Let’s learn about the meaning of the Chinese dragon and make one of our easy dragon crafts for Chinese New Year.
Easy dragon crafts for Chinese New Year
In this article you can:
:: learn about the appearance and symbolism of the Chinese dragon
:: watch a Chinese dragon dance
:: make an easy Chinese dragon craft
:: find more links to 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 does the Chinese dragon symbolise?
Chinese dragons are very different to the dragons in European myths and legends.
In Europe, dragons are described as being dangerous, fire-breathing animals. They have wings and often guard a hoard of gold and treasure.
In Chinese culture, the dragon is a symbol of prosperity and good luck. Chinese dragons have no wings, and are associated with waterfalls, rivers, seas and rain.
What does a Chinese dragon look like?
You can see examples of Chinese dragons in the photographs above.
The Chinese dragon is a glorious combination of various other animals. It has:
:: the head of a camel
:: the horns of a stag
:: the eyes of a demon
:: the ears of a cow
:: the neck of a snake
:: the belly of a clam
:: the scales of a carp
:: the claws of an eagle
:: and the paws of a tiger
When is the Chinese Year of the Dragon?
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 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.
The animals of the Chinese zodiac are the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.
In 2024, the Chinese lunar new year begins on 10th February and it will be the year of the dragon.
People born in the year of the dragon are thought to be confident, intelligent and enthusiastic.
Find out more about the twelve animals and find out which year you were born in with our Children’s Guide to the Chinese Zodiac Animals.
Watch a Chinese dragon dance
At festivals, and especially the celebration of the Chinese New Year in the year of the dragon, a dragon dance is often performed.
A dragon puppet is made from a long piece of fabric, held high on wooden rods. The performers hold and move these rods in an acrobatic sequence to make the dragon dance. You can watch a Chinese dragon dance video above.
Easy Chinese dragon crafts children can make
You can make a simple Chinese dragon craft from recycled materials:
Egg Box Dragon
This egg box dragon craft is a simpler design for younger children and great for junk model fans.
Chinese dragon rod puppet
This Chinese dragon puppet uses wooden skewers to articulate the dragon, inspired by the traditional rod design of the Chinese dragon dance.
Dragon play activities for children
Your dragon puppet can be used in lots of imaginative play and storytelling activities:
Have a chat with your dragon and find out where they would like to live.
:: are they mountain dwellers or do they like to live near water?
:: do they build a nest or find a cave?
:: what do they hoard in their den: gold, diamonds, or something else?
Then take a big sheet of paper and use your paints and pens to make a play mat for your dragon to live in.
Dragon storytelling activities
People around the world have told tales about dragons for generations. What kind of story will you tell?
:: Is your dragon a goodie or a baddie?
:: Who else will be in your story?
:: What problem will there be in your story?
:: How will the problem get fixed?
Use our printable story spinner if you’d like extra ideas.
Or if you’d prefer to write an information book about dragons you can use my non-fiction book printable.
Dragon sensory play activities
Alternatively, you might like to create a dragon sensory tub or make play dough dragons. You can use this easy no-cook play dough recipe and print the free printable castle play dough mat from the Play Printables section of NurtureStore’s Printables Library.
More Chinese New Year activities 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.