Chinese New Year Theme for Preschool

This Chinese New Year Theme page is filled with preschool activities and ideas for all areas of your classroom.

Chinese New Year is a spring festival celebrated in China. It follows the Chinese Lunar Calendar and falls between mid-January to mid-February each year. There are 12 Chinese Zodiac Animals that represent a 12 year cyclical time cycle in the lunar calendar. Below are some activities to help you celebrate it in your classroom!

Let the Theme planning begin!

You can either scroll down through this page to see all of the preschool activities for this Theme or click the link below to go to specific preschool activity types you are looking for.


Art Activities Block Area

Circle Time Activities Cooking Recipes

Dramatic Play Ideas Easel Ideas

Gross Motor Games Library and Literacy

Math And Manipulatives Activities Music and Movement

Sand and Water Table Science Activities

Writing Activities Chinese Zodiac Animals

Art Activities

Chinese New Year Theme Art

Animal Prints

Materials Needed: paint, paper, animal cookie cutters

Show the children how to place the cookie cutter into the paint and then stamp on the paper. You can use all the animals from the Chinese Zodiac (see the bottom of this page for a list) or just the animal that represents this year!

Encourage the children to write their own names on their art work.

Shades of Red!

Materials Needed: Red and white paint, paint brushes, paper plates (to mix paint on); blank sheets of white paper

Place red and white paint on a paper plate (one paper plate per child) and provide them with a paintbrush.

They will have fun making their own shades of red and pink!

EXTENSTION: Instead of you placing the paint on their paper plates, provide them with cups of white and red paint and a plastic teaspoon and let them measure their own paint ont the paper plate!

Texture Painting

Materials Needed: Variety of paint colors, white school glue and rice

Mix 1/4 part glue with 1 part paint and mix.

The children should paint with this mixture and then sprinkle with rice. This dries into a very glossy finish!


Materials Needed: Black construction paper and a variety of other paint.

Fold paper in half. Encourage the children to only paint on one half of the paper.

Fold paper together and press.

Open and presto---great fireworks!

Paper Bag Puppets

Materials Needed: cut outs of the heads of the animals you want to use (the animal of the year or all of them!); markers; wiggly eyes; brown or white lunch bags

The children use the markers to draw a face on their animal and apply wiggle eyes.

Glue the head onto the bottom part of the paper bag.

Show children how to place their hand into the bag to use it as a puppet.

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Block Area

Chinese New Year Theme Block Center Ideas

Build A House

Red is considered a lucky color. During Chinese New Year, window sills and doors are sometimes decorated in red to usher in good luck! Wrap some blocks in red paper. Encourage the children to build houses using the red blocks for windows and dorrs.

Great Wall

It was built way to protect China from enemies. It has been rebuilt in sections many times. If danger was approaching, a guard would light a lantern and the other guards would light their lanterns all the way down the Wall! This would notify the Emperor and the people to prepare for attack.

Did you know that the Great Wall of China is so big, that it can actually be seen from satelites in outer space?!!

Show children pictures of the Great Wall of China. Encourage them to build a wall as tall and as long as they can!

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Circle Time Activities

Chinese New Year Theme Circle Time Ideas

Circle Time is such a great time for children to learn the social skills of being together as a large group AND to learn more about your Valentines Day Theme!

Chinese New Year Animal Sounds

Materials Needed: Pictures of each of the 12 animals.

Show each card and encourage the children to make the sound. Or, place the pictures in the circle and make the sound. Ask the children to guess which animal sound you are making!


Materials Needed: Leisee envelopes (1 for each child) and play coins; the book Sam and the Lucky Money

Leisee are small red envelopes. You can find them at Chinese food stores or you can use plain red envelopes. On Chinese New Years, children are given a Leisee with a coin in it for luck.

Read the story and then present each child with their own Lucky Money!

5 Green Dragons


Five green dragons making such a roar.

One danced away and then there were four.

Four green dragons dancing around a tree.

One danced away and then there were three.

Three green dragons dancing around you!

One danced away and then there were two.

Two green dragons dancing under the sun.

One danced away and then there was one.

One green dragon having lots of fun.

It danced away and now there are none!

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Cooking Recipes

Snack Recipe Ideas to Cook Up for Your Chinese New Year Theme!

