Cultural Playdate: "Celebrating 中國新年 (Chinese New Year)"

Living in a small town doesn't provide much opportunity for cultural diversity. With that in mind I have organized a fun way to learn and play through a cultural play date: Celebrating Chinese New Year with story time and crafts! 

Chinese New Year is celebrated on Sunday, February 10th, and it is also known as the Spring Festival. It is China's biggest traditional holiday of the year, and celebrated in other countries and territories with significant Chinese populations. This is a big event in China, houses are cleaned out for the new year, and they decorate their houses with red paper decorations stating wishes of prosperity, good luck, happiness, good fortune, wealth, and longevity for the coming year. Red represents power happiness, vitality (and scares away monsters). Gold represents wealth and good fortune. The dragon is another popular symbol for Chinese New Year. It is a symbol of strength, goodness, and good luck, and supernatural forces.

Looking for ways to bring diversity into our home, I read a blog post from Becky at Kid World Citizen suggesting to contact the international offices of a local university to host an exchange student. So I figured, I can contact our local university to have someone come to our cultural play date! I was beyond excited, when I was put in contact with a young lady from China through the university's international program. 

Miss Huang, is a graduate student at our local university and was just as excited as I was to share her culture with us.  She had lots of ideas, and suggestions.  We had story time, and crafts for our cultural play date. 

Prior to beginning story time, Ms. Huang talked about China, and asked for a volunteer to show her where the continent of Asia was on the earth globe. (I was so proud when little one stood up to show her). She then showed them where she lived. 

For story time she read Happy Chinese New Year, Kai Lan! to the kids, and shared how she celebrates the Chinese New Year.  In the book, Kai Lan and her friends are getting ready for the celebration of the new year. Kai Lan and her friends are assigned numbers to carry the dragon for the parade; but one of her friends was not happy with his assigned number.  Kai Lan tells him of the importance of having that number, and team work.  Then off they go to the parade to celebrate!   

The numbers in the book are in both English and  in Chinese in the book. Miss Huang would say the numbers in Chinese and had the children repeat the numbers. In the book  Kai Lan talks about the importance of the color red.  So Miss Huang translates the word red in Chinese. She had the children repeat it, and after a while she'd ask: "How do you say red in ....?" She had not finished asking her question when my son quickly responded, "Rojo!" (Ha ha that's the Spanish word for red!). Again, I was proud of my son (though he didn't respond in Chinese he did have the Spanish word wired to his brain. :)  OK, now back to Kai Lan's book on celebrating Chinese New Year. 

This is a great book for preschoolers to learn about Chinese New Year. The best part of this book is that it has an English/Chinese pronunciation reference at the back.

Before craft time, Miss Huang showed the children a PowerPoint presentation on Chinese dragons, and played a traditional Chinese New Year song.  She showed them lots of pictures of different dragons, and the importance of them for warding off monsters. 

I made copies of the dragon face from a book "Celebrate the Winter Holidays!: Sensational Activities & Background Information That Help Kids Learn about and Appreciate Five Important Holidays" that I purchased and glued in on card stock paper, making sure  I left a piece of paper at the top so it can be folded in the back, and I taped jumbo popsicle sticks. Then I had crayons, and streamers to decorate the dragon's face. 

Miss Huang also prepared to have a craft session on Chinese knotting with the adults. One of the mommies present in the play date took advantage of this session, and  made a beautiful dragon fly Chinese knot.  

This was indeed a great cultural play date! The children had the opportunity to learn about China, and their New Year's celebration. I have to say it was a learning experience for both adults and children.  Did I forget to mention, I also had Chinese fortune cookies for them to snack on during the play date. 

Miss Huang made this play date even more fun, as she interacted, played, and colored with the children. She has a wealth of information on her culture, and was  more than willing to share it with us!  Thank you    Miss Huang! 

Do you celebrate Chinese New Year's? This was our first time, and it was awesome!  Please let me know your thoughts, comment, share, like or pin!   

中國新年快樂! (Happy Chinese New Year!)