While Chinese New Year is celebrated by over 1 billion people every year, you don’t have to be Chinese to enjoy the beauty and fun of this holiday! Chinese New Year (or CNY) is a great time to explore Chinese culture and your child will have a BLAST learning about Chinese zodiac animals in this fun Chinese New Year activity!
Read on to find out how to make this Chinese New Year game and maybe even teach your child a few words in Mandarin Chinese along the way!
Chinese New Year Activity: Learn the Chinese Zodiac!
Growing up my go-to favorite place to eat on my birthday was the local Chinese restaurant, Mandarin Garden.
My sister and I giggled over cuisine names on the menu (pu-pu platter, anyone?) and my father and I would have a contest to see who could eat the most kung pao chicken without taking a drink of water. While it wasn’t the most authentic Chinese cuisine it sure tasted amazing to us!
Ah, good times!
But the very best part was getting to read about the Chinese zodiac animals on our paper placemats.
I found out that I was the Year of the Dog, which meant I was honest and loyal, and a bit of a worrier (true, true, and true — if you aren’t sure what your Chinese Zodiac animal is you can check out here.)
The Chinese zodiac is quite a bit different from the horoscopes we are used to!
Chinese New Year is not celebrated on January 1st, because the original Chinese calendar followed the lunar moon calendar rather than the solar calendar (what most Americans are used to.) Instead of having different zodiac characters every month, the Chinese zodiac instead rotates through 12 animals every year. Each animal has its own set of special traits and characteristics.
The Chinese zodiac animals are, in order:
The year 2018 was the Year of the Dog and now we are moving forward into 2019, the Year of the Pig!
What you need to make this Chinese New Year activity
This game is going to target sight word reading for preschool/kindergarten aged children and work on their ability to problem solve and match a word to its corresponding animal figurine.
The words are written in English, but there is also the Chinese pinyin pronunciation for the word below; advanced learners can impress their friends by learning some words in Mandarin Chinese!
Here is what you will need to make this Chinese New Year activity.
- Your free Chinese zodiac printable
- A Safari LTD Chinese Zodiac Toob
- A small basket or bowl
- A tray
- *Optional – Laminator and laminator pouches
If your children are wild and unruly animals like mine, you may choose to laminate your Chinese zodiac word cards but this step is optional. I wanted ours to last a long time, so I went with laminated.
Below is your free Chinese zodiac animal printable for this Chinese New Year activity, simply click on the organe link and it will take you to your free printable!
How to make this Chinese New Year preschool activity
Here are the steps for making this CNY game.
Gather your supplies
Gather everything you need to make this Chinese New Year activity. Have your printable ready.
Cut out the Chinese zodiac animal cards
Taking the scissors, cut out all of the Chinese zodiac animal cards along the dotted lines. Try and keep the lines straight and even.
Continue until all the cards have been cut into individual squares.
Laminate the cards
If you have chosen to laminate your cards, place the cards inside the laminator pouch.
When placing the cards, leave enough space in between each so that the laminator can heat and seal the laminator pouch well (see image below to view my spacing method).
Laminate according to your laminator instructions.
Cut out the laminated cards
Now that your cards have been laminated, cut them out leaving a little bit of the clear edges extending past the paper so that the laminator doesn’t come undone.
I also like to trim the corners because those suckers get SHARP!
Protect your little ones tiny fingers and round the corners of the laminated cards a bit.
How to play
Now that you have all of your items ready here is how to play this Chinese New Year learning activity!
1. Arrange the tray
Set the tray on your chosen workspace and fill the bowl with the Chinese Zodiac Toob animals.
2. Lay out the zodiac cards
How many cards you use depends on your child’s reading level. If they are beginning readers, start with one card.
If they can read well, you may choose to start with three cards.
Have your child try and select the right animals shown on the card and place them on the correct card.
You can also ask them to read the words aloud as they go.
4. Make it harder
If three cards are too easy, up the number of cards on the tray to six or even all twelve!
I hope that you and your child enjoyed this Chinese New Year activity!
Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below — feel free to tell me what your Chinese zodiac animal is and if you agree/disagree with the characteristics of that animal!
If you liked this activity, you may also enjoy this reading game that also uses Toob animals!