Solstice, 2020 on December 21st! We hope they help you take in this solstice moment:

Decorate for Solstice: Gather nature treasures and use them to decorate a bit for this special moment. Arrange objects holly, ivy, evergreen boughs and pine cones into shapes like circles or spirals—shapes that naturally inspire joy and remind us of the cycles in nature.

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Play with Spirals: Spirals are beautiful shapes that often feature in solstice celebrations. Use rope, string, chalk or nature treasures to create and interact with spirals and feel the joy and peace that spiral play brings! Check out our Play with Spirals DIY Activity for more inspiration.

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Explore Shadows: The early onset of darkness brings a chance to fill your afternoon with shadow play outside. Check out our Shadow Play DIY activity for lots of ways that you can spark playful exploration with shadows.

Make Pomanders: This classic, aromatic winter decoration requires just oranges and a handful of whole cloves. Push the cloves into the rind of an orange, making shapes and designs (and releasing a fabulous combination of scents) as you go. Some kids find this tricky if the cloves feel sharp, so you can take a tooth pick and make starter holes to help!

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Make Ice Lanterns: Note: Start this at least one day ahead. Get two containers, one smaller than the other. Fill the larger container halfway with water and sprinkle some nature treasures in (fir sprigs, berries, etc.). Then fill the smaller container with rice or dried beans and sit it in the water-filled larger container. Put the whole thing in the freezer. 12-24 hours later, you’ll have a gorgeous ice candle holder! Pop a tea light in and light up the night!

Roll Beeswax Candles: This requires some pre-bought materials like these beeswax candle kits, but it is sure to delight. Even tiny hands can roll wax around a piece of wick to make a pillar candle. Use small cookie cutters or scissors to make beeswax shapes to decorate your candles.

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Make Lanterns: If you were part of our lantern walk, you may still have lanterns at the ready. If not, follow this DIY activity to turn a glass jar, tissue paper and a little glue into a sweet and colorful lantern.

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Light up The Night: When the sun goes down, gather kids and turn out the lights to really feel the darkness. Then, give thanks for both the darkness and the warm sun as you light lanterns, homemade candles or any special lights you have around the house. Feel the warmth of the soft glow and enjoy how it changes your home or outdoor setting. 

Take a Night Walk: Bundle up and go out into the night to fully experience the longest day of the year. If you have a lantern, bring it along. 

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Make a Fire! If you have a fire pit or fireplace, be sure to make a warm fire. You can even make a simple “yule log” by drawing or carving wishes, designs or messages of hope into a log and adding the log to your fire. If not, you can even take a large can or other fireproof container and burn small kindling (sticks, newspaper). We like to call these small fires “fairy fires” in our house.

Make Wishes for Winter: Set up a wish receptacle like a winter wish jar or a wish tree (i.e. a few twigs in a vase). Then, write or draw your wishes for winter on slips of paper to fill your jar or hang on your tree. If you like, you can put a candle inside a roasting pan or metal can and light the wishes on fire so they rise up. Or,  make wish boats out of tinfoil and let them float along in a bowl of water. Whatever feels special (and safe) to you! Read more about wish-making—we love the book Wish by Roseanne Thong and Eliza Kleven (Watch a video read aloud here). 

Got Snow? Get inspired by our kindred spirits at Wilder Child and make Snow Mandalas!

Listen to a Solstice Story: Listen to a delightful, original Winter Solstice story named The Shortest Day from our friends at Sparkle Stories.

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