Quick And Easy Chinese New Year Crafts For Kids
Moo-ve over 2020, as we welcome in the Year of the Ox! This year, Chinese New Year celebrations begin on Friday, February 12th, marking the second new moon after the winter solstice on December 21st. Also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, this major holiday is the most important event in the Chinese calendar, and a time for families to be together for a week of celebrations, gift-giving, food and decorations.
Although celebrations may look a little different here in the UK this year, there’s no reason why you can’t still enjoy the Spring Festival in style from the comfort of your own home! From dancing paper dragons to traditional Chinese lanterns, we’ve put together five of our favourite (and ultra-easy!) Chinese New Year crafts for you and your little ones to get stuck into. Whether you celebrate this annual holiday with your family every year or you’re looking to explore and learn about different cultures, one thing’s for certain: you’re sure to have tons of fun creating these quick and easy crafts with your kids!
Before we dive straight in, let’s take a closer look at the story behind Chinese New Year and what makes the Year of the Ox so special. Trivia buffs take note, this could prove useful for your next Zoom quiz session!
What’s the story behind Chinese New Year?
Like most tales, legends and folklore, there are many variations to the story of how the 12 Chinese zodiac animals came to be. One of the most popular versions (and a great children’s bedtime story!) is the tale of the Great Race. In this story, the Jade Emperor, one of the most powerful gods in traditional Chinese religion, invited all the animals in the world to take part in a swimming race. The first 12 animals to make it across the river would be the winners, and would have a year of the zodiac named after them. As you may know, the 12 Chinese zodiac animals are: the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. To find out how each animal did in the race, check out the fun, kid-friendly video below!
What does the Year of the Ox symbolise?
(Spoiler alert!) The Ox is the second animal in the Chinese zodiac cycle, who was just pipped to the post by the tricksy Rat. In Chinese culture, each zodiac animal personifies a variety of things, including personality traits and characteristics, luck, elements and fortune, and more. The Ox is a valued animal who represents the intelligent, reliable and humble hard workers in society. They gain recognition through their honest work, rather than showboating their talents, and are kind, logical-thinkers who make great leaders.
According to legend, men born in the Ox year are reliable, trustworthy and family-orientated. However, due to their (borderline arrogant) confidence, they can be stubborn and unrealistic in their expectations of others. Women born in the Ox year are said to be calm and gentle. They choose their path and follow it undeterred for their entire life, regardless of the struggles that this may cause them. Similarly to men, they are stubborn but can think and react quickly. Those born in the Ox year are said to be most compatible with the Rat, Snake and Rooster, due to their similar life interests. On the flip side, they’re supposedly least compatible with those born in the Goat, Horse or Dog year, as a lack of common ground is likely to cause tension (or a moo-d, if you will!).
Our favourite Chinese New Year crafts
Now you know a little more about the history of Chinese New Year, you can get to the fun part: the decorations! Whipped together with nothing more than a few inexpensive art supplies and a dash of imagination, these Chinese New Year crafts are some of the easiest (and fun!) ways you can start the celebrations. So, without further ado, let’s get stuck in!
Chinese dragon mask
What you’ll need:
Regardless of whether it’s the Year of the Ox or the Year of the Dog, there’s one thing we expect to see many of during the Chinese New Year festivities: the Chinese dragon! Distinguishable by their slithery, snake-like qualities, deer antlers, wispy whiskers and, of course, vibrant colour palette, there’s no denying a Chinese dragon when you see one. From the adorable to the borderline bone-chilling, your kids will love creating their very own designs and turning into a Chinese dragon with this super simple and ultra-fun mask craft. Roar-some!
To get started, all you have to do is paint a paper plate the colour of your choice using a chunky paintbrush. For a more authentic Chinese dragon look, we recommend going red for this! Once the entire paper plate is covered in paint, set it aside to dry while you crack on creating the facial features.
Using card, trace out the design you’d like to stick on your paper plate. Remember, Chinese dragons don’t just have a nose, mouth and eyes, they have spikes, horns, ears, eyebrows and even a beard, so don’t forget those all-important features – you can always search for images online if you’re unsure! To gauge how big or small each feature should be, we suggest using a clean paper plate for reference. Once you’ve traced out all the elements, use a variety of colouring pens to bring your designs to life and cut them out using scissors (you may need to help your littlest little ones with this).
By now, your paper plate should be nice and dry, so you can get started on mapping out all the features you’ve just cut out to form your dragon’s face. Before sticking anything down, don’t forget to mark the area for your eyes and cut them out! Once you’ve done this, you can start gluing down each piece, layering one on top of another for a more 3D effect. Start by gluing down the spikes on each side of the mask, followed by the horns, the ears, the eyebrows, the beard, the mouth and finally, the nose.
All that’s left to do now is glue a popsicle stick towards the bottom centre of the mask, making sure there’s enough hanging over the edge to hold, practice your best Chinese dragon dance and get ready to unleash the beast!
If pre-made sets are more up your street, grab this super-sized 20pk Chinese New Year Dragon Mask Kit, complete with all the accessories you need to decorate your dragon to your heart’s content.
