Saturday, February 1, 2014

Five Simple Crafts for Celebrating Chinese New Year

Yesterday we wound up with an unexpected day home, which gave us a whole afternoon to learn about and decorate for Chinese New Year.

Several years ago I was one of a handful of teachers from across our state who traveled in a grant funded program to China. For two weeks we traveled across the country; participating in home stays, sampling local foods, and seeing a variety of sights. As I traveled I collected many different resources for teaching children about China, and added to that collection to develop a unit I taught for several years. This week, as Big Brother's preschool class learned about Chinese New Year we pulled the unit box out at home and explored many of the items inside. As we looked for something fun to do on Friday afternoon we decided to decorate and celebrate for Chinese New Year.

All of our crafts were quick and simple, and extended from either the materials we'd been looking at or a great young-child friendly book, My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz.

1. Paper Lanterns
We folded construction paper in half the long way. I marked lines from the folded side up about one inch apart. Big Brother cut on the lines, but not all the way through the paper.

After cutting the lines we opened up the paper and matched the uncut short edges to each other, we then stapled the top and bottom together. We also stapled on a handle. We made several lanterns, and hung them up along with some tissue paper flags and Chinese New Year signs. 

2. Dancing Dragon Puppet
Big Brother has been particularly interested in the dancing dragon images. In Katz' book we read that the dragon is a symbol of luck and the coming of spring. I drew a dragon face and tail onto white card stock. Big Brother colored it in with markers. 

While he colored, I cut a large (18x12) sheet of construction paper in half. I folded the rectangle using an "accordion" fold. When Big Brother was done coloring I cut out the face and tail and stapled each to one end of the paper. We attached popsicle sticks to make it a dancing puppet. 

3. Glitter Construction Paper Fan
Big Brother was really interested in the ornamental fans in my collection. So we decided to create our own fan. We took a regular sheet of construction paper, and again used an accordion fold. I stapled the end to create a handle. Big Brother used his glitter pens to decorate the front of the fan. 

4. Plum & Quince Blossom Branches
In Katz' book the little girl explains that she and her family purchase plum and quince blossoms for their decorations as a reminder that new things can always grow. In snowy New England it's impossible to find anything blooming these days, so we made our own blossom branches. I cut small tissue paper circles out of pink and white tissue paper and wrapped a small handful of brown pipe cleaners together. Big Brother pushed the circles onto the pipe cleaners. 

We put these on our table. We also added a red table cloth, as red is a symbol for good luck and happiness, and a bowl of oranges, a symbol for good fortune. 

5. Fireworks Wand
Back near the end of December I had seen this cute fireworks craft at Fantastic Fun & Learning and remembered it. (Originally based on these safe sparklers.) As we'd noticed fireworks at the end of the parade, we decided to create our own fireworks wand using sparkly pipe cleaners. Big Brother had fun "booming" with it at the end of the evening. 

Other Resources
A few other things we enjoyed over the week included the following resources: 
Colors of China by Shannon Zemlicka
Families of China (part of the Families of the World DVD series) 

We ended our night by picking up some Chinese take out, which included steamed meat dumplings, noodles, chicken, and rice. This was by far Little Brother's favorite part of the day. 

It was really fun going through all the materials, travel memorabilia, and photographs. It was even better sharing this with the boys and making our house colorful for our little family celebration. 

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  1. I love the paper lanterns. So many possibilities with them. I think I would have them hanging all through the year. They are that cute.

    1. Thanks! As we finished making them I too started thinking about all the other holidays we could use them for and other color schemes we could do with them.