9 Chinese New Year Ideas & Activities

This article has been written with the help of early years consultant, Anne Rodgers, from ATR Consultancy.

Chinese New Year is one of my favourite festivals and celebrations. This year, 2022, will be the Year of the Tiger. There are lots of Chinese New Year activities you can do, and there are 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. Read on for 10 suggestions for activities and crafts chosen to celebrate all aspects of Chinese New Year

1. 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 chopsticks provided, which are of small size for little hands.

2. Lucky Red Envelopes

Lai See or Lucky Envelopes are traditionally given to children by their relatives instead of presents during Chinese New Year. Typically containing money – these envelopes are seen as providing luck to the younger generations particularly if the quantity amounts to the lucky numbers of 6 or 8.

Why not encourage your little ones to explore this tradition by filling their lucky envelopes with items for their friends or family. For an extra challenge, ask your children to write a little message to pop in the envelope to accompany the gift.

3. Paint Fans

Painting fans has always been an important part of Chinese culture because it was believed that they would protect their owners from evil spirits. The tradition of painting fans continues today with many families spending hours making these beautiful works of art to hang at home or give away as gifts to friends and relatives.

You can decorate paper fans with anything you please, from paint to crayons, to tissue paper and glitter. Get creative and make a work of art!

4. Chopsticks game

Chopsticks are a great way to practice fine motor pincer skills. Put your little ones to the test in a fun race against the clock or their friends.

Simply fill one bowl with items – cotton wool balls work great – and leave a second bowl empty nearby. Challenge the children by asking them to move the cotton wool balls from one bowl to the other using the chopsticks as quickly as they can.

5. Make Paper Lanterns

Paper lanterns are beautiful, inexpensive decorations that can be used for many different occasions. Here are five easy steps to make paper lanterns:

  • Fold an A5 piece of paper in half lengthways.
  • Carefully use scissors to cut along the folded edge, then unfold the paper
  • Make a tube by taking the two ends of the paper and using glue or tape to stick them together
  • Cut another piece of paper to make the handle of the lantern, and secure to the inside with glue or tape.
  • Enjoy your paper lanterns!

6. Learn Mandarin!

What better way to immerse you and the little ones in Chinese culture than learning some Mandarin!

Using a tuff tray and some sand, children can practice the art of calligraphy using a paintbrush or their finger and following the lines of the downloadable Chinese characters. A fun and educational activity for your setting!

7. Make Dancing Dragons

Looking for more challenging Chinese New Year activities? Dancing dragons are the way to go. Follow the instructions below to make your very own dancing dragon!

  • Cut a mouth shape into a piece of the cardboard tube. Decorate the tube with paint or tissue paper
  • For the body, glue the ends of two differently coloured pieces of paper together at a right angle. Fold the bottom strip over the top strip, and continue crisscrossing until you reach the desired length. Glue the ends together, but leave an inch overhanging.
  • Glue the ends of the paper strips inside the cardboard tube head
  • Add eyes, ears, and tissue paper fire

And there you have it, a delightful dancing dragon!

8. Create a Panda habitat using a tuff tray

Pandas have become a symbol of China and are a huge part of Chinese culture. They can find food for themselves, climb trees and withstand extremely cold temperatures.

Help to teach children more about these beautiful animals with a Panda tuff tray set up. Children can create a panda habitat and answer questions like “what do Pandas like to eat?” “Do they prefer warm or cold climates?” “When do they sleep?” A great way to explore another side of Chinese culture and history

9. Re-enact the Great Race

What is the story behind the Chinese Zodiac?

The tale starts with the Jade Emperor inviting all the animals to take part in a Great Race across a huge river to determine the order which in the animals would be placed in the zodiac.

Recreate this traditional tale with your little ones using a tuff tray and puppets to bring the story to life and help children get immersed in the history of the Chinese New Year!

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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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