Cooking with children helps develop their math skills and helps them to learn how to follow directions. It also allows for some great conversation! Ask many questions while cooking with your children to encourage conversation! Be sure to ask specific theme questions while making these fun snacks!

The disclaimer: PLEASE, PLEASE check files for allergies..we've had a child allergic to strawberries, another to hazel nuts (all tree nuts, actually) and yet another to egg products. It is important for you to know before doing any cooking with the children.

Egg Drop Soup

Ingredients and Items needed: Chicken or vegetable broth, 2 eggs. Cook broth until hot. Open eggs into a bowl and beat. Stir beaten eggs into the broth very quickly. Serve when cooled a bit.

Chinese Dumplings

Ingredients and Items Needed: Chinese Dumplings (purchased or provided by a parent!). on the night before Chinese New Year, families typically prepare and cook dumplings. There is a tradition that a coin is inserted into one dumpling and the one who has the coin is supposed to have good luck in the coming year.

I do NOT suggest placing a coin in their food! What you could do is tape a play coin under each child's chair and when they are done with their dumpling snacks, have them look under their chairs to see if they have a lucky coin!

Tangerine and Oranges

Tangerines and oranges are passed out to children and guests during this celebartion. They symbolize wealth and good luck.

Provide oranges and tangerines for snack.

EXTENSION: Before snack time, let the children feel, smell and discuss the similarities and differences between an orange and a tangerine.

AFter peeling them, encourage the children to try some of each. Make a chart that has 3 columns. The first column will be each child's name. The second column will be for ORANGES and the third for TANGERINES. After trying each, note on the chart if each child liked each type! Count how many did or did not like each.

Tray of Togetherness

This tradition is a way of providing a sweet beginning to the Chinese New year. Customarily, foods like lotus seeds and lychee nuts and the like are used. However, due to allergies and children's resistance to try foods they have not tried before, provide healthy snack foods that they know!

This tray is usually a large round or octagonal shaped tray with 8 compartments. Choose 8 healthy foods for the children to try.

Some suggestions:

Bananas, kiwi, oranges, apple slices, grapes, strawberries, cucumber, carrots

EXTENSION: Rather than having this prepared for them, try having them help you slice and prepare it!

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Dramatic Play Ideas

Chinese New Year Theme Ideas to Transform Your Dramatic Play Area

Set Up House

Cleaning and preparing the house before the Chinese New Year is a tradition! It is meant to sweep and clean out all of the bad luck!

Set up your dramatic play area as a housekeeping center. Be sure to provide baby wipes for cleaning and child sized brooms, dust pans, pretend vacuum cleaners, etc.

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Easel Ideas

Themed Ideas for your Easel--More Than Just Painting (Although that is always THE favorite in our classroom!)

Chinese Flag

Materials Needed: Paper, red and yellow paint.

The Chinese flag is red with yellow stars. Provide these paints and a picture of the flag for the children to see. They may get more excited about making orange with the two colors....hang their flags!

VARIATION: Provide different shades of red with a bit of glue mixed in. Then provide precut yellow stars for the children to recreate the flag.

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Gross Motor Games

Chinese New Year Theme Large Group Games that help build their muscles while they have fun together

Animal Actions

Materials Needed: Have pictures of each of the animals from the Chinese Zodiac (see end of this page). Show the children the pictures one at a time and have them move like that animal!

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Library and Literacy

Chinese New Year Theme Ideas for Your Library and Literacy Activities for your Preschool Classroom

Book Suggestions for the Library

Celebrating Chinese New Year by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith and Lawrence Migdale

Cheerios Counting Book by Will Mcgrath and Barbara Mcgrath (to go with the Cheerio Abacus Activity under Manipulatives section

Chili Chili Chin Chin by Bette Yang

Dragon Dance: A Chinese New Year Lift the Flap Book by Joan Holub

Each Orange Had 8 Slices by Paul Giganti and Donald Crews (to go with the Orange/Tangerine Cooking ACtivity)

The Greatest Treasure by demi

Lanterns and Firecrackers A Chinese New Year Story by Jonny Zucker and Jan Barger

Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan's Chinese New Year by Kate Waters and Martha Cooper GREAT non fiction book with pictures!

