How to Celebrate Lunar New Year with Young Children
There are so many festivals and celebrations celebrated the world over, by bringing our children’s attention to these when they are little we can help broaden their knowledge of different cultures and countries. Celebrating the Chinese New Year is not a new phenomenon in the UK, but what we have become more aware of in recent times is that we are using the incorrect term to celebrate this festival, the more accurate term is ‘Lunar New Year’. The Lunar New Year is not only celebrated in China, it is also celebrated in Korea, Vietnam and Tibet, not to mention the many other countries around the world that celebrate this festival.
Although specific celebrations and dates vary by country and culture, there is a common theme throughout the celebrations that are held for the Lunar New Year. It is a time to reunite with immediate and extended family, often accompanied by exchanging gifts, money to bring good fortune, partying in the streets, setting off fireworks and eating delicious and symbolic foods. There are so many learning opportunities within this festival to help teach our children and celebrate many different cultures, and of course, have lots of fun! So, here are some ideas to celebrate the Lunar New Year with your children:
1. Sensory play
This can take on many different forms depending on the age, stage and interests of your children. For those who have children who love to try new foods, a symbolic food that is served for Lunar New Year is often spring rolls which resemble gold bars and symbolise wealth, this may be a great way to introduce a new flavour and teach your children about Lunar New Year. Another way that you can introduce sensory play for Lunar New Year is through the sense of touch and feel; a tray with rice (which you can colour if you’re feeling extra creative!), you can vary the textures by having cooked and dry rice. You could add chopsticks and tongs for your child to have a go with, this will support your child’s developing fine motor skills. In Asia rice is often served in small bowls, here is a brilliant way to use our nesting babies as little bowls to serve rice in for role play or set up a sensory play tray:
2. The story of zodiac animals
Depending on which country you are exploring, there are different zodiac animals associated with different years. Chinese Zodiac is represented by twelve zodiac animals, each zodiac animal has its own attributes. There is a legendary story behind the order of the zodiac animals; the story goes that a race was organised by one of the most important gods in Chinese religion who invited all the animals in the world to take part.
Twelve species showed up at the start line, as a reward for turning up, the Emperor named a year in the zodiac after each one, while the race would determine the order each animal would be placed.
Cbeebies have created a great video of the story, which you can share with your children here.
To develop your child’s understanding of these animals even further, you could look through your child’s small world animal selection, and set up a mini play scene as a follow on activity to the story. Your child can play with the animals, perhaps even using their imagination to reenact the story, adding props to a story deepens children’s understanding as having something to hold is much more tangible.
3. Firework pictures
Fireworks are frequently used in Lunar New Celebrations, as many believe that they ward off evil spirits. Whilst warding off evil spirits may not be a topic that you wish to introduce your pre-schooler to (!), you can support your child to make their own representation of fireworks that they may see or hear as your head off to bedtime, or if you intend to go to an organised display. Using dark coloured paper and PVA glue or chalks can be very effective for firework pictures as they highlight the contrasting colours. These aren’t a necessity though when we allow children to have any creative outlet to express what they have heard, seen or experienced this allows the learning experience to be consolidated. One way to do this is by giving your child the opportunity to explore with art and craft resources after a new event, and allowing them to be free to create whatever masterpiece they wish!
We really hope that this helps give you some ideas to celebrate Lunar New Year with your young family!
This blog has been written by our Resident Play Expert here at Rosa & Bo, Sarah Doman. Sarah is a Hypnobirth and Early Years Expert. She helps families from pregnancy to children of school age to give birth and parent with confidence. You can find her on social media @sarahldoman .