Here’s our guide on how to celebrate Chinese New Year with children.
How to celebrate Chinese New Year with children
Linked to the cycle of the moon, the Chinese New Year is a lunar festival that falls in January or February of the western calendar. It is celebrated both in China and in Chinese communities around the world. It is a joyful celebration at the beginning of a new year and a wonderful festival for kids to engage with. Try these ideas for how to celebrate Chinese New Year with children.
In this article:
:: learn about the Chinese New Year festival and the animals of the Chinese zodiac
:: find ideas for your children to learn about the sights, smells, and tastes of the celebration
:: get ideas for Chinese New Year sensory play activities and crafts
This article is part of our Chinese New Year activities for children.
Ready-made Chinese New Year lesson plans, all in one place
This Unit includes lessons on Chinese New Year and how it is celebrated; the animals of the Chinese zodiac; Chinese dragons and how to make your own dragon puppet; how to make Chinese-style paper lanterns; math and literacy activities including playing lucky 8s, counting to ten in Chinese and play red envelope games; explore sensory painting and taking a mandarin sensory taste test.
In this Chinese New Year Unit you’ll also receive bonus printables including a Red Envelope mat for math activities and three-part colour-in Chinese Zodiac Animals matching cards.
If you are not yet a member of NurtureStore’s Play Academy, join us here to get this and over 50 more ready-made teaching units.
What is the Chinese Lunar New Year?
The Chinese New Year festival chases away bad spirits and celebrates good fortune for the new year ahead.
The Chinese year follows the lunar cycle which places the celebration of new year at the time of new moon that occurs sometime between January 21st and February 20th.
In 2024 Chinese New Year will begin on Saturday 10th February, which will be the start of the Year of the Dragon.
How is the Chinese New Year celebrated?
The festival is a time of great celebration, in China and in Chinese-communities around the world.
Traditional festivities include:
:: special foods
:: the gifting of red envelopes containing money
:: dragon parades and lion dances
:: fireworks and firecrackers
The animals of the Chinese Zodiac
In the Chinese calendar, each year is associated with one of twelve special animal from the Chinese Zodiac. These animals all have special personalities and attributes and people are thought to share qualities with the animal of the year in which they were born.
Use our guide to the animals of the Chinese Zodiac to learn more about these animals and find our which animal’s year you were born in.
How to teach children about the Chinese New Year
Reading stories, exploring keys items from the festival and going to see a dragon parade if there’s one near you are all great ways to teach your children about Chinese New Year.
You can see our suggestions for the best children’s books about Chinese New Year.
It is a good idea to have props to show your children, as you read the story and introduce the key elements of a festival.
The props give your children something to hold and explore, making the ideas of the festival real and relevant to them, especially if they are learning about a festival for the first time or one from a country or culture that they are not familiar with.
Items that you might bring along to show your children for your Chinese New Year topic might include:
:: mandarins – a winter fruit representing abundance, a great food for snack time this week
:: red paper lanterns and other decorations – see below for craft activities
:: toys or puppets for each of the animals in the Chinese Zodiac
:: dragon and lion puppets – who feature in the traditional parades for Chinese New Year
:: chop sticks and soup spoons in a Chinese style
:: examples of (or pictures of) foods that are eaten at the festival, which might include: rice cakes whose name (nian gao) sounds like the greeting ‘grow (prosper) in the new year’, spring rolls as gold bricks, vegetables cut into coin shapes, long noodles to represent long life, and dumplings whose shape is like old Chinese money
:: spices that are commonly used in Chinese food, to smell: cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, ginger, and nutmeg
:: red envelopes and gold coins, which are given (in amounts of equal numbers) to children as gifts
Chinese New Year crafts for children
See our full index of Chinese New Year activities for more ideas including how to make Chinese Lanterns, math and literacy activities using red envelopes, and sensory play activities for Chinese New Year.