Adele has been a youth services librarian for 25 years and a mother to a daughter from China for 20 years.
A Variety of Crafts for Chinese New Year
Here, you will find a variety of quick and inexpensive craft projects for Chinese New Year. You will find patterns for making adorable paper cut pandas, instructions for simple paper lanterns, ideas for making dragons, and lots of other things.
If you are looking for easy projects specifically for 2020, the Year of the Rat, you can click on my name above and find several articles with printable designs for coloring sheets, envelopes, bookmarks, lanterns, greeting cards, and a variety of craft projects.
Panda Printables for the Chinese New Year
Even though the panda isn’t traditionally portrayed as part of Chinese New Year celebrations, the adorable animal increasingly serves as an emblem of China, and you can introduce children to concepts such as habitat and wildlife conservation when you talk with them about the giant panda.
Printable Panda Papercut Pattern
Papercutting is a traditional Chinese art, and this little panda is a simple version to cut. What you want to do is print out this half-template and fold the piece of paper lengthwise. Then, fold a piece of black construction paper lengthwise and slip it inside the template. Cut out the pattern, unfold, and you will have your own little panda outline. Glue him to white paper, and you’ll have a nice black and white panda.
Below is a picture of what the template looks like:
Panda Face Papercut
Here is the same kind of template for a panda face. Just print out the template onto a white piece of paper, fold it in half along the line, and then slip a folded piece of black paper inside.
Most of the cutting can be done with a pair of scissors, but it is easiest to do the eyes with a craft knife. The section with the slanted lines will be the part that is the black paper. See below for a sample of how the face looks.
Printable Mr. Panda Pattern
I came across this printable template on the Crafty Pammy website. I printed it onto cardstock, cut it out, and had a cute little panda to go with the book Please, Mr. Panda by Steven Antony. Of course, it also makes an adorable panda in its own right.
Learning to Say "Please"
This charming picture book features a panda who has a box of doughnuts to share. He offers them to several other animals he meets, but they don’t remember to say “please.” In fact, the orca declares “I want them all! Then bring me some more!” And, of course, Mr. Panda isn’t inclined to give anything thing to such a demanding creature. (Though to be fair, the orca’s size does indicate that even a box of doughnuts wouldn’t be very satisfying for him.) When Mr. Panda doesn’t hear the magic word, he says “I changed my mind,” until at last, finally the meerkat remembers to be polite.
The illustrations are spare—simple figures on an uncluttered background—and it leaves lots of room for the reader to discuss with a child how the animals could have responded more politely.
Chinese Paper Lanterns for the Lunar New Year
Paper lanterns turned out to be big such a big topic that I had to create a separate article for them. There, you can see all kinds of unique ways to dress up a simple paper Chinese lantern.
Red Envelopes for Gift-Giving
You can find lots of printable templates for lucky red envelopes, but if I have a big group, I find it easier just to order a set of these envelopes. The tradition is for the elder members of the family to put money in them and give them to the younger members.
Something that works especially well for a group of children is to put a large chocolate coin into each of them They are a sweet treat for the kids, and they still get across the idea of money being placed into them.
Dragon Printables for Chinese New Year
One of the features of a Chinese New Year celebration is the dragon dance in the new year parade. The dragon is essentially a huge puppet, held up by several dancers who use poles to send the dragon circling and undulating through the streets.
Below, you can see a team working the dragon at a celebration in Singapore in 2015.
Printable Chinese Dragon With Accordion-Pleated Middle
This printable dragon template is easy to follow. Yes, I think it's in Russian—you can find good ideas all over the world. Fortunately, you don't need to know Russian to be able to print out the template.
This site has a template for the head and tail which you can print out for the children to color. For the center, you can cut a strip of colored construction paper and show the children how to fold accordion pleats.
Tape a couple of sticks to it (if you are doing a big group, I recommend bamboo skewers with blunted edges—I’ve included a link for them here), and you’ll have a dragon that mimics the activity of the actual parade dragons a bit. Using the sticks, you can make the dragon move around. If you want even more movement, make a longer center strip and you’ll really be able to make that dragon dance.
Printable Chinese Dragon Template to Decorate
The folks at China Family Adventure have a wealth of crafts on their site, and this unique dragon is one of their offerings. I printed out the template on red paper, then used decorative scissors to cut strips of scrapbook paper to place over the template. I found that double-sided tape is a lot quicker and less messy than glue for fastening the strips to the template.
- Best Books for Kids About China: Chinese New Year Resources
Here are the best books for children ages 2-6 that cover Chinese culture and feature children with Chinese heritage.
A Book With Varied Printable Projects for Chinese New Year
Celebrating Chinese New Year: An Activity Book has some of the nicest designs of the books available, though not as many projects as the book mentioned below. The graphics are smooth and authentic, and some of the projects tread off the beaten path.
Here is a listing of what you can find in this book:
- Six pages of text and drawings which explain many of the customs and symbols of Chinese New Year (includes a sample Lunar New Year menu and explains what the different foods represent).
- Riddles that you could use to hang from a lantern or share with friends.
