Teaching Children The Reason For The Season

As we gather with friends, exchanging gifts and good tidings, sharing a communal meal, and basking in the warm comfort of holiday lights and decorations, it’s important to make sure that kids understand the “reason for the season.”  If you’re not sure how to best explain it to your kids, there is help available.

Of course, the reason for the season is PAT or Planetary Axial Tilt — the 23.44 degrees our planet is off-kilter from its orbit around the sun.  Because the planet is tilted, the northern and southern hemispheres both experience varying temperatures — seasons — as they orbit the sun, getting warmer when closer to the sun and colder when further away.

Understanding this and its affects on our planet, our climate, and our cultures is extremely important and, yet, it is often overlooked in school.  To help fill that void, we picked up a copy of The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer and illustrated by Jesse Reisch.

This book begins by noting the manifestations of the changing seasons seen in nature — animal behavior, winter weather — and then looks at the changes a child would notice.  “Children … walk through a frosty white world, dragging long shadows behind them.”  It talks about the winter solstice and how different cultures have celebrated it over the millennia.

At the end, after the narrative, The Shortest Day also includes some science activities related to the solstice as well as sources of additional information.  Whether or not your kids believe in the magic man in the red suit or any other solstice mythology, this is a nice introduction to the solstice and the customs various cultures have come up with to celebrate it.

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