Gung Hay Fat Choy: A Storytime for Lunar New Year

A beautiful Chinese dog marionette my coworker Angela loaned to me for storytime

It was a beautiful day in the park today, and also the first day of the Lunar New Year. Since 2022 is the Year of the Tiger, we did a mix of stories and activities about tigers and New Year’s celebrations.

Here’s what we did:

Books:

Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin

I started by introducing the idea of Lunar New Year, and explaining about how it celebrated in many Asian countries on the first new moon of their calendar year. I held up a picture of a new moon, so the kids could see what it looked like. I also explained very briefly about the different animals that make up the Chinese zodiac, and that this is the Year of the Tiger. Before we read the book, we handed out small squares of bubble wrap, and told the kids to listen for the page that talks about firecrackers. The book is colorful and simple, and does a beautiful job of capturing the excitement of the New Year celebration, while describing several of the common traditions (sweeping, getting a hair cut, watching the parade). When we got to the firecracker page, we told the kids to pop their bubble wrap. They had a great time!

When a Tiger Comes to Dinner by Jessica Olien

This funny, interactive story provides advice on what to do when a tiger is coming to dinner: roar hello, hold up your claws and bare your teeth, and be sure to serve peanut butter sandwiches. The problem: all of the roaring scares your tiger guest. Luckily she likes the peanut butter sandwiches. The kids loved joining in on all of the roaring.

Little Tigers by Jo Weaver

Beautifully illustrated story about a mother tiger and her two cubs, who are looking for a safe place to live. They try a spot behind a waterfall (too wet), and at the top of a tree (too high), find a hole that’s already home to a python, and a cave full of biting insects, before they finally find a new home in an abandoned temple. The kids and adults both exclaimed over the illustrations.

Songs & Rhymes:

Going on a Tiger Hunt

I did a tiger version of the Going on a Bear Hunt chant, asking the families to repeat each line after me:

We’re going on a tiger hunt!
(We’re going on a tiger hunt!)
It’s a beautiful day!
(It’s a beautiful day!)
We’re not scared!
(We’re not scared!)

We’re coming to some grass.
(We’re coming to some grass).
Can’t go over it.
(Can’t go over it.)
Can’t go under it.
(Can’t go under it.)
Have to go through it.
(Have to go through it.)
Swish! Swish! Swish! Swish! (Rubbing hands together)

We’re coming to some mud.
(We’re coming to some mud.)
Can’t go over it.
(Can’t go over it.)
Can’t go under it.
(Can’t go under it.)
Have to go through it.
(Have to go through it).
Squilch! Squelch! Squilch! Squelch! (Clapping hands together).

We’re coming to a lake.
(We’re coming to a lake.)
Can’t go over it.
(Can’t go over it.)
Can’t go under it.
(Can’t go under it.)
Have to swim across it.
(Have to swim across it.)
Splish! Splash! Splish! Splash!

We’re coming to a cave.
(We’re coming to a cave.)
Can’t go over it.
(Can’t go over it.)
Can’t go under it.
(Can’t go under it.)
Have to go inside.
(Have to go inside.)
Tiptoe…tiptoe…tiptoe…tiptoe…
It’s dark in here…
(It’s dark in here…)
It’s cold in here…
(It’s cold in here…)
Two yellow eyes…it’s a tiger!

Run!
Swim across the lake!
Run through the mud!
Run through the grass!
Into the house!
Slam the door!
Lock it!
We’re never going on a tiger hunt again!

Five Green Dragons

I explained that dragons are a symbol of good luck. Then my coworker Claire held up five green paper dragons on popsicle sticks, while the rest of us did the rhyme with our fingers:

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 in the sun.
One danced away and then there was one.
One green dragon having lots of fun
She danced away and then there were none.

Dragon Dance

I adapted this song from PerpetualPreschool.com. We did it as an instrument play-along, and Claire did the motions the dog marionette pictured above. The song is to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb:

[C] See the dragon hop, hop, hop,

[G7] Hop, hop, hop, [C] hop, hop, hop.

See the dragon hop, hop, hop,

[G7] On New Year’s [C] Day!

See the dragon shake its tail…

See the dragon dance around…

See the dragon stomp its feet…

See the dragon jump up and down…

See the dragon go to sleep…

Stay and Play: Painted Dragons

I found this activity on Learning and Exploring Through Play, and it was so much fun! We gave the kids cardstock, which the parents helped them fold in half, then passed out tempera paint and brushes. They could either paint with brushes or just squirt the paint on one half of the paper, then fold it in half to spread the paint onto the other side, making a symmetrical shape. I also put out googly eyes and gluesticks. Some of the paintings looked more like dragons than others (some looked like moose or butterflies), but it was a great process art activity, and fun to watch as the kids opened up their papers to reveal the designs.

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