As parents, we use every new day as an opportunity to introduce our little ones to some tiny bit of everyday magic–like the sunrise, for example, or watching geese in formation, or turning over worms in a garden.
We hope to instill in our kids a love of nature, but it's not always that simple. Many of us live in crowded cities, living busy lives. And yet! Seasonal changes have a way of finding us wherever we are. It's all a matter of paying attention.
As we speak, we're on the brink of Summer Solstice–otherwise known as the longest day of the year, and to many of us, a marker that summer has finally arrived. Simple delights like water play, lazy days, lightnin' bugs. Bring. It. On.
So what is Summer Solstice?
Picture the earth as two hemispheres (two halves): the Northern and the Southern. The earth turns on its tilted axis as it orbits the sun. A single revolution takes a full year. The day that the earth tilts closest to the sun is called Summer Solstice, and it's the longest day of the year. Boom. In the Northern Hemisphere, which includes North America, that day is around June 21st; in the Southern Hemisphere, which includes Australia, that day falls around December 21st. *Have your kids look at a world map for orientation, and Google Summer Solstice + any year to find the exact days. Kids begin to understand the size of our planet when they realize that our summer is another continent's winter!
Awareness of seasonal changes is a fantastic way to keep your children connected to nature whether you have wild open space nearby or not. While not everyone focuses on the science, most cultures acknowledge Summer Solstice as the marker that summer is HERE. People around the world celebrate with festivals and parades, and you can, too!
Smell, Sound, Touch, Taste, Listen
Celebrate summer's arrival with your children. Not sure how? Ask them for ideas! Paying attention to our senses is a good way to start:
What do you see during Summer Solstice?
Which plants are flowering?
What time does the sun set? What colors do you see as it sinks towards the horizon?
Activity: Make a mandala, which is a circular decorated design that celebrates the earth and its seasons, or help kids string together a crown of summer flowers!
Tip: dandelions work really well!
What do you hear?
Throw open the windows and listen to the birdsong or the buzzing bees. Activity: record local birds on a smartphone. Copy their songs by whistling!
What do you feel?
Is it already too hot to sleep? Can you walk barefoot outside? Activity: Use the warm, bright summer sun to make solar prints using leaves and blossoms.
What do you smell?
Summer smells are distinct, like rain on hot asphalt, or freshly cut grass. Activity: If it's possible in your area, take the kids to pick fruit, and then use the fruit to bake a fragrant summer cobbler or pie. (aka the tastiest chemistry lesson around!)
What do you taste?
Have you ever had a glass of water when you're really hot? Nothing better, right? Or made tea from sassafras roots? Or tasted fresh mint? Activity: Make frozen fruit slushes with the kids using 4 parts frozen fruit to 1 part water, and add a little honey, if you desire. Whiz it all up in a blender, and voilà– summer in a jar!
We'd love to hear your thoughts—on this topic and more! How are we doing?