Sunday, February 7, 2010

Get Ready for Chinese New Year

Ni hao!

Today I am preparing to celebrate Chinese New Year, Year of the Tiger, which starts in 2010 on February 14. Our friends in China call it Spring Festival. We lived in China in 2003, so I have a special place in my heart for all things Chinese.

I have some excellent resources about China for you, plus some activities to try with your kids when you are studying Chinese culture, or just because they're fun!


Do you know Libby Gleeson's picture book,
Big Dog ? It's a lovely story about a little girl who is afraid of a dog. Her brother and his friend decide to scare the dog by dressing up in a Chinese lion dance costume.

A book I reviewed recently about a dragon, is Cheryl Rainfields's
The Last Dragon.

Dawn Morris of
Moms Inspire Learning has discovered some great books about Chinese New Year.

stories from classical chinese literature.

More wonderful books and activities from Elaine Magliaro at Wild Rose Reader.


Most countries celebrate Chinese New Year with a parade. How long is it since your family had its own parade? Better still, get together with friends and neighbours and make it a community event. The highlight of most Chinese New Year parades is the dragon dance. How will you create your dragon?

Here are some ideas for inspiration: instructions for a lion mask, and a much more elaborate lion costume.

How about holding your own lantern festival to mark the end of Chinese New Year? Here's
video footage of the Loy Kratong festival in Thailand to get you started, or you could aim lower with jam jars and tea lights. (see Create, below.)


Read about Chinese New Year, and China itself from
Scholastic, and here's a lesson plan.

Look at some pictures of
people and places in China.


Here is some great music on a youtube video of some young people doing
an umbrella dance, and another much more "classical" sounding one from the 2007 Chinese New Year celebration.

Watch this video of a
Chinese New Year Song from Malaysia and see some colourful costumes and lions.

Learn to sing this lovely children's
Chinese New Year Song from Nancy Stewart. (Check out Nancy's other free songs while you're there.

Here are a couple of
really simple songs to learn in Chinese. They have the pinyin as well as the characters, and one has an english translation.


Two of the crafts that fascinated me in China, I guess because they seemed accessible to kids, were paper cutting and
finger knotting. You can learn about some of the traditional Chinese Papercuts, and here are two simple finger knotting techniques. Why not explore further, and combine these crafts to create a little bookmark for Chinese New Year, decorated with a cut paper picture and embellished with a finger-knotted tassel?

Tammy Lee's Origami n' Stuff 4 Kids blog has some gorgeous art work she shares. There's a
chinese lion puppet, origami tiger, a moderately easy chinese dragon stick puppet with a folded paper body, and an attractive but simple fortune teller complete with fortunes, in case you have limited time.

Kaboose has some lovely
craft ideas.

Make a simple chinese lantern according to
Nancy Stewart's directions, or explore more elaborate creations, like this one that uses recycled jam jars, tissue paper and tea lights.

Under eights might like to decorate lanterns online with Kei-lan at Nick Jr.


Somehow, whenever I think of China, I think of yummy food. Yes, there were times I was horrified by chicken feet, dog and snake, but those times were far outweighed by the lotus root salad and shrimp dumplings we enjoyed at Hao Xiang Lai and our favourite street food we only knew as "egg pie". If your kids aren't accustomed to food from other cultures, it's probably best to start small. Nick Jr has a nice-sounding recipe for
vegetable dumplings. Sometimes, Chinese-sounding food can be a good introduction, like Egg Foo Yung, or even a noodle dish from your local take-away.


Primary Games site has Chinese New Year stationery, bookmarks, games and colouring pages.

Read about Chinese New Year

Free Clip Art

I use Phillip Martin's
free clip art when I create Literacy Lava (free ezine for parents). His Chinese zodiac symbols are great, and he has a dragon, the Happy New Year map below, and more.

There's also Awesomeclipartforkids.


Sometimes kids need someone else's pictures to spark their writing. They could find the Chinese Zodiac animal for
their own birth year, use clip art or draw their own symbol, and even write their own horoscope. Reading the description of zodiac signs can just be a bit of fun, or you could take it further and discuss whether there could be any basis for the whole horoscope idea. (Naturally, as a rational, logical chook, I don't believe in horoscopes, but wow, what they say about Rabbits sounds a lot like me!)

Another fun writing activity would be to write fortunes and put them inside fortune cookies. If making
the real cookies is beyond you, have your kids work out a way to create them with play-do, or check out the kaboose page for felt fortune cookies.

I hope you enjoy the Year of the Tiger and I wish you good fortune and happiness: Gong xi fa cai!

(Can you spot the chook in the photograph at the top? Here I am being chosen as winner of a Talent Quest after singing a song in Mandarin on Chinese TV. One of the few moments in my life when I was scared speechless!)

Newsflash: Paper Tigers blog has just posted the cutest paper tiger. They want you to print it out and send them a photo of your tiger from wherever in the world you are. Your photo will appear on their blog. Great idea! Paper Tigers is one of my favourite blogs in the Kidlitosphere, and does a wonderful job promoting multicultural children's literature and world literacy.

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