Chinese New Year is nearing and this year we would be breaking from tradition and celebrating it in the States (instead of flying long-distance back to Singapore).
Despite the geographical and physical distance from Chinese New Year festivities, I didn't want Miss 21 months to feel out of touch with her heritage. I was inspired by Happy Tot Shelf's Chinese New Year themed Learning Shelf Activity and decided to create a Chinese New Year Montessori Exploration Shelf for Miss 21 months to learn more about Chinese New Year and its customs.
The Chinese New Year Montessori Exploration Shelf is a prepared environment for Miss 21 months to explore music materials and art crafts we had done in preparation for the New Year, try hands-on activities that teach Chinese character recognition and find out more about the Chinese New Year festival.
Chinese New Year Montessori Exploration Toddler Shelf!
Here's a tour of the materials, crafts and activities I have filled my shelf and the space above the shelf with.
Wall space above the shelf:
- Fire Cracker Craft
Chinese New Year firecrackers are lit in many parts of the world to usher in the new year with loud bangs. Chinese myth has it that firecrackers chase away the "Nian" monster to keep families safe.
To introduce this interesting custom to Miss 21 months, I worked on this DIY Chinese New Year firecracker toddler craft project with her!
- Chinese Dragon Handprint Craft with Blinking Eyes
In Chinese culture, the dragon is a symbolic creature held in high honor and it is common to see the dragon dance performed during Chinese New Year (CNY). In the lead up to CNY, my toddler and I crafted a dragon craft with interactive, blinkable eyes, inspired by the custom to 'open up' the dragon's eyes prior to the dragon dance ceremony!
More details here.
- Handmade Red Banner
Designing Chinese New Year banners with my toddler is one of my favorite rituals for the holiday! It fosters cultural appreciation, preserves Chinese traditions and gives my toddler a sense of achievement to decorate the house in a festive way.
More details here.
- Dragon Assembly TP Roll Activity
This activity is a fun game for toddlers to literally make head or tail of Chinese dragons and assemble these imaginary oriental creatures so that they can soar into the sky! A fun pre-CNY activity that works on fine motor skills.
More details here.
- 12 Zodiac Animal Learning Board
Chinese New Year is a great time to tell the exciting Chinese Zodiac ranking race story. I made this 12 Chinese Zodiac Animals Interactive Learning Board for Miss 21 months to relate to the story visually and also for early teaching of Chinese character recognition.
More details here.
Middle shelf (left to right):
- Interactive Rat Paper Cup Toy
- Chinese Rattle (Pellet) Drum for Music Time
Crafting a Chinese rattle (pellet) drum tops my Chinese New Year activity to-dos with my toddler as it helps her connect to Chinese traditions and be exposed to traditional music instruments.
- Mandarin Orange Patterned Chinese Folding Fans
Made an adorable mandarin orange patterned Chinese paper fan with Miss 21 months in the spirit of Chinese New Year. The paper fan makes for beautiful home decoration and I tried teaching my little one fan dancing too!
Bottom shelf (left to right):
Book for the Month: "Bringing in the New Year" by Grace Lin
- Bottle Cap Chinese Character Matching Activity
I created this simple bottle cap matching toddler activity to help Miss 21 months with Chinese character recognition, so she would not feel out of touch with seeing her mother language in its written form.
If you're reading this post because you're keen to introduce Chinese to your little one on top of another language, you might be interested to read the following section about bilingualism. Else, skip over it!
What to Know about Bilingualism
Between the early years, particularly ages 0 to 3, it is a time when the 'absorbent mind' makes acquiring a second language comes very naturally.
As referenced on Michigan State University's Early Childhood Development site, brains of young children are uniquely suited to learn a second language as the brain is in its most flexible stage. In fact, bilingually exposed infants can detect a switch in language as early as 6 months old! Picking up a second language can come as naturally and easily as any other skill, such as walking and learning their primary language.
What's even more amazing is that learning a second language does not negatively impact the child’s comprehension or use of her native language. Parents need not worry that learning two languages will confuse or distract their child.
This is because bilingual children come to terms with the fact that an object stays the same even though it has a different name in a different language (object permanence). For instance, an apple remains an apple in English as well as Mandarin Chinese.
Advantages of Bilingualism in Childhood
Teaching young children a second language has myriad benefits:
Honing cognitive flexibility and control. Cognitive flexibility is defined as the ability to switch between thinking about two different concepts, and think about multiple concepts simultaneously. As explained on Science Alert, when bilingual children attempt to communicate, the languages they know 'compete' to be activated and used. Bilingual children must select one language and 'ignore' the other in their minds in their effort to craft the communication. In doing so, their brains become accustomed to resolving constant internal conflicts, strengthening its cognitive muscles and selective attention abilities.
Critical thinking. Bilingual children have higher volume of grey matter in their brains and bilingual experience improves the brain’s command center, giving it more ability to plan, problem-solve and perform complex tasks.
Creativity. With cognitive muscles strengthened, bilingual children become more adept at thinking out of the box and generating more options and possibilities.
I'm happy that the month of Chinese New Year is a great time for Miss 21 months to organically pick up more Chinese and explore the traditions and cultures of this festival. It's important to me that we preserve our sense of identity and our roots, so that Miss 21 months would know her heritage despite growing up in the Western world.
I hope you enjoy these fun ways to learn and celebrate Chinese New Year with your little one! 新年快乐!
To follow our play adventures, check out @miraculove_sg (Instagram), save our pins or join A Toddler Activity A Day Facebook Group.
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Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.