Last Updated on September 20, 2023 by Sarah McCubbin
If you want to celebrate Chinese New Year with kids, there are many easy activities that are both fun and educational. Many of these ideas can be implemented with just a few hours notice which is perfect for families who want to celebrate last minute!
Our family began celebrating Chinese New Year after I started teaching English online to Chinese students. I was fascinated by the beautiful culture and history of the Chinese people and celebrating Chinese New Year with my family seemed like an easy way to learn more in a way that they would be interested. We discovered an amazing Asian grocery store in Cleveland called Park to Shop that make celebrating even easier because we could buy almost everything in one place. I love easy!!
But, if you don’t have an Asian grocery store or if you are wanting to celebrate this holiday with what you have on hand, then let’s take a look at some simple ideas below:
Table of Contents
1. Read Books About Chinese New Year
For any holiday, reading books is the simplest and easiest way to celebrate or recognize the holiday. I LOVE children’s books with beautiful illustrations. Below are some amazing books to celebrate Chinese New Year!! We have quite a few of these and my daughter loves them.
Chinese New Year is 15 days long too…so there is plenty of time to read these stories over and over!
2. Eat Chinese Food
Chinese food is another easy way to celebrate! Some years we choose to do carryout for simplicity, but if you have an Asian grocery store near you (or even a well stocked regular one), you can pick up some great premade options in the freezer section.
Our family enjoys:
- Wonton Soup
- Spring Rolls
- Steamed Chinese Buns
- Chinese Vegatables
- (and so much more!)
3. Chinese Sky Lanterns for Outdoors
On the first night of Chinese New Year, people celebrate the Chinese Lantern Festival. With the lighting of of various lanterns which are usually red, people celebrate an illuminated future as well as time of forgiveness and restoration among relationships. Lighting lanterns originated out of a Buddist custom to honor Buddha on the first day of Lunar New Year, but now has become part of traditional decorations and practices apart from Buddism.
Our family enjoys lighting Chinese lanterns more for a practical educational point of view. These paper lanterns are HUGE…about 3 feet tall and it requires considerable logistics to get them lit on a cold night. We usually have 3 people to get one lit. Two people old the paper sides away from the wick and another person lights 4 sides of the wick. Then we wait for the heat to build up inside the paper lantern before it gently lifts off.
My kids LOVE this. Its so beautiful to see it lift off gracefully and fly into the distance. We usually have a moment of panick wondering if it is actually going to go high enough to miss a tree. We also live relatively close to a highway so we have fun imagining what people must thing by a light dancing across the night sky.
We usually buy our lanterns at a local fireworks store but you can get them on Amazon too!
4. Chinese Paper Lanterns for Indoors
I don’t do a lot of fancy decorating for holidays. But I do often decorate with Chinese lanterns. I love this set below because it has red, white and pink…so we will leave these up through Valentines Day!
5. Chinese Lantern Craft Free Printable
If you have crafty kids, you might want to make your own paper lantern. These are so easy to make. Simply print the template on red cardstock and follow the included instructions. We like to use a LED tea light inside to make them look lit. It is NOT recommended to add a real candle inside!
6. Give Red Envelopes! (Hung Bao)
One fun tradition that children love is the giving of Red Envelopes. These are given as a symbol of good luck and good wishes for the New Year! Our activity pack below has a printable red envelope in the collection.
7. Give Gold Coins
Giving gold (chocolate) coins is also a way to symbolize good luck in the new year. You an combine the chocolate coins with the Red Envelopes for a delicious tradition children will love. They do sell gold and red chocolate coins at some specialty stores but I usually just buy whatever gold chocolate coins I can find!
8. Visit a Chinese New Year Festival
This will be a new tradition for our family this year as we have never gone to a Chinese Festival. One of my daughter’s friends is Chinese and her family told us about gatherings that happen in the greater Cleveland area. So we plan to go to one and watch the dragon dance this year! I’m so excited!
A local Chinese church also had a beautiful New Year’s Celebration this year. So if you live near a big city, visiting a church on the first Sunday of Chinese New Year can be another way to experience some of their beautiful culture.
10. Do a Chinese New Year Activity Pack
If you have kids that enjoy hands-on learning, then they will love our Chinese New Year Lapbook and Activity Pack. It has 11 different activities that can be done to learn about Chinese New Year and the culture…plus there are many other activities too! The video below has the lapbook portion of the activity pack shown.
11. Wear & Decorate With Red!!
This is probably the easiest way to celebrate of all…the color red! Red is thought to be the color of luck. So during the holiday, families often dress in red. Many decorations are red as well! Families give red envelopes with money to children. So…red…lots of red.
Here is my lazy winter decorating tip. I recycle my Christmas decorations. I usually buy a few red poinsettias at Christmas. Those are then repurposed as both decorations for Chinese New Year and Valentines! The splashes of red color are bright spots in the winter and I love that its easy to have festive decorations that are easy and inexpensive!