Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Free Chinese New Year Celebration Dance Activity!

Hello EC Community,

The Chinese New Year in 2013 is February 10th.  We are saying good-bye to the Dragon, and entering the Year of the Snake!  Here is a lively movement lesson for young children that is based on ideas and traditions of the Chinese New Year.  It is designed for a large, unobstructed space, such as a gym.

A Dance Celebration
Copyright 2013, Connie Bergstein Dow


Body Awareness, Spatial Awareness, Rhythmic Awareness, Movement Quality, Prop Design and Exploration


Selections of Chinese music, preferably cuts that are upbeat and rhythmic


A large cloth (red color is preferable), small red (dessert-size) paper plates, black markers

Optional:  Visual aids, such as pictures of a Chinese New Year parade, and pictures of the animals in the Chinese Zodiac


I.  Greeting Dance

Start out the class by asking the children:  Do you know of a special holiday that many people celebrate this time of year? Explain that Chinese New Year is very similar to New Year in the United States, but it doesn’t happen at the same time, and many of the customs are different. 

Introduce the greeting dance.  This is inspired by the custom in which families go door-to-door and greet their families and friends, as a way to start off the New Year.  Put on one of the selections of music, and ask the children to walk to the beat.  Then, stop the music periodically.  Each time you stop, ask them to greet the nearest person.  First let them greet them with a “hello” and a wave, but then ask them to greet someone without words, and then ask them to wave with different body parts, such as a foot or an elbow.

II.  Gross Motor Skills Practice:
Continue the activity by leading the children in a gross motor skill exercise based on the many animals that represent different years in the Chinese Calendar.  (Show the pictures of the various animals if you have them): 

Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Boar.

Line the children up on one side of the large space with plenty of room between each child.  Tell them that they will go back and forth across the space, responding to your instructions.  Use the prompts below as a framework and add your own ideas.  Allow the children to develop each prompt before moving on to the next one.

  •      It is the year of the Snake -- how does a snake move?
  •      How would a Monkey move?
  •      Now can you go across the floor like a Rooster?
  •      Imagine you are a Dragon.  What do you look like?  How would you move?  Would you fly?      Or are you a water dragon?
  •       Imagine you are a Rat on a dark night.  Would you move quietly and swiftly?
  •       Can you move slowly through the field like a Sheep? 
  •       Now can you gallop through the field like a Horse?
  •       Imagine you are an Ox pulling a heavy load behind you.  How does that change the way you move?
  •       Can you move like a playful Dog, doing tricks as you go across the floor? 
  •      Can you dart and dodge in a zigzag pattern, imagining you are a Boar?
  •      Can you run slowly and quietly, and then leap and imagine you are a Tiger?
  •       Let’s all hop across the floor like a Rabbit!  

    III.  Dragon Parade   

      For the remainder of this lesson, you will prepare for the class’s Chinese New Year celebration.  First, ask the children to make their own dragon faces.  (Bring out the small red paper plates and black markers).  Suggest to them that they design the dragon face on the plate, and then set them aside.  Red is the color of Chinese New Year which symbolizes good luck, so you might want to discuss that as they are drawing.  You can also play one of the musical selections while the children are designing their faces.
      Another custom of Chinese New Year is parades, so explain that they are going to make their very own parade.  Bring out the large cloth.  The children will line up, and each child holds the cloth either to the side of them, or over their heads (but not covering their heads). The lead person holds his or her dragon face up high, and the line becomes the "dragon."  Play some music, and then let each child take a turn being the dragon's "head" by holding her dragon face high in the air as she leads the line.

      For a final celebration dance, ask the children hold the dragon face he or she has designed, and while the children move freely throughout the space, prompt them to dance about all of the ideas you have talked about:  greetings, animals of the Chinese calendar, parades,  dragons, etc. 

     When the dance is finished, ask each child to hold his or her dragon face high in the air while making a dragon shape in their body, holding the shape for a few counts, then melting to the floor.  


Happy 2013, and Keep On Dancin',



  1. What I love about your blog is that you engage children with questions and ask them how an animal moves, etc. I think many adults forget the importance of engaging the child and using questions as the gateway to critical thinking....bravo!

  2. Yes, I get as many ideas from the children as they get from me! I love to throw out prompts, and have the children interpret the task however they want to approach it. That makes a movement experience much richer while nurturing creativity and problem-solving skills.

    Thanks for your comment, Enrique!


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