China/ Chinese New Years

Chinese New Year is always in January or February but it doesn’t fall on the same date every year.   It is also called Lunar New Year or Spring Festival and lasts 15 days, making this a great Theme Day for the early part of a New Year.  Of course any time is a good time to learn about a different country or culture so this Theme Day can be done at any time with less of a focus on the New Year aspect and more on Chinese Culture..

Print out the Family Theme Day Planner and decide which activities you’d like to do and in what order.



Take out a globe or atlas or go online to show your child where China is and compare it to where you live.


Listen to the National Anthem of the Republic of China (scroll down the left hand side) and see the translation of the lyrics here:

For something different listen to “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas.




You can find many free colouring pages online by using your favourite search engine and typing in  “Chinese New Year Coloring Pages” or “China Coloring Pages” or print out my Chinese Dragon Coloring Page.


NOTE: We did our journal entry after all the other activities and reading  etc. to ensure my boys had something to write about.

Write out one or more of the following questions in your Family Theme Day Scrapbook or on a piece of paper to glue in your scrapbook:  What do you know about China or the Chinese Culture?  What did you learn about China today?  If you went to China what would you like to see?  How is Chinese New Year different from the way your family celebrates the New Year/how is it similar?


 Choose the level of your child:

¨     Toddler – discuss the answer(s) out loud first and have your child draw a picture of the answer

¨     Preschooler/Kindergartener – discuss the answer(s) out loud first and write the answer down for him/her leaving one word for him/her to write out himself/herself with your help. You could also encourage him/her to draw a picture as well.

¨     Early Grade School – have your child either write out the answer himself/herself (encourage phonetic spelling) without your help, or offer to help with spelling each word out loud one word at a time.

¨     Grade School – have your child write a sentence or two on his/her own and then read over and discuss the response.  (You decide whether to correct the spelling or not)

¨     Older Child – have your child write a longer response (paragraph).

¨     As A Challenge – instead of a question ask your older child to write a story or poem about China or Chinese New Year?

NOTE: We like to decorate our journal pages with stickers. I couldn’t find any Chinese New Year or China stickers at the store when we did this Theme Day but I did find some stickers online to decorate our journal page.  However when I went to print them out a year later the link no longer worked.    In it’s place I did find different printable coloring pages:



Print out a word search:

Easy Chinese New Year Word Search or Moderate Chinese New Year Word Search or Difficult China Word Search.


Check here for the answer keys:

Easy Chinese New Year Word Search Key or Moderate Chinese New Year Word Search key or Difficult China Word Search Key.



Raid your child’s bookshelves to find any books that take place in or are about China.


Go to the library with your child to find some books about China or Chinese New Year.


Go to the library on your own to find books about China or Chinese New Year from both fiction and nonfiction to have already on hand for your theme day.  Many libraries allow you to go online and search for titles based on subject.  Reserve them if you can to save time.


Read some of these nonfiction/learning titles if you can find them:


· Celebrate Chinese New Year, by Carolyn Otto, with consultant Haiwang Yuan, National geographic, 2009—This has bright photographs and easy to read text making it a good one to review Chinese New Year.


· China: over 40 Activities to Experience China—past and present, by Debbi Michiko Florence and illustrations by Jim Caputo, Williamson Books, 2008—A Kaleidoscope  Kids Book, this is a great all around book for older children as it explores many different aspects of China but in a fun way.


· China: The Culture, by Bobbie Kalman, Crabtree Publishing Company, 2008—This book is full of many photographs and lots of information about China (Other books in the series that we read were China: The People and China: The Land).


Here are some picture books about China:


· 1,2,3, Go!, by Huy Voun Lee, Henry Hold and Company, 2000 – This counting book shows the Chinese characters for the numbers 1 to 10 plus ten actions.


· D is for Dragon Dance, by Ying Chang Compestine and illustrated by Yongsheng Xuan, HOLIDAY House, 2006 – This alphabet book explores many different aspects of Chinese New Year, from entertainment (A is for acrobats) to art (c is for calligraphy) to food  (N is for noodles) to activities (R is for red envelope).


· Happy New Year! Kung-His Fa-Ts’ai!, by Demi, Crown Publishers Inc., 1997—This book really explains all the different customs involved in Chinese New Year.


· Made In China, by Deborah Nash, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2004—A red paper butterfly tries to find the boy who owns him but first he must answer the dragons riddle about what was made in China almost 2000 years ago.


· Ms. Frizzle’s Adventures: Imperial China, by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen, Scholastic press, 2005—Ms. Frizzle (from the Magic School Bus series) magically transports herself and three kids to Imperial China.


