It might already feel like summer out there, but the official start of the season takes place June 21. That's also the same day as the summer solstice when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky and the northern hemisphere experiences its longest day of the year. Take advantage of lengthening days and the sweet beginning of the summer season with these fun activities you can do as a family.
Play With Shadows
Help your little scientists understand how the sun moves through the sky by measuring your shadow each day at noon for a week before and after the summer solstice. You and your kids will notice that your shadow at noon will continually get shorter as we inch closer to the summer solstice. Because the sun is highest in the sky on June 21, your shadow should be the shortest it will be all year long. After the solstice, your shadow will slowly begin to elongate again. Use sidewalk chalk or a piece of duct tape to mark your shadow's slow decline.
Plan a Backyard Campout
There's no better way to stretch out the longest day of the year than with a backyard campout. Let the kids stay up late and build a campfire, roast dinner over the fire and enjoy the company of the ones you love as the light slowly drains from the sky and the fireflies come to life. Enjoy the light while it lasts because as soon as the solstice is over, the days begin to get incrementally shorter until we reach the winter solstice on December 21.
Take a Sunrise Hike
You'll have to rise early, but taking a sunrise hike to experience the first light on the longest day of the year is a special experience your kids won't soon forget. During your hike, talk to your kids about the importance of the sun and how the connection between the sun and earth impact important elements they experience every day like the seasons, ocean currents and weather. If you want to catch the sunrise, you'll need to start your hike in the dark, so don't forget to bring an artificial light source until the real thing rises to light your way.
Build a Sundial With Your Kids
A sundial enables you to tell time by the positioning of the sun. Teach your kids how to tell time with a sundial by building one together on the longest day of the year. Making a sundial is easy; they can be constructed using a few simple materials. It's a fun DIY craft project that will keep your kids tuned in to the sun all year long.
Host a Good Old Fashioned Summertime Block Party
One of the best ways to celebrate the beginning of summer is to round up the neighbors and throw a block party. Let the kids run wild in their swimsuits, grill up some good eats and spend time socializing with the people who live nearby. Not only will you have a great time, but you'll help build a sense of community—that kind of reward lasts all year long.
Make Sun Tea
Making sun tea on the first day of summer is a quick and easy way to establish a tradition that your kids will remember for a lifetime. Making sun tea is easy. Just put four to eight tea bags in two quarts of water, then place a cap over the pitcher. Let the tea warm in the sun for at least three hours or until it has reached your desired strength, then pop it into the refrigerator until it cools down. Serve your sun tea over ice and toast to the sunshine.
Create Sun-Themed Arts and Crafts
Little ones will enjoy simple sun-themed arts and crafts like paper plate suns and finger painted moons. Older kids can let their creative light shine by creating a solstice mandala out of flower petals, grass and other materials picked from the garden and scavenged from the yard. It's a simple, significant way to say hello to a new season and goodbye to the one that has passed.
Host a Bonfire
There's no better way to celebrate light than by hosting a bonfire for friends and family. Not only is this a great social event, but you can also make the time more meaningful by inviting everyone, kids included, to write their hopes and dreams for the summer on a piece of paper and then burning it in the fire. This small but meaningful gesture will give your kids the space to think about the ways they want to learn and grow before returning to school in the fall.
READ THIS NEXT: Making Summer Learning Fun