Celebrating the Summer Solstice is a tradition your children will remember all their lives.
Hot afternoons, wild thunderstorms, and nights filled with fireflies! The summer solstice, or midsummer, is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and learn about the warmest season with our families.
At the Peak of the Light
The word “solstice” brings together two Latin words: sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still). At the winter and summer solstices, the sun as seen from Earth appears to pause in its seasonal motion and then reverse its path.
The summer solstice is the day of the year when the sun seems to rise highest in the sky, following its longest and tallest arc, and rises and sets at its northernmost point on the horizon. This is also the longest day and shortest night of the year, with the difference in daytime hours more noticeable at high latitudes—closer to the north or south pole, farther from the equator.
In the northern hemisphere, our summer solstice occurs around 21 June each year. (In the southern hemisphere, this date marks the winter solstice; 21 December is their summer and our winter solstice.)
Summer festivals and personal observances of the solstice often reflect these themes:
- light, heat, fire, and sun
- the earth in full bloom: flowers and greenery
- life in full bloom: joy, pleasure, creativity, and stretching into the long day
This is the time of Midsummer Day, St. John’s Day, Litha, and the Midnight Sun Festival (including Nome, Alaska’s icy Polar Bear Swim!).
In some historical and cultural locations, the summer solstice has also been a magically potent day—and especially night—when healing herbs should be gathered and when witches and fairies are abroad.
It is a lovely time to read, perform, or see Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with older children and to enjoy tales of summer magic with people of all ages.
Celebrating the Summer Solstice with Children
Here are some simple and fun ideas for celebrating the first day of summer with kids.
Play the “How Tall is My Shadow?” Game
At noon on each solstice day, measure from your child’s toe to his or her shadow’s top. Have the child measure your shadow, too, and record the numbers.
After gathering data on all four holidays, you can ask your child to guess which shadow was longest, compare your shadows’ changing heights with your own heights.
When did it come up to your knee? When was it about as tall as you? When would it be too tall to stand up in your living room?
Discuss the changing angles of the sun, read up on our solar system and the Earth’s seasons, and experiment with a flashlight and a globe.
Eat “Sun Foods”
Children of all ages can help choose, prepare, and eat foods and beverages that remind us of the sun.
Think shades of orange, red, and yellow, as well as foods that can be circular in shape: oranges, pineapples, grapefruits, pancakes, eggs, sun or flower cupcakes, brightly-colored juice or punch, and so on.
Read Summer-Themed Books Together to Celebrate the Summer Solstice
These picture books are great family reads for the summer solstice. Plus they all explore the height of summer with wonderful sensory details and energy.
- The Longest Day: Celebrating the Summer Solstice (Wendy Pfeffer) introduces the science, history, and cultural traditions surrounding this solstice. The book also includes projects and recipes to try at home. For a more fanciful approach to a summer celebration, try The Flowers’ Festival (Elsa Beskow).
- Mama, Is It Summer Yet? (Nikki McClure) is a sweet, simple book about wanting—and getting—summer. Its cut paper illustrations offer lots to point out and discuss.
- Beach Feet (Kiyomi Konagaya) is another favorite for toddlers and preschool-aged children.
- Summer Sun Risin’ (W. Nikola-Lisa)
- The Honeybee (Kristen Hall)
- Summer Days and Nights (Wong Herbert Yee)
- Come On, Rain! (Karen Hesse)
Make a Floral Crown or Garland
Make real flower crowns to wear at your solstice celebration. Bring flowers or beautiful greenery into your home. Draw or paint a tree, leaf, or flower in its full summer glory.
Perform the Summer Solstice Crystal Ritual
Kids love crystals, and this ritual is a fun and symbolic way to honor the beginning of a new season.
Give your child 4 Citrine stones and 4 Clear Quartz stones and help her come up with a statement to set her intention for the summer. Try statements like, “These stones are a symbol of my own inner light,” or “I intend for these stones to help me shine like the sun.”
Next, create a circle with the stones – ideally with enough distance between them so your child can sit or stand in the circle. Alternate between Citrine crystals and Clear Quartz crystals as you lay the stones in a circular shape.
As your child sits in the circle, remind her of her wish or intention. Explain how she can embrace and celebrate the power and energy of the sun which is a never ending circle of light. Feel the light getting brighter and brighter within the circle.
After the crystal ritual, place the stones in a pouch or on a prominent place in her room to remind her of her intentions all summer long.
Enjoy Summer-Themed Music
Many songs celebrate the sun and the long, fun days of summer. Whether nursery rhymes, the Beach Boys, or Will Smith… let everyone contribute to your summer playlist and have a blast as you dance or sing together.
Build a Fire
Bonfires and fireworks are summer solstice traditions in many countries. It’s the perfect excuse to make s’mores and enjoy the warmer evening.
Spend the Whole Day (or Evening) Outside
If the weather is pleasant, this is a wonderful day for a picnic, for playing outside, and for staying out late to witness the enduring light.
Make a Sundial
Constructing a sundial is an engaging way to learn about how our days and seasons work. All you need is 12 rocks (or seashells) and a stick.
Looking Forward, Looking Back
This observance can take place with your family or alone. On paper, out loud, or simply in your thoughts, reflect on these questions or others that suit you better: What bright lights and simple pleasures illuminate your life this summer? How can you stretch into the season’s opportunities? What do you miss from winter’s darkness, and how might you hold onto those gifts in this very different time?
As the year goes on, here are other ways to celebrate the changing of seasons:
- Stretch into the Sun: Celebrating the Summer Solstice with Kids - June 6, 2018
- Here Comes the Sun: Celebrating the First Day of Spring (Vernal Equinox) - March 12, 2015
- Light Amidst Darkness: Celebrating the Winter Solstice with Kids - December 16, 2014