Upcycled egg carton dragon
What you’ll need:
Everyone loves a good upcycling craft, and this spellbinding dragon made from egg cartons is no exception! Pieced together with string, this dragon is flexible and sturdy enough to dance just like the authentic paper dragons you can buy from those pop-up stalls in Chinatown. From creating to playing, your kids are sure to enjoy hours of fun with their miniature fire breathing friend!
Start by cutting up your egg carton into individual sections. The length of your dragon will depend on how many sections you have – we recommend between six to eight for the perfect sized dragon. Paint the sections of egg carton in your favourite shade of red (or whatever colour you’d like!) and set aside to dry.
Once dry, create a small hole that goes all the way through the egg carton from one side to the other and repeat for each section. Join the sections of your carton together by threading a piece of string through each of the holes, tying a knot when you get to the very last one to secure in place. If you have something that looks a little like a long, red, wriggly worm, you’re on the right track!
Now, it’s time for those all-important details! First thing’s first, you need to decide which end of your worm-like creation is going to be the face. Once decided, cut down a couple of pipe cleaners and poke them through the top of the face for the horns and the sides of the face for the whiskers. Using plain white card, cut out some small triangles and glue them under the mouth to create the pointy teeth. If you want your dragon to breathe fire, cut up some small strips of crumpled orange and yellow tissue paper and glue them under the mouth, too. Draw on some nostrils using coloured pen, stick on two googly eyes and your dragon’s face is complete!
Using sequins, pipe cleaners or colouring pens, decorate the body of your dragon however you’d like. We recommend using multicoloured sequins for scales and little triangle-shaped sections of pipe cleaner for the spikes down its back. And that’s it!
For this super simple egg carton craft, we took inspiration from the helpful tutorial below. By tweaking this method ever so slightly, you can create any wibbly, wobbly animal or insect you’d like, cool!
DIY paper lanterns
What you’ll need:
As quintessential as the dragon, paper lanterns are one of the most popular Chinese New Year decorations – and super easy to make, too! Simple yet effective, paper lanterns look fantastic when hanging from the ceiling or propped on the table as a centrepiece.
All you need to do is take an A4 piece of red card and cut a 1” wide strip off one of the short sides. Keep this little strip somewhere safe as you’ll use it later for the handle. Once done, fold the paper in half, lengthwise. Starting from the folded edge, use your scissors to make long, straight incisions, stopping before you reach the end. Repeat along the length of the card.
Once all the incisions have been made, open the card back up and loosely fold it over widthways – you should start to see the shape of your lantern forming here. Secure both sides together using a stapler. Now, all you have to do is take your little strip from earlier, bend it into a handle shape, staple it in place at the top of your lantern and you’re done – it’s really that simple!
Even better, if you’re looking to really cut down the time it takes to do this craft, get your hands on this pre-cut lantern kit. Coming with 30 ready-made sheets of card and easy-to-follow instructions, it’s truly never been easier to decorate your home for Spring Festival than with this fantastic kit.
Paper cup cow
What you’ll need:
Okay, so it may be the Year of the Ox, not the Year of the Cow, but these bovine brothers aren’t too dissimilar from one another. Of course, it wouldn’t be a celebration of the zodiac without the animal of the year taking centre stage, and this quick and easy five minute craft is a great way to commemorate this special year.
To make this super snappy craft, simply take your brown paper cup and flip it upside down so the base of the cup is facing up towards you. Using your blank piece of card, trace and cut out two horns, and stick them at the top of the cup. Once you’ve done this, cut up small pieces of orange yarn or tissue paper and glue them between the horns, creating that instantly recognisable ox-like fringe. Now, all you have to do is use your colouring pens to draw two eyes and a big pink nose with flaring nostrils, and your ox is complete!
For similar crafts, check out the video below - it even shows you how to create a paper cup pig, so be sure to bookmark this idea for 2031 when the next Year of the Pig comes along.
Paper plate hand fans
What you’ll need:
Our last craft is one of simplest you can do, and makes a stunning wall decoration for the festive season. A step up from the standard folded paper fan, this little creation is sure to make an impact when put on display!
To create your paper plate fan, all you have to do is cut your plate in half and draw a small semicircle in the centre of the straight edge using a pencil. From there, paint the entire plate one colour (as you’ve probably guessed by now, we recommend red for this!), leaving the semicircle blank. Once dry, choose another colour to decorate the fan however you’d like, using this colour to fill in that blank semicircle for a nice, tied together look. Grab two popsicle sticks, paint them the same colour as the decorations and set everything aside to dry.
When everything is dry, take your two popsicle sticks and glue them on the diagonal at the back of the plate so that they stick out of the bottom of the fan and overlap. Glue together the sections that overlap to make it extra sturdy and, just like that, you’re done!
To see just how easy this project really is, take a look at the video below from the crafty mother-daughter duo, Clumsy Lollies.
All that’s left for us to do now is to wish you Xīn Nián Kuài Lé! However you celebrate this year, we hope you have a happy and prosperous 2021.
If your kids enjoyed these craft ideas, why not get them a fully-loaded arts and crafts kit to take the fun even further? Who knows, it may even keep them occupied (and quiet!) for long enough to let you pop your feet up and relax once all the Chinese New Year celebrations are over – phew!