· You Wouldn’t Want to Work on the Great Wall of China!, written by Jacqueline Morley and illustrated by David Antram, Franklin Watts, 2006—using lots of illustrations and facts this book examines what your life would have been like if you were a poor farmer in China around 215 B.C. sent to build the Great Wall!  This would appeal to older kids.


For something different try this:


· Chinese Myths and Legends, as told by Philip Ardagh and illustrated by Michael Fisher, World Book, 2002—My eldest son found this book of myths interesting.



NOTE: Red is the predominant colour used in Chinese New Year celebrations as it symbolizes joy.  Make sure you have plenty of red paper for this theme day!


NOTE: In China many windows and doors are decorated with red colour paper cut-outs  representing “happiness”, “wealth”, and “longevity.”

Materials: Red paper, child safe scissors, pencil (optional), clear tape.

Step 1: Help your child fold some red paper (you can fold it once or twice or however many times your child wants and is still able to cut through).

Step 2: Let your child cut out different shapes around the edges or the paper OR for smaller children draw some shapes on the paper and have your child cut those out.

Step 3: Help your child carefully unfold the paper to reveal the beautiful designs!

Step 4: Tape the cut-outs to your window.


CHALLENGE: Encourage older children to try to create real scenes or things in their cut-outs rather than just designs, like butterflies, flowers, people, mountains...




NOTE:  The 15th and last day of the Chinese New Year is the Lantern Festival.


Materials: Red paper, child safe scissors, clear tape, yarn or string (only if you are going to make more than one lantern and would like to string them up as decoration.


Step 1: Fold a piece of red paper in half length wise.

Step 2: Cut slits from the edge of the folded line toward the edge of the paper but not all the way (you should leave about 2 cm or 1 inch of paper).

Step 3: Open the fold and turn the piece of paper horizontally.

Step 4: Carefully roll the paper into a cylinder  and tape the two shorter ends of the paper together to keep the cylindrical from intact.

Step 5: Gently push down on the cylinder so the folds push outwards which makes the paper look like a lantern.

Step 6: Cut a strop of red paper out and tape it to the top of the cylinder to be the handle of the lantern.

Step 7: Make more than one lantern and then thread string or yarn through the handles to hand them up as decorations.



NOTE: Red envelopes are a part of  the Chinese New Year tradition.  Children usually wake up in the morning to greet their parents wishing them a healthy and happy new year and then will receive a red envelope with money (usually in even numbers) or sometimes chocolate coins found in it.

Materials: A copy of my Chinese New Year Red Envelope Template, red paper, pencil, glue stick, child safe scissors.

Step 1: Cut out the Red Envelope Template from the printable and trace it onto red paper.

Step 2: Cut out the traced template from the red paper.

Step 3: Fold the dotted line area marked A towards the middle of the paper and apply glue to the other side of these tabs.

Step 4: Fold the dotted area marked B towards the middle of the paper and press in it firmly onto the tabs with the glue on them.

Step 5: Let it dry before inserting coins or chocolate and then fold over the last dotted lined tab to close the envelope.




NOTE:  Another typical window/door decoration for Chinese New Year are red diamond shaped posters with Chinese characters (calligraphy) drawn on them representing “auspiciousness”, “good luck,” “happiness” etc. for the upcoming year.


Materials: Paint brush, black paint, water, a small container (like a clean yogurt container), white paper, red paper.  Also, check online for some Chinese symbols for “good fortune.”  We found our on this website:

Step 1: Have your child pick the symbol he/she would like to paint.

Step 2: Mix black paint with some water to make it more ink like in consistency.

Step 3: Have your child paint the Chinese symbol onto white paper.

Step 4: Have your child cut out the symbols and glue them onto a piece of red paper in the shape of a diamond.

NOTE: My sons didn’t want to cut there symbols out so we didn’t make the red diamond poster we just painted symbols.



NOTE:  Dragon and lion dances are common during Chinese New Year. It is believed that the loud beats of the drum and the sounds of cymbals together with the face of the dragon or lion dancing can scare away bad spirits.

Materials: Coloured paper (green, orange, yellow, red), child safe scissors, glue stick, black marker.

Step 1: Cut out strips of coloured paper to be the body of the dragon.  We chose green, orange and red paper.

Step 2: Make a small paper chain using these strips of paper.  Apply glue to one end of a strip of paper and then loop that strip together, pressing firmly so the glue will hold.  Make another loop but this time string it through the first glued loop before gluing the ends together.

Step 3: Cut out two oval shapes to make the dragon’s head.  Have your child choose the colour.

Step 4: Glue one oval shape onto the other making a sort of “T” shape.  The top of the “T” will be where the eyes are drawn and the bottom of the “T” will be the nose.

Step 5: Have your child draw eyes and a nose (two nostrils) onto the ovals. 

