Celebrating the first day of summer is a tradition your children will remember all their lives. If you’ve been looking for more ways to get your kids outside, the longer days of summer are the perfect opportunity!
The summer solstice is the harbinger of hot afternoons, wild thunderstorms, and nights filled with fireflies.
Celebrating Summer Solstice Ideas
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 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 of the year and shortest night of the year. The difference in daytime hours is more noticeable at high latitudes – closer to the north or south pole, farther from the equator.
When is the 2023 Summer Solstice?
In the northern hemisphere, our summer solstice occurs around June 21 each year. (In the southern hemisphere, this date marks the winter solstice. December 21 is their summer and our winter solstice.)
Specifically in 2023 the summer solstice occurs at 14:58 (UTC) on Tuesday, June 21, 2023. Here in the US, the summer solstice lands on Tuesday, June 21, at 7:58 AM (PDT) or 10:58 AM (EDT).
Festivals and personal summer solstice rituals 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!).
This is part of a series of annual Pagan festivals that make up the Wheel of the Year. Other significant holidays include the winter solstice or Yule, the spring equinox, the autumnal equinox, and Celtic fire festivals such as Beltane/May Day and Samhain/Halloween.
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. Some of the sacred plants associated with Midsummer are vervain, St. John’s Wort, yarrow, fern, and mugwort.
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.
First Day of Summer Activities for Kids
Here are some engaging ideas for celebrating the first day of summer with kids.
1. Play the “How Tall is My Shadow?” Game
At noon on the summer 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.
Make this a tradition and do it on each solstice and equinox. 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 your shadow be so tall, you wouldn’t fit inside 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.
2. Eat “Sun Foods”
Children of all ages can help choose, prepare, and eat foods and beverages that remind us of the sun.
Choose foods in beautiful shades of orange, red, and yellow. You can also make foods that can be circular in shape: oranges, pineapples, grapefruits, pancakes, eggs, sun or flower cupcakes, brightly-colored juice or punch, and so on.
3. Read Summer-Themed Books Together
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 by 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).
- Playing Through the Seasons: Warm Sun, Wet Toes by Essie Bell
- Mama, Is It Summer Yet? by 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 by Kiyomi Konagaya is another favorite for toddlers and preschool-aged children.
- Oceanarium by Loveday Trinik
- Summer Sun Risin’ by W. Nikola-Lisa
- The Honeybee by Kristen Hall
- Summer Days and Nights by Wong Herbert Yee
- Come On, Rain! by Karen Hesse
4. Make a Floral Crown or Garland
Make real flower crowns to wear at your solstice celebration. It’s easier than you think! And let it be a reminder that summer crafts don’t have to be perfect.
Bring flowers, herbs, or beautiful greenery from your own backyard into your home. Lavender and mint can make your floral crown smell divine.
5. Go On a Nature Scavenger Hunt
Create a list of items kids can find in your yard or a local park. Consider items like a pinecone, feather, something a deer could eat, a leaf, etc. Here are some nature scavenger hunt ideas to get you started.
Talk about how these nature items are different in summer than in the other seasons. Be sure to only observe these items and explain the importance of leaving nature the way we found it.
6. Build a Fire
Sitting around a fire with friends or family members is an amazing way to bond and enjoy distraction-free conversation. It’s something humans have done for ages. It’s also easy to imagine our ancestors gathered around a fire or looking up at the constellations.
Bonfires and fireworks are summer solstice traditions in many countries. A calming campfire is also the perfect excuse to make s’mores and enjoy the warmer evening.
7. Enjoy Summer-Themed Music
Many songs celebrate the sun and the long, fun days of summer. Sit by your campfire and sing the wheel of the year song.
Summer is also a great time of year to learn to play a new instrument. But if your family is more into playlists, let everyone contribute their favorite summer songs to it. And have a blast as you dance or sing together.
8. Spend the Whole Day (or Evening) Outside
The thought of spending the whole day outside was completely normal in our childhoods. But it might be quite different for our own children. The trend toward indoor childhoods has led to a deficiency in Vitamin N (nature).
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 right up until sunset or beyond.
Even if the weather isn’t ideal, playing in the rain is perhaps an even better part of your summer solstice activities to honor Mother Nature. We can still show gratitude for the natural world without the circumstances being perfect. It also teaches kids how rain is necessary to make plants grow.
9. Perform a 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 them come up with a statement to set an 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 them of their wish or intention. Explain how they 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 this summer solstice ritual, place the stones in a pouch or on a prominent place in their room as a reminder of these intentions all summer long. Don’t forget to take them back outside occasionally to recharge in the sunshine.
10. Make a Sundial
Making your own sundial opens up the conversation about how our ancestors used daylight to tell what time it was. You might even try an experiment like spending the whole day without clocks, watches, or any device that tells time.
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. Here’s an easy DIY sundial.
11. Watch the Stonehenge Livestream Event
Most of these activities are screen-free, but streaming the Stonehenge Summer Solstice sunrise event is an exciting way to observe the first day of summer with kids.
It is said that Stonehenge’s architects purposefully situated the ancient stone circle to showcase the solstices twice a year. On the morning of the summer solstice, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone and the morning sun’s rays shine directly into the heart of the monument. Learn more about the Stonehenge Summer Solstice Event here.
12. Reflect on the Season: Look Forward and Look 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?
How might you hold onto those gifts in this very different time?
These summer solstice celebrations make a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and learn about the warmest season with our families.
As the year goes on, here are other ways to celebrate the changing of seasons:
These summer solstice rituals were originally published in 2015 and updated in June 2023.