New Years Clean Up (Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat) by George Daugherty

Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn

This Next New Year by Janet S. Wong

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Math And Manipulatives Activities

Chinese New Year Theme activities to help your Preschoolers develop those small muscles in their hands!

Chinese Abacus

Materials Needed: yarn; cheerios

Have the children string 10 (or more, depending upon the level of your children) onto a piece of yarn. Show them how to count with it: Two cheerios (move 2 to the left) and 2 more Cheerios (move 2 more to the left) are how many? Children then count the Cheerios on the left!

EXTENSION: Wear them as necklaces at snack time!

Paper Cutting Art

Materials needed: paper, scissors

Paper cutting is an ancient Chinese art. Have the children cut paper in any way they like! If they "name" their art work, put it on display with their name and the name of their creation!

Pom Pom Sorting

Obtain unused Chinese Food cartons and chopsticks from a Chinese food restaurant.

Provide chopsticks, pom poms and the empty cartons for the children to sort the pom poms with the chop sticks!

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Music and Movement

Chinese New Year Theme Music and Movement Activities and Ideas to get your Preschoolers Movin' and Groovin'!

Chinese New Year Parade!

Provide musical instruments and have a parade! Let each child have a turn leading the parade!

Ribbon Dancing

Provide crepe paper streamers or dancing scarves and music to create some interpretive dance! Encourage children to move to the beat of the music (slow, fast, etc.)

Dragon Train

Show the children pictures of a Chinese Dragon used in the New Year celebration. Pretend to be a dragon train! The child in the front leads the other children. They copy whatever the person in the front is doing. That child then goes to the back and they all follow the new leader's actions!

See the Animal Dance and Prance

Fill in the blank with the name of the animal you want to focus on!

Sung to Mary Had a Little Lamb

See the _____ dance and prance, dance and prance, dance and prance.

See the _____ danbce and prance on Chinese New Year Day!

Hear the firecrackers pop pop pop, pop pop pop, pop pop pop.

Hear the firecrackers pop pop pop on Chinese New Year Day!

See the children laugh and clap, laugh and clap, laugh and clap.

See the children laugh and clap on Chinese New Year Day.

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Sand and Water Table

Chinese New Year Activities for the Senses!

What a Treasure!

Add play coins to your sand table for a great and exciting treasure hunt!

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Science Activities

Chinese New Year Theme Science Activities--for your Preschool Scientists in Training!

Lucky Shiny Coins

Materials Needed: pennies, clear cups, venegar, salt, plstic spoons

Mix 1/4 cup of vinegar into a cup with 1 teaspoon of salt and mix.

Put a few pennies in the jar.

Watch what happens! The salt and vinegar, when combined, make an acid that cleans the dirt right off the pennies.

Use the plastic spoon to scoop out the pennies.

****Caution: Because young children touch their eyes often, do not leave this unsupervised as vinegar STINGS and the salt can scratch their eyes. I usually do this as a small group activity (1 teacher 2 children) and have lots of water available. Another thing you could do is to provide plastic safety glasses if you want the children to be able to do this hands on! Highly recomended!

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Writing Activities

Writing Activity Ideas for Your Preschool Classroom's Chinese New Year Theme!

Animal Stories

Materials needed: animal stickers and/or animal stencils

The children create their own animal adventure.

EXTENSION: Write down any stories they tell you about their picture-word for word!- and attach to the back of their picture when they are done!

Chinese symbols

This may be difficult for the children to do based on their fine motor ability, but boy oh boy is it fun to try! Provide a print out of some symbols for Chinese words. Explain to the children what each means or draw a picture of what each one means as well as the word. Let them have fun trying to create them or create symbols of their own.

You can search online for some symbols for basic words such as water, sun, etc.

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Chinese Zodiac Animals

List of the 12 Zodiac Animals

Year of the Rat 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008

Year of the Ox 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009

Year of the Tiger 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010

Year of the Rabbit 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011

Year of the Dragon 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012

Year of the Snake 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013

Year of the Horse 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014

Year of the Sheep/Ram 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015

Year of the Monkey 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016

Year of the Rooster 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017

Year of the Dog 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018

Year of the Boar/Pig 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019

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