24 Chinese New Year Activities for Kids

A couple months ago, I decided that we should belong to a homeschool co-op.

That’s what homeschoolers do, right? They join co-ops and have fun, interesting classes.

Our daily homeschool time has gone the way of Allie’s dropped naps, and my relatives worry that Grace isn’t learning enough.

{Okay, so I worry about that, too.}

Anyway, I researched co-ops, and I found one with a schedule that worked for us.

Grace was elated about the course offerings – Fancy Nancy, Meow Woof Bark, and Edible Math! She couldn’t wait to begin.

Allie was less than thrilled, clawing at the door to the parking lot almost immediately after I opened the nursery door. She was not being left behind.

Fortunately, the co-op organizers shifted duties around so that I’m helping in the nursery and teaching a small Educational Games class, all times that Allie can stay with me.

My Educational Games class has 7 kids – two toddlers, two first-graders, a second-grader, and two fourth-graders. It’s a wide range, but the littlest are happy to color and play while the bigger kids work at the tables.

The Educational Games class is for kids whose parents are teaching high school classes. This means they’ve already had three classes and lunch, and they’re tired.

As I sat down to plan my first Educational Games class, I thought about things that Grace likes to learn. She has been asking for months to learn about China, and I thought this would be a great time.

February 10 is Chinese New Year, and the new year will be the Year of the Snake (hence a lot of snake-themed activities below).

Chinese New Year Activities for Kids

Chinese New Year Physical Activities

  • Use placemats from a Chinese restaurant to look at all the animals. Talk about their sounds and how they move. Spread out, and have each child pretend to be each animal, yoga-style. “Okay, guys, now we’re going to dragons!”
  • Play charades where children choose an animal from the list and then acts it out while the others guess.
  • Play Hawk and Chicks – This game didn’t work very well for us because we have a small room and a very small group, but it sounded fun. One child is the hawk, and one child is a hen. All the other kids are chicks. The chicks have to hold hands and try to stay behind the hen. The hen’s job is to protect her chicks from the hawk. If the hawk tags a chick, that chick is out (because he’s been eaten).
  • Play Fingers Out – Like Rock, Paper, Scissors, but with math. Grace and I played this game and had fun. The kids in my class didn’t quite get it.
  • Tangrams - Tangrams are shapes that make a large square, but you can take them much further. Using the simple shapes, you can make all sorts of pictures – cats, fish, lighthouse, people – your only limit is your imagination. Here’s a free tangram template that you can print on cardstock. I plan on letting the kids cut their own and then play with the shapes. That website also has puzzles for the kids to solve. The puzzle is a large shape (like a candle, dog, chair, or house), and the kids have to figure out how to make their shapes fit the puzzle. It’s not as easy as it sounds. (But then, I’m not a visual-spatial learner, either.)

Chinese New Year Crafts

  • Make a lantern - Have the children color and decorate an 11×17 piece of paper. Some of my students used the symbols they had learned to draw (more on that below), others drew whatever they liked. Grace’s was covered with hearts. Fold the paper in half the hot dog way, then cut through the fold, up about 2/3 to the edge. Start 2″ from the end, and cut every inch or two, ending 2″ from the other end. Tape or staple the ends together, and tape or staple a string inside to hang it. Here are illustrated instructions.
  • Make a toilet paper roll snake – I saw this really cute snake made out of empty toilet paper tubes in last month’s Family Fun magazine, but I’m pretty sure they took the idea from Cheap Crafty Mama‘s blog.
  • Make scrolls – I printed out a coloring page with the text Happy New Year (and some others with Good Luck), and I’m going to help the kids make their coloring page into a scroll according to these directions.
  • Origami - Origami is an ancient art of folding papers. Even though it’s commonly associated with Japan, origami was being done in China at least 400 years before it spread to Japan. I found some little kid-friendly origami at Enchanted Learning. I think we might do the origami frog and then have a contest to see whose folded frog can jump the furthest.
  • Make a Chinese fan – Actually, this is pretty much just a fan, but if you make it in red and gold, it will be a Chinese fan.
  • Make a snake mobile - This mobile is really easy, just print, cut, and hang.
  • Make a springy snake – This YouTube video explains how to make a springy snake out of a paper plate.
  • Make a thumbprint snake – The original project is a thumbprint dragon, but it will be great as a thumbprint snake.

Chinese New Year Learning & Puzzles

  • The puzzles on this site range from simple to complex – find the words in Chinese New Year, Boggle, mazes, and all kinds of things.
  • Here’s a long list of Year of the Snake puzzles and printables.
  • Here’s a learning about snakes page to go along with the Year of the Snake.
  • Here’s a picture/writing page to write about the Festival of Lanterns.
  • Year of the Snake color pages – There are easy ones for little kids and more complicated ones for older kids.

Chinese New Year Videos

  • Imperial Mice of China – The Country Mouse and City Mouse Adventures, Season 1
  • Happy Chinese New Year! – Ni Hao, Kai-Lan, Season 1
  • Kai-lan Goes to China – Ni Hao, Kai-Lan, Season 1

Chinese New Year Books

  • Bella and the Year of the Dragon – Read Aloud Edition – Barbara Nick - We’ve had this book on iBooks for a year or more, and Grace loves it.

Mandarin Chinese Language

  • Mandarin Chinese Lessons with Serge Melnyk - These are free podcasts that I’m going to try with my kids. Each lesson is 10 minutes long.
  • Writing Chinese symbols – We started with this worksheet with just a few characters. I found these worksheets that include how to write the symbols. Chinese isn’t just about drawing characters; it’s also about the order of the strokes. Here’s another worksheet with room to practice. The kids really seemed to like this.

Do you have any China-themed activities to add?

© 2013 – 2014, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.

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