crafts, Culture

DIY Chinese Dragon Puppet Tutorial

With Chinese New Year just around the corner, I wanted to create a craft that could help my kids excited for the upcoming festivities. This DIY Chinese dragon puppet is perfect for grade school kids because it uses simple objects to create a customizable object that they can twirl and dance with afterwards. I was surprised how much fun my kids had with this–even my toddler wanted to constantly wave it around!

Some Cultural Background

Many Chinese New Year traditions can be traced back to the story of the monster, “Nian.” Every year, this monster would emerge from the sea and terrorize villages, eating livestock and even children! While villagers hid and shuttered their doors, one old man had a different plan. He decorated a house with bright red decorations and lanterns and prepared fireworks. When Nian approached the village, he noticed this particular house. As he drew near…pop! Bang! The old man lit the fireworks and banged on pots. The loud noise combined with the bright lights and colors sent Nian squealing into the night. The villagers, from then on, spent the new year with bright decorations and loud celebrations–all to scare away bad luck and any monsters who dared come near.

Today, many celebrate Chinese New Year by participating in a lion dance or a dragon dance. The dragon dance is meant to scare away evil spirits and bring good luck–the longer the dragon, the more the luck! Your kids can make this mini version of a dragon so they can do their own dragon dance and bring their own luck!

Let’s Get Crafting!

To get started, you will need:

  1. a paper cup
  2. a marker/pen
  3. red paint
  4. a paint brush
  5. scissors
  6. glitter
  7. colored paper
  8. streamers/crepe paper
  9. a stick or dowel
  10. tape
  11. googly eyes

Here is a quick tutorial of how to combine all these materials to make your Chinese dragon puppet:

In very simplistic terms, you need to attach long streamers onto a piece on paper, roll up that paper, and insert it into a cup. You must then push a dowel or a stick so it goes through the cup and pieces of paper, pinning everything into place. Decorations are customizable!

My kids made up their own dances and performances and had lots of fun. I hope you get a chance to try it out too!

Happy New Year! 新年快樂!

crafts, Culture, Holidays

The Story Behind Chinese Valentine’s Day

This year, Chinese Valentine’s Day or 七夕/Qīxī falls on August 25th, 2020. This is the one day in the entire year that the two lovers (the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl) are reunited. It is romantic and tragic and a good reminder to cherish those we love. It is also a fun explanation to why the stars Vega and Altair seem to stare at each other from across the Milky Way.

I created a printable you can use at home to share this story with your child. It is not only a coloring page, but a folding page–one that hides and reveals parts of the image to tell the story.

My daughter loved to fold the page over and over to retell the story. She was a little concerned about how sad the story was and felt it was unfair. She tried to think of various hypothetical situations where the two lovers and their children could be together all the time. We had a talk about it, and it was a good way to connect. After you tell the story, consider discussing the following questions with your child:

  • Why do you think the Queen Mother of Heaven disapproved of the marriage?
  • Why did the magpies want to help? What can you do to help someone when they are sad?
  • If you could only visit your family one day in the year, what activities would you choose to do?

You can download the printable below in English, Traditional, or Simplified Chinese.

I hope you have fun exploring the story behind this Chinese holiday!

Culture, Holidays

The Story of QuYuan – The History Behind the Dragon Boat Festival

I’m happy to present a shadow puppet video that tells the story behind the Dragon Boat Festival in a fun way that kids will like! The benefit of listening to short bilingual videos are many-fold. If your kids are just beginners, it is a good way to expose them to how the language sounds. If they are more advanced, they can start to pick out words or phrases that was mirrored in their first language. If they are fluent, they can practice retelling the story in both languages. I hope whatever your level, you and your family can enjoy this simple explanation to a beloved Chinese holiday.

If you would like more ways to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival, Tiny Chinese Homeschool has released fun videos and activities for the whole month of June that you can explore.

