Chinese New Year Ideas & Activities

This article has been written by early years consultant, Anne Rodgers, from ATR Consultancy.

Chinese New Year is one of my favourite festivals and celebrations. This year, 2020, will be the Year of the Rat. There are lots of activities you can do for Chinese New Year and different ways to incorporate this festival within the areas of learning. For example, telling the story of the 12 animals who competed in a race to represent the years of the Chinese zodiac – these are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

Chinese Restaurant Pretend Play:

Why not transform the home corner into a Chinese Restaurant and include chopsticks and play dough scented with ginger or soy sauce. Add noodles for messy play or to taste. There are some lovely books on celebrating Chinese New Year and you could make props to go with them. Decorate the room with lanterns and do some lion dancing. You could even try to make your own fortune cookies.

Try using the Chinese Play Food Set which has 64 pieces! It will help to make pretend play for the home corner more realistic, as the play food pieces look like the real thing. The children can learn to use the chop sticks provided, which are of a small size for little hands.

Other Chinese New Year Ideas to try:

  • Make Chinese Flags – using straws and rectangles of paper, make the Chinese flag from yellow and red paint, or craft materials.
  • Red Envelopes – you can buy red envelopes already, or you can make your own by folding red paper into an envelope shape. Add letters with special messages or pretend money and give them to your friends.
  • Paint with Chop Sticks – instead of paint brushes, why not simply use chop sticks instead!
  • Stir Fry – taste vegetables, make cooking fun and add ingredients that children may not have tried before or those that you would like them to eat more of.
  • Make Dancing Dragons or Lions – cut out the face and tail of a dragon, then colour and mount onto a stick or a straw. Use concertina paper in the middle to add movement so that the dragon or lion can dance when moved about.
  • Make Paper Fans – again, fold the paper over and under to make a concertina effect and tape at one end. Children can draw or paint on the paper first to make it more personal.
  • Mandarin – learn to count and learn new words in Mandarin.
  • Make Paper Lanterns – you can find templates online for lanterns and when they are finished they can be hung around the room and garden to celebrate Chinese New Year.
  • Music – dance to Chinese music and play instruments.
  • Make Habitats for Pandastuff spot trays are really good for this. Add bamboo, moss, grass, earth etc. to make a landscape or habitat for the pandas to live in.

For more exciting Chinese New Year ideas, browse our fantastic selection of Chinese New Year Resources online.


About Anne Rodgers

Anne Rodgers is an Early Years Consultant (ATR Consultancy) and Writer. Anne has 36 years’ experience of working in the childcare and education sector – including training practitioners, managing numerous settings over the years and writing articles for Early Years Educator and the CACHE Alumni website.

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