Step 6: Cut out small triangles for the dragon’s teeth and have your child glue the triangles along the nose part of the dragon’s head.



NOTE: A tangram is a Chinese puzzle made from a square divided into seven specifically shaped pieces.   The puzzle is to try to create different pictures: people, animals etc.

Print out my Tangram Template Printable and have your child colour each piece a different colour.  Then have fun as a family making different pictures out of the pieces.  When you’ve made a picture that you like glue it to a piece of paper.


NOTE: On the eve of Chinese New Year a reunion dinner is held where family members get together to celebrate with a large traditional dinner.  Why not have your own reunion dinner?


Serve some decaf green tea along with nuts, plums or dried fruits.


Order in or go out to a Chinese Restaurant.

Try some dumplings and steamed buns. Often in China there are dumplings with a coin in one and whoever finds it gets good luck in the new year. Dumplings symbolize wealth.

Make your own noodle bowl using thin spaghetti and chicken broth flavoured with garlic, ginger and shredded carrots.

Make a stir-fry with rice or noodles.

You can find all sorts for frozen Dim Sum at different grocery stores.

Chicken, pork and fish are usually served at the Chinese New Year reunion dinner. Fish is intentionally not finished as the words “Every year there is fish/leftover" is a homophone for phrases which mean "be blessed every year" or "have profit every year."

*Don’t forget to try to eat with chop-sticks (you can find wooden ones at most deli sections of grocery stores).


 Buy some fortune cookies the ethnic aisle of your grocery store or in bulk bins at grocery stores.

In some parts of China it is customary to make a New Year Cake after dinner and send pieces of it as gifts to relatives and friends in the coming days of the festival/new year.



NOTE: Windows and doors in China are often decorated with couplets written in black or gold calligraphy on red paper during Chinese New Year to wish good fortune in the New Year.

A couplet is a two lined poem that usually rhymes and has the same amount of syllables on each line. Individually or as a family try to write your own poem about happiness or good luck for the New Year.


Print out a copy of my China: Flag Worksheet and have your child colour it in the appropriate red and yellow colours.


Print out a copy of my China: Geography Worksheet and have your child colour it.  Then together as a family search an atlas or online for the capital city of China.  Have your child write the answer on the worksheet. Please excuse any anomalies is shape or inaccuracies as the worksheet was drawn by me and hence is not perfect.


Print out my Simple Chinese Words Printable which I compiled using these two websites:


Find out what Chinese Zodiac sign belongs to each member of your family is by putting in birthdates on this online calculator:

Encourage your child to draw a picture of his/her animal to make a poster.  We also searched online for the Chinese character for the zodiac animals and painted that on as well:


Learn more about China here:

Learn more about Chinese New Year here:

Here is a tourism site for China:

This website is all about the Great Wall of China:

Check here for some pictures and information about sacred places in China:, and

For a virtual guide of the Forbidden City check here:

For information about the Terracotta Warriors: including a link to a video about them for kids:

Animal lovers will like to learn about Giant Pandas:

For information about Confucius check here:




Mah-jong  is a game that originated in China. Check online for a computerized version of the game.


If you have a Chinese Checkerboard play it or else look online for a computerized version.




Search through your child’s DVD/ video collection (or visit your local library before hand or the Video Store) to find your child’s favourite shows that take place in China.

For young children try these titles:

· Ni Hao Kai-Lan: Kai-Lan’s Great Trip to China, Nickelodeon, 2009

· Big Bird in China, Sesame Workshop, 2004—This is a great 75 minute movie where Big Bird actually goes to China in a quest to find the legendary Chinese phoenix.

Here are some fun movie titles to fit this theme day:

· The Amazing Panda Adventure

· Kung Fu Panda

· Mulan


It is also the tradition in China that every family thoroughly cleans the house to sweep away any ill-fortune in hopes to make way for good incoming luck.  Use this theme day as an excuse for the whole family to clean the house together.


Purchasing new clothing, shoes, and receiving a hair-cut also symbolize a fresh start in China.  So if you are looking for an excuse to shop….



China Town:  Many cities have a section of the city called China Town and these often have parades displaying the lion dance or fireworks or firecrackers for Chinese New Year.  Visit China Town or attend a Chinese New Year Festival for a family field trip.

Chinese Restaurant: Go out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant or order in.


The Lion Dance

Photo: C Wright


Red paper cut-outs for the window

Paper Lanterns

Red Envelopes for Chinese New Year

Paper Chain Dragons

A Tangram picture of a man with a kite created by my son.

Chinese Calligraphy:

Fu—Blessing, Good Fortune, Good Luck

Chinese Zodiac Posters

Pandas are from China!

Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington D.C.

Have some Green Tea and a Fortune Cookie

Photo: C Wright