Here is a recap of what we have done:

Happy Learning!

crafts, Culture, Holidays

Shadow Puppet Tutorial

As part of the Tiny Chinese Homeschool Dragon Boat Festival Virtual Celebration, we are sharing a free activity you can do at home with your kids. Shadow puppets were a traditional way to tell stories in ancient China. My first exposure to it was watching “To Live” by Zhang Yimou. It seemed like something that looked simple but took a lot of skill. Here is an example you can see from the movie (you’ll need to skip to 25:18 and just watch 1 minute of it):

I wanted my kids to try it out, so I made a simplified version of it so they could control the little puppet with just two hands and chopsticks. And guess what? They loved it! My daughter found it fascinating to manipulate the hands and body. She made up her own stories or reenacted Chinese stories I had told her. I hope you can try it out too!

You will need:

  • cardstock paper
  • brads
  • tape
  • scissors
  • chopsticks
  • parchment paper

Instructions:

  1. Print out the free printable below. Cut out the man and body parts.
  1. Use brads to connect the hands to the arms and the arms to the body. Make sure to refer to the colored circles to know which part connects to which part. Use a brad to connect the legs to the body. You need to make this brad loose so the legs can swing freely as the body wiggles.
  1. Take the square cut out and curl up the white part so it makes a cylinder just big enough to fit a chopstick or pencil. Tape it closed. Then use the colored tab at the end of the square as a flat point to connect it to the puppet with tape. Again, make sure to match the colored rectangles to affix it.
  1. Now you can take a pair of chopsticks and stick them in the cylinders. You may need to pinch down the opening of the cylinder so it fits more snug around the chopstick. You can now move your puppet!
  1. Use parchment paper make a screen where the puppets can show flat against. I used two benches and placed them on top of one another to make a stage. Tape the sides of the parchment paper firmly so it will not move when the puppets press against it. As long as you have a light or a bright window behind your stage, you are ready to go!

I hope you will have a lot of fun with your puppet! And once you get the basic idea, you can experiment with your own designs or even cut our eyes in the faces!

My kids and I used these shadow puppets to create a video that tells the story behind the Dragon Boat Festival. I hope you check back next week to see it–it will be a real treat!

cooking, Culture, Holidays

Zòngzi Cooking Video and Recipe

This is week #2 of Tiny Chinese Homeschool’s Dragon Boat Festival Virtual Celebration! Dragon Boat Festival or 端午節 would not be complete without these delicious triangles of rice steamed in leaves. It is an ambitious recipe, but worth a try. My kids are picky eaters, but the novelty of this dish interests them to get involved and try it. It’s one of my son’s favorite dishes.

Zòngzi Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2.5 cups sticky rice
  • 1/2 cup peanuts
  • 1/2 package dried bean curd
  • 1/2 lb pork belly
  • 4 shiitake mushrooms mushrooms
  • 4 shallots
  • pinch of salt
  • 12 or more bamboo leaves
  • string

Seasoning A

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar

Seasoning B

  • 4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1.5 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
  • 2 dashes of sesame oil

Steps

  1. Rinse sticky rice. Stir in peanuts. Set aside.
  2. Dice pork, then marinate in Seasoning A for 5 minutes.
  3. Dice dried bean curd.
  4. Soak mushrooms, remove stems and slice.
  5. Pare and slice the shallots.
  6. Soak bamboo leaves in water. Then rinse and dry.
  7. Fry pork, dried bean curd, shallots, mushrooms, Seasoning B, and a dash of a water with 2 tbsp oil until fragrant. Add a pinch of salt. Spoon it into a bowl and pour the remaining sauce/liquid into the sticky rice for flavor. Mix well.
  8. Take one bamboo leaf and fold it into a cupped triangle. Spoon some rice/peanut mixture to fill the bottom of the triangle. Add a heaping spoonful of pork/dried bean curd/shallot/mushroom mix. Pack more rice on top to fill the triangle to the top. Fold over and bind with string.
  9. Steam the zòngzi for 1 hr. Enjoy!

Zòngzi is so delicious! The rice has a special flavor from being steamed in bamboo leaves. The rice breaks open with a curtain of steam and sweet aroma of meat and mushrooms. The peanuts are softened but still add a chewy crunch to the dish. What better way to celebrate this holiday than with this savory treat? Hope you and your family love it!