Lunar New Year Lesson Plan – Preschool

Buy ahead at Oriental Trading Company

Buy ahead at various locations

  • Real Lucky Money Red Envelopes from Asian Store
  • bag of mandarin oranges
  • mango – cut up
  • $2 bills for each lucky money envelope
  • silk flower of plum peach or cherry blossom – got at Eden Center – 1 for $8
  • marionette puppet of Lion Dancer – got at Eden Center store ($12) Looks like this They also sell them on eBay.
  • another “Spring Happiness Poem” from local Asian store
  • Two red silk lanterns from Maxim in Rockville

Books to Read to Class

I bought 7 children’s books from The three books here I found to be the best for my audience level. I changed “Chinese New Year” to “Lunar New Year” and where it talked about the Chinese Traditional costume, I changed it to ao dai, which is the Vietnamese traditional costume.

Other Books I Bought

Books I got Out of the Library

I was not systematic about what books I got from our local library, I went to one branch and picked up whatever they had. These I found useful.

  • Celebrating Chinese New Year
  • Chinese New Year, by Alice Flanagan
  • Happy New Year! = Kung-hsi fa-ts’ai!, by Demi
  • Chinese New Year [videorecording], Schlessinger Video Productions, 1994

Other things I had on hand

  • beach ball globe
  • construction paper
  • small ball
  • bowl
  • small toy airplane
  • Tiger pupper (2010), Rabbit Puppet or Cat Puppet (2011), dog puppet, pig puppet Children in this class were born in the year of the dog, or year of the pig.


The teacher at school made these lanterns with the kids the class day before we celebrated Lunar New Year. The children painted them and the adults made them into lanterns and they were hanging all over the room when we got there. See below for photo of class.

Do Before

  • Fill up Lucky money envelopes with $2 bills, label envelopes
  • Attach real lucky money envelopes to letter to the parents explaining lucky money and Lunar New year
  • Put 2, 6 or 8 plastic coins in each Oriental Trading Company envelope and label
  • Make a yellow full moon and paste it on black construction paper.

The Day

lanternsThis is a class of 2 and 3 year olds. I hung up silk lanterns, placed a bowl of mandarin oranges out, hung up a silk peach blossom. The dragon and spring happiness poems were already hung up the previous week. I got Danny dressed in his ao dai just before circle time. I asked some of the children to help me hang up the last spring happiness poem (at 2 year old height).

The morning craft which children could choose or not was to make the lanterns from Oriental Trading Company. I think the lanterns they made with the teacher the previous class were more of a success for this age.

I started out by showing them a cutout of a full moon on a black piece of construction paper and asked if they could guess what it was. After a kid guessed, I told them we were celebrating a holiday about the moon and the coming of spring. I told them that in a few days the moon would look like this (full moon) but the festival started when the moon was hiding, (turned paper over to see just black). Then I brought out a small ball (tennis ball would work well here) and told them that even though the moon looked flat on the paper it was actually round like a ball. Then I brought out my earth globe beach ball and showed them where we live and that earth is shaped like a ball too.

Many people in this area celebrate Lunar Year but everybody where Danny is from celebrates Lunar New Year. Then I showed them where on the globe Vietnam was. I took out my toy plane and showed them that Danny came home on a plane and it took a whole day. You get on a plane after breakfast yesterday and don’t get off until after breakfast today. Then an adult pointed out the new year sign and poems that have been hanging up for about a week. And pointed to the lanterns and flower and talked about new things in the room. Then I read “Bringing in the New Year”, changing things to “Lunar New Year” and ao dai instead of the Chinese name. Every time they mentioned something in the book, I related it to either the room, or to Danny. “Danny got a hair cut”. When they talk about the ao dai, Danny gets to parade around showing everyone his ao dai. I even had a card which spelled out ao dai and explained to the grownups the word and how “d” (without a line across it) made it sound like a “ya” instead. Then I read “Lanterns and Firecrackers”. I pointed out the Lion Dancers and Dragon how there were people under there and they were just costumes and not real. One of the books has flowers and oranges and we pointed out those things in class (which I had brought in).

Red Envelopes and Lion Dancers

I explained that these were red envelopes of lucky money and you were supposed to say “Happy New Year” after you got one. The teacher handed out red envelopes and another grownup handed out the Oriental Noisemakers at the same time.

We need the class to make noise for the lion to dance. So some played with the noisemakers, others tore into their envelopes of play coins. I also had a pile of extra play coins. I moved the marionette puppet lion Dancer and said they could get more good luck by feeding the lion dancer. This the kids really loved. They could not get enough of feeding and re-feeding the lion. After this went on awhile. I made sure everyone had a chance to feed the lion coins. I put away the lion marionette puppet and brought out my other puppets. I brought out the tiger puppet, said a couple things and told them that it was the Year of the Tiger. Then I told them 2 things (kind and brave) which people were born under the tiger were. I told them that the older ones in class were born during the “Year of the Dog” and brought out the dog puppet and told them a couple words to describe people born under this sign. Then I brought out the pig and said the words that describe the pig. I tossed out the puppets and let children play with them.

Other stuff

I brought 2 toys we picked up in Vietnam. One is a toy frog noisemaker which says “ribbit” when you stroke his back. I let the children take turns trying this. Another was a snake on a string which we picked up in Saigon. I moved the snake around the room and said they could pet his head if they wanted to (but only the head). This again was very popular too.

Stuff we didn’t have time for

The Lion Dancer was such a success, I thought the program has gone on long enough, so we didn’t get to a game of “I spy”. I had a list of things that were in the classroom which we were going to play I spy with:

  1. I spy….  Something red — a color of good luck
  2. I spy …. Some lanterns  to help the new year find its way
  3. I spy …. Some oranges to bring good luck
  4. I spy …  some flowers to bring the spring
  5. I spy …  some Spring Happiness Poems to welcome in the new Year
  6. I spy  …. A dragon  to scare away last year’s bad luck and bring in the new year.
  7. I spy ….  An ao dai  – new clothes to wear to our festival
  8. I spy …. Lucky Red envelopes which have money for children

One other thing we didn’t do, but could have if the lanterns were not hanging up so beautifully is to have everyone take a lantern (made previously) and parade around the classroom and welcome in the new year. This is what you do on the last night of the festival.

At Lunch

I gave out mandarin orange slices (which I had previously peeled) and cut up pieces of mango to the children who wanted them. I had tried to find rambutan’s or dragon fruit, but couldn’t. This class in this preschool only allows fruit and veggies to be brought as snack because there are so many children with serious allergies. If that is not the case, the sky is the limit.