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18 Chinese New Year Activities for Kids and Families

Mom hugging her daughter and her baby during Chinese New Year

Activities can be a fun way to jazz up your Chinese New Year celebration. Unlike other American New Year traditions, this 15-day holiday is celebrated according to the lunar calendar. Try these fun traditional activities and crafts to add a bit of excitement to the celebration for your family and friends.

Group Activities for Chinese New Year

These group activities can be fun during family get-togethers or work to teach a classroom about this holiday. Dive in and give them all a try.

Zodiac Animals

Each year of the Chinese calendar is assigned one of twelve animals. Help guests learn which animal represents them. Follow up with a craft or game that relates back to the animal of the upcoming New Year. For example, 2020 will usher in the year of the Rat. Play kids' games like "pin the tail on the rat" and make origami rat head ornaments for adults to display in their homes.

Everybody's Birthday

The seventh day of the Chinese New Year, or renri, is considered "everybody's birthday." To celebrate, throw a birthday party. Have birthday party supplies on hand, like hats, balloons and streamers. Pick up or make a generic birthday cake with a candle everyone can help blow out. In fact, a small white elephant gift exchange, similar to a Christmas party gift exchange, could even be held, so everyone gets a "birthday" present to open.

The 7th day of the Chinese New Year: Renri

Play New Year's Eve Games

Since most families stay up late on Chinese New Year's Eve, you can play some fun party games. In addition to old favorites like Dominos and cards, you might spice up your celebration with the chopsticks game. This is where you transfer candies from one bowl to another using the chopsticks in 30 seconds. The fastest wins.

Paint Your Faces

Another fun activity that you might do with your family is to paint your face like this year's coming zodiac symbol. For 2020, everyone would paint their faces to symbolize the coming of the year of the rat. Kids will really enjoy running around like little animals.

Break a Dragon Pinata

The dragon is an important symbol for Chinese New Year. Not only is it a symbol of luck but it is a symbol of wisdom. While you could buy a dragon pinata, you could also create your own pinata. Fill it with all kinds of fun treats, and it can be a great activity during your celebrations.

Chinese New Year's Crafts for Kids

Chinese New Year's craft activities are great for keeping children occupied. Consider making the following crafts with kids.

Chinese Dragon

Create a Chinese New Year dragon craft with clay. This can be a fun project for them to add to the Chinese New Year decorations around the house.

Sock Puppet

Make a sock puppet that represents the coming animal, the rat, or make all the different zodiacs like the dog, rabbit, horse, tiger, etc. Not only will it take children time to make their sock puppet but they can play with them during the celebration. They might even put on a show.

Chinese Coin Bracelet

You only need a bit of red string and Chinese coins to create a bracelet. The instructions are simple enough for children to follow, and it is a fun keepsake.

Chinese Lantern

Make Chinese lanterns using construction paper. You only need paper and a stapler to make these fun decorations that can really add some color to your home.

Cherry Blossom Painting

Bust out the acrylics, brush and canvas to paint a cherry blossom tree painting. Kids can use these to decorate the walls or you might even give it away as a special gift to loved ones.

Hand painted watercolor painting of cherry blossom tree

Red Envelope

Red envelopes offer family and friends lucky money for the Chinese New Year. You just need some red paper and a bit of creativity to give your red envelop a unique and special touch.

Traditional Activities for Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is a long celebration, and there are several traditional activities that you might do leading up the big day as well as during the celebration. Many of these activities include Chinese New Year traditions like sweeping the house and shopping. However, you might also attend events like:

  • Parades featuring floats, Chinese lanterns, dragons and traditional music and dancing
  • Food festivals with fish, dumplings, spring rolls, sweet rice balls and good fortune fruit
  • Dragon boat races (in warm areas)
  • Library displays of Chinese heritage and Chinese folk tales for kids
  • Traditional Chinese cooking demonstrations
  • Craft fairs with booths displaying handmade Chinese fabrics, toys and home décor
  • Host a Chinese New Year's party for the family.

Although the last night is often the most popular for parties, consider hosting one during the week that is themed around what that particular day in the Chinese New Year represents.

Why Is Chinese New Year Important?

When it comes to holidays in China, the new year is the most important. Not only do families prep for the Chinese New Year several weeks in advance, the new year is a time to celebrate heavenly deities and honor ancestors, as well as brings families together. Following the lunar calendar, this unique, 15-day celebration can take place anywhere from mid-January through February.

Celebrating Chinese New Year

No matter how a family chooses to usher in the Chinese New Year, members are sure to find plenty of activities that enhance the holiday's traditional meaning. Now that you are brimming with ideas, try some of these activities on your special celebration.

18 Chinese New Year Activities for Kids and Families