Lunar New Year Storytime

Lunar New Year is celebrated by many Asians and Asian Americans around the world. The lunar calendar has 13 months, so this holiday can fall anywhere between the month of January to mid-February. The following story template works best for preschool or family story time. For toddlers, it is best to use an animal theme. Choose an animal from the Chinese or Vietnamese zodiac, and use it when that animal year comes around. Animals to choose from are: rat/mouse, ox/cow, tiger (and its cousin, lion), rabbit (for Chinese zodiac), cat (for Vietnamese zodiac) dragon, snake, horse, sheep (aka ram or goat), monkey, rooster/chicken, dog, or boar/pig.

Welcome/Opening Activity:

Enclose a lucky red envelope or some small toy or object symbolizing lunar new year in nesting boxes or envelopes of varying sizes. This can be the “surprise theme” to reveal what you’ll be reading about, or use a welcome song or opening fingerplay to start story time. For ideas, seeI’m a Little Teapot! Presenting Preschool Storytime (Black Sheep Press, 1996) by Jane Cobb.


Title: Ten Mice for Tet
Author/Illustrator: Pegi Deitz Shea & Cynthia Weill; TôNgọc Trang & Phạm Viết Đinh
Publisher/Date: Chronicle Books, 2003
Comments: Lunar new year in Vietnam is known as “Tet.” This is a great book to use for preschool and family story time.

Title: This Next New Year
Author/Illustrator: Janet S. Wong; Yangsook Choi
Publisher/Date: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2000
Comments: Lunar New Year is identified here as “Chinese” Lunar New Year. This book shows that many children of all ethnicities enjoy celebrating the holiday. This book will work for preschool or family story time.

Title: Dragon Dancing
Author/Illustrator: Carole Lexa Schaefer; Pierr Morgan
Publisher/Date: Viking, 2006
Comments: Although the story focuses on a classmate’s birthday party, this book will introduce the importance of the dragon as a symbol in lunar new year.

Storytelling/Oral History:

Let’s wave and say “Ni hao (nee how),”
Let’s wave and say “Ni hao.”
Let’s say “hello” to all our friends,
Let’s wave and say “ni hao.”


(to the tune of: Frere Jacques)
Chinese dragon, Chinese dragon,
Breathing fire, breathing fire,
Happy, happy new year,
Happy, happy new year,
Gung hay fat choy,
Gung hay fat choy.

(to the tune of: Row, Row, Row your boat)
Cheer, cheer, cheer the year,
A new one’s just begun.
Celebrate with all your friends,
Let’s go have some fun!
Clap, clap, clap your hands,
A brand new year is here.
Learning, laughing, singing, clapping,
Through another year.

(to the tune of: Old MacDonald Had a Farm)
Here come the new years marching ‘round, E-I-E-I-O
And one of the years is the year of the Rat/Mouse, E-I-E-I-O
With a squeak, squeak here, and a squeak, squeak there,
Here a squeak, there a squeak, everywhere a squeak, squeak.
Here come the new years marching round, E-I-E-I-O.
Additional Verses:
Year of the…
Cow/Ox – moo, moo
Tiger – grr,grrr
***Rabbit – sniff, sniff or Cat – meow, meow
Dragon – roar, roar
Snake – hiss, hiss
Horse – neigh, neigh
Sheep – baa, baa
Monkey – chee, chee or who, whoo
Rooster/Chicken – cock-a-doodle doo or bawk, bawk
Dog – bow, wow or woof, woof
Pig – oink, oink

Adapted from this source:

# This song can be shortened to 3-5 animals closest to the given animal year

*** Rabbit is in the Chinese zodiac while cat is in the Vietnamese zodiac

(to the tune of: Mary had a little lamb)
See the lion dance and prance,
Dance and prance, dance and prance.
See the lion dance and prance
On Lunar New Year’s Day.
Hear the firecrackers pop, pop, pop,
Pop,pop,pop; pop,pop,pop
Hear the firecrackers pop, pop, pop
On Lunar New Year’s Day.
Adapted from this source:


Lunar New Year streamers:
Materials: popsicle sticks, roll or red and yellow streamers.
Directions: cut strips of red and yellow streamers, each about 5 inches long.
Each child can be given 3 strips of red and 2 strips of yellow streamers, along with a popsicle stick.  The child can use tape to attach the streamers to the popsicle stick.  The two colors symbolize happiness and good luck.

