Winter Solstice Activities


Let’s Celebrate the Shortest Day of the Year!

The winter solstice brings the shortest day of the year for the Northern Hemisphere (shout out to my Aussie family in Sydney where it’s warm and the Winter Solstice won’t be until next June), so let’s celebrate! Here are some ideas for making this a fun day, called the Winter Solstice, in your family.

First, some background. We get this day because Earth is tipped a little bit. When it’s tipped toward the sun, the days are longer (more sun!). On December 21st or 22nd, the sun reaches its southern-most point in relation to earth, and so in the Northern Hemisphere it’s the shortest day and longest night! You can read more about it here.

You can find a Quicktime movie that shows our Earth all crazy tilting here.

So, how to celebrate, hmmm? We don’t have to be all pagan about it – there are cool yule things we can do with our brains.


  • From now through the first of the year, graph the sunrise and sunset times and calculate the total hours of daylight. Can you see the days getting shorter and then longer? How fast is it changing? If you have more advanced students, can they calculate the rate of the change? Can they predict sunrise a week or month ahead?
  • Go to the United States Naval Observatory and find the actual time of the Winter Solstice for your time zone. Select the year your child/student was born and have him/her compare (it only goes back to 2000). Is it later or earlier this year? By how much? How different will it be then?


Look at this comic about the winter solstice. Can you/your child liven it up a bit?

Look at these sites to see lovely images of snow crystals here and here.


The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson

  The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer

The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice by Carolyn McVickar Edwards

 The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

 To Build a Fire by Jack London

(find the full text of this short story here). Turn out the lights and read by candlelight or flashlight wrapped in blankets. You can make a pretty credible fake fireplace by crumpling red cellophane on top of a string of chaser lights.


Investigate what the sun is doing at these locations on the Winter Solstice (in order from North to South):

North Pole; Arctic Circle; Tropic of Cancer; Equator; Tropic of Capricorn; Antarctic Circle; South Pole


Make a mashed potato snowman (directions here).

Other fun and crafty ideas:

– Make fake snow (if you don’t have any of the real stuff) by mixing Ivory Snow powder (on laundry aisle) with water. You can add glitter to it if you want.

– Make a shaving cream snow painting. Find out how here.

– Make snowflakes. Find patterns for little ones here and bigger (more complicated) ones here. You can tape them to popsicle sticks and tuck them into white frosting-covered
cupcakes for a fun winter treat.

– Make snowglobes. You can find directions lots of places, but I like these because there are good tips.

– Make ice candles. Find simple instructions here.

– Stay in pajamas all day and have a winter movie marathon. Some ideas include:

Happy Shortest Day of the Year!

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