A few years ago when Monkey was part of a preschool co-op, I created a simple activity to teach the kids about Chinese New Year. Most of the games I had seen were for school age kids, but there were few for preschoolers. The game below is simple enough to do with young kids (even toddlers), yet with a few variations it can still be played with school age kids. It is also an active game for kids (like mine) that learn better when moving.
The kids in the preschool group had a great time, and when I dusted it off recently to play with my now school age Monkey, I was pleased to see that he still enjoyed it, as did his toddler brother.
All you need is a printer or – if, like me, your printer seems to be perpetually out of ink – the ability to sketch some animals.
1) Print off or draw the animals of the Chinese zodiac, one per page. (You can use the printables in Daria’s Chinese Gong tutorial or Kid World Citizen’s zodiac poster tutorial or browse the wonderful collection assembled by Marie’s Pastiche).
2) Explain briefly about the Chinese zodiac: the idea that in the Chinese calendar, each year is represented by a different animal, and the people born during that year are thought to share some of the characteristics of that animal. For older kids, you can go into a more detailed explanation and have fun seeing what animal sign they were born under and what it represents!
3) Lay the animal pages in a circle on the ground and ask each child to stand on one, facing the middle.
4) In the simplest version for young kids, go around the circle and have each child make the sound of the animal whose picture they are standing on. After everyone has had a turn, have them shift to the right one spot and repeat. Repeat several more times until each child has had a chance to do several animal sounds.
For very young kids, this is plenty! For older kids, you can try these variations:
1) Play “musical animals” by having the kids walk in a circle to music (if you can, use some Chinese kids’ songs, like those from A Little Mandarin). Periodically stop the music, and each child has to make the sound of the animal they are standing on.
2) Lay the animal pages in a line along the floor, and each child has to hop from one to the other, making the appropriate animal noises as they go.
3) Tape an animal page to the back of each child, taking care that they can’t see which is on their back. Then have the other children help them guess which animal they have, either through animal sounds or descriptions or answering yes/no questions.
This post is part of the Chinese New Year series and giveaway on Multicultural Kid Blogs. Enter our giveaway to win one of these great prize packages, and don’t forget to link up your own posts about Chinese New Year on our main page!
Giveaway begins Jan. 21 and goes through midnight ET on March 5, 2015. Enter below for a chance to win! Remember you can make a comment on the blog post of a different co-host each day for an additional entry.
First Prize Package
From Tuttle Publishing, All About China: Take the whole family on a whirlwind tour of Chinese history and culture with this delightfully illustrated book that is packed with stories, activities and games. Travel from the stone age through the dynasties to the present day with songs and crafts for kids that will teach them about Chinese language and the Chinese way of life.
Also from Tuttle Publishing, Long-Long’s New Year, a beautifully illustrated picture book about a little Chinese boy named Long-Long, who accompanies his grandfather into the city to sell cabbages in order to buy food and decorations for the New Year. Selling cabbages is harder than Long-Long expects, and he encounters many adventures before he finds a way to help his grandfather, and earn New Year’s treats for his mother and little cousin.
From A Little Mandarin, a CD featuring a collection of Chinese children’s classics – songs loved by families in China for generations – given new life with a contemporary sound and voice. The 15 tracks fuse rock, pop, dance, ska, and hip hop influences with playful lyrics to make it a unique and fun learning companion for all ages. Featured on Putumayo Kids Presents World Sing-Along.
Second Prize Package
US shipping only
From Tuttle Publishing, Celebrating the Chinese New Year, in which Little Mei’s grandfather tells her the stories of Nian and the monster Xi for Chinese New Year.
Also from Tuttle Publishing, The Sheep Beauty, which brings to life the kindness and generosity of those born under the sign of the sheep in the Chinese zodiac.
Also from Tuttle Publishing, Chinese Zodiac Animals, a fun and informative way to learn about the ancient Chinese Zodiac, explaining the traits of each animal sign and what luck the future might hold for the person born under that sign.
From Tiny Tapping Toes, a monkey drum, plus a free pdf of a craft version. World Music children’s performer DARIA has spent the last two decades performing in the USA and around the world, creating music to inspire all the world’s children and allowing children to become a part of the celebration and the fun of exploring world cultures.