Paper Lanterns:
Materials: Red and Yellow construction paper (the bigger the piece of paper, the bigger or longer the lantern)
To begin take a piece of red paper and fold it in half. Now hold the paper so the fold is facing you. Next take your scissors and make vertical cuts all along the fold leaving an inch at either end and about 1/2 inch between cuts. Next unfold the paper and bend into a roll lengthwise and tape or glue the top edge together and the bottom edge together to create your paper lantern. Next take handle  holder. Decorate more with stickers or colored dots (3/4 inch or smaller round labels of various colors, an office supply item).
Adapted from:

Paper bag puppet (dragon or lion): convert to a paper bag puppet, cut the upper lip and fangs away from the rest of the mouth to make two pieces.  Adhere top part to the very bottom of the paper bag.  Adhere the lower mouth part to just below the upper part order for the puppet to open and close its mouth)

Long dragon puppet: web/Pages/Dragon.html(popsicle sticks can be substituted for straws)

More craft ideas here:

…Or use this book for ideas and templates:
Chinese New Year Crafts(fun holiday crafts kids can do series) (Enslow, 2005) by Karen E. Bledsoe.

…Or do a craft inspired by the current animal zodiac year.

Games/Other Activities:

Here are some stretching activities to get the wiggles out between books:

(to the tune of:  Twinkle, twinkle little star)
Dragon, dragon, dance around.
Dragon, dragon, touch the ground.
Dragon, dragon, shake your head.
Dragon, dragon, tongue so red.
Dragon, dragon, stamp your feet.
Dragon, dragon, coming down the street!
(match actions to words while singing)

Growl, growl!  (sway from side to side & make fierce lion face an.d make hands likeclaws)
Thud, thud! (stomp on floor lightly)
Roar, roar! (sway from side to side, and roar like a lion)
Who’s that knocking at the door? (knock on chair, table, or floor)
Pound, pound! (stomp and jump on floor)
Stamp, stamp! (jump on floor)
Scratch, scratch! (scratch floor or scratch the air with fingers)
Who’s that wiggling at the latch? (wiggle hips)
Can a pig be at my door? (oink like a pig)
No pigs don’t roar! (roar like a dragon)
Can a cow be wiggling my latch? (moo like a cow)
No, cows can’t scratch. (scratch air with fingers)
Roar, roar! (roar like a dragon)
Scratch, scratch! (scratch air with fingers)
Growl, growl! (growl like a dragon)
It’s not an owl. (hoot like an owl)
I know who it can be! (look surprised and wave pointer finger)
A friendly lion visiting me! (pretend to open door and jump, roar like a lion)
Adapted from the source:


Fortune cookies (make sure they’re not racy Valentine’s Day fortunes for adults)
Almond cookies (keep in mind some children may have nut allergies, so always keep the packaging so parents can look at the ingredients, and have the child check with the parent before handing out treats)
Clementines (mandarin oranges) Buy a box at the grocery store and hand one out to each child. Explain that the fruit stands for happiness and good fortune.
Have a bottle of iced tea and pour them into small child-sized cups for a drink.


Sing a closing song or do a closing fingerplay.  For examples, see I’m a Little Teapot! Presenting Preschool Storytime (Black Sheep Press, 1996) by Jane Cobb.

Show a movie (anything by Scholastic/Weston Woods)

Hand out coloring sheets
Hand out stickers with a lunar new year or zodiac animal theme

Hand stamp each child with a rubber stamp using washable, nontoxic ink. For rubber stamps, choose Chinese symbols for happiness or prosperity, or a zodiac animal.

Explain the craft and have the children complete it at the library, or have them take home and make the craft.

Do a drawing story either at the beginning to introduce the theme, between books or as the conclusion to story time.  For ideas, refer to the following books:
Chalk in Hand: the Draw and Tell Book(Scarecrow Press, 199) by Phyllis Noe Pflomm.

2 is for Toucan: Oodles of Doodles from 0 to 42(Blue Apple Books, 2005) by Deborah Zemke.

Doodle a Zoodle: Oodles of Animal Doodles(Blue Apple Books, 2006) by Deborah Zemke.

Do a flannelgraph (flannel board story) either at the end or between books. Choose any of the animal zodiac themes. For ideas, see the Flannel Board Storytelling Book (H.W. Wilson, 1997, 2nd edition) by Judy Sierra.

If one is dexterous, try a cutting story either at the beginning to introduce the theme, between books, or as the ending to story time.  Cutting story books by Jean Warren and Valerie Marsh are out of print, but there is one book still in print that might work.  See: Grandma’s Magic Scissors: Paper Cutting from A-Z (Day to Day Enterprises, 2005) by Linda S. Day.

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