- A coloring sheet for the 12 zodiac animals, including the Chinese characters and the pinyin writing.
- "Auspicious Scrolls" with Chinese characters the children can trace (though the author doesn’t tell you what the characters mean)
- "Auspicious Couplet" banners with characters the children can trace and color (translation included this time)
- Paper-plate panda bear. This one has you using two plates, a smaller one for the head and a bigger one for the body. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include a printable template for the panda’s ears, eyes, etc., though a clever person with a copier that enlarges could probably devise a template from the picture given.
- A “Red Lucky Money Envelope” template which children can color, cut out and fold. It has a lucky carp on it.
- Directions for making a Chinese lion puppet from a paper bag, though sadly there is no template to copy.
- A coloring page for the head of a Chinese lion.
- A template for a Lunar New Year greeting that children can color and fold. The design has blossoms and peaches on it.
- A Lunar New Year greeting card with the saying “Welcoming Spring With All Her Blessings” in both Chinese characters and English words.
- Several templates for making a “Lollipop Banger,” essentially a drum with beads that spin around to hit the drum. Designs include: flower and birds, spring (character), good health (characters), peace and tranquility (character), lotus flower, fish (carp).
- A candy box to color, cut, and assemble (it’s kind of tricky and best for older elementary I found out).
- Template and designs for a lantern which basically frames vellum, a cool effect I haven’t seen elsewhere.
- Directions for making a dragon out a cardboard box, but with no templates.
- A list of book resources.
- A calendar of zodiac signs through 2020.
Books With Printable Crafts for Chinese New Year
The internet is great for finding little gems, but there’s nothing that beats the convenience of a book which has a wide variety of printable crafts ready to copy and go. The following are books that I have purchased and have used many of the projects with large groups of children.
A Book With Lots of Reproducible Activities for Chinese New Year, Ready to Go
Chinese New Year: Activities for Children was created by “Mr. Kindergarten,” also known as Dwayne Douglas Kohn. It has lots of reproducible carton-like artwork with a wide variety of images that children can color, cut out, fold, and otherwise craft to make themselves something that is used for Chinese New Year celebrations.
One puzzling aspect of his graphics ins that they are a bit pixelated, as if he’d used a dot-matrix print to make the pictures. That aside, he does have a wide variety of projects that would be easy for younger kids (preschool–2nd grade, and some would be suitable for older children, too) to make, and they are likely to mind if the lines aren’t perfectly smooth. At press time, the book cost under $7, so I think it’s a pretty good deal for everything you get. Above, you can see some of the craft projects I’ve made from the book.
I thought I’d list exactly what is in the book so you’d have a better idea of whether you would like to buy it. One the first three pages, Kohn has some text that explains the customs and symbols of Chinese New Year and includes a short story which tells how the different animals got their places in the Chinese zodiac.
Then we start with the graphics:
- Book cover with a dragon that the kids can color.
- A grid with pictures of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac with their names written in English.
- Same as the previous page, except with Mandarin characters and pinyin.
- Head and tail of dragon to color—you can accordion pleat a strip of construction paper for the center.
- A coloring page for a round lantern with a picture of a dragon on it.
- A picture of a Chinese woman in a cheongsam (traditional Chinese dress) to color. She has moveable arms you can attach with brads.
- Picture of a man in traditional dress to color, again with arms to attach with brads.
- Full-page picture of a dragon head to color.
- Picture of a straw hat to color. You can cut it out and glue it into a small cone, though it looks very small.
- Boy to color. You can attach a writing pad to his midsection.
- Model of the Forbidden City to color.
- Graphic that resembles a paper cut banner to color.
- Lion to color and glue onto a paper bag to make a puppet.
- Panda to make a paper bag puppet.
- Template for panda pieces to cut out and glue to a paper plate (see photo above).
- Two good luck banners with characters in Chinese to color: one is vertical, and one is horizontal (see photo above).
- Segmented dragon with lines that allow you to write things on the dragon’s body.
- Lucky red envelope template to print on red paper, cut and fold.
- Rectangles that look a little like Chinese money.
- Map of China (really just an outline—no cities or landmarks identified).
- Big and small flag of China to color.
- Pictures of food to color with their corresponding Mandarin character and pinyin name.
- Graphics for learning to count consisting of with a certain number of shapes, the Mandarin character and the pinyin.
- Chinese lantern template to color, cut, and assemble (As far as I can tell, he made it a little sideways, but it’s easily corrected. It’s in the photo above, 24) a firecracker to color, cut, and assemble.
- A graphic of a Chinese gate. I told you there was a lot of stuff in here!
- Best Books for Families with Children Adopted from China: Fiction and Nonfiction on Adoption, Cultur
These books cover adoption and Chinese culture for moms, dads, kids, tweens, and teens. Below you will find links to sites that list dozens of books for kids, adults, families, and classrooms.
© 2016 Adele Jeunette
Laura Barta from Hershey, PA on January 25, 2016:
Thanks for this, Adele! It's a really beautiful and useful collection of fun things to do for Chinese New Year.