Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Have Fun Learning About Different Cultures Throughout the Year! Let’s Start with China and The Chinese New Year!!

Are you looking for fun ways to bring more culture into your home?  Whether you homeschool or not, we all could benefit from learning a bit more about different cultures and traditions from around the world.  When we do this we are role-modeling the value of diversity for our children and fostering an understanding of different people and their customs and beliefs.  We are also preparing our children for an increasingly global world.  Looking for more reasons to learn about culture?  Check out this short article that summarizes the key benefits.

Our family loves to learn about different cultures by anchoring our learning around specific holidays or celebrations throughout the year.  That way we are grounded in events that are happening in real time, making our experience more meaningful.  Each month we learn about a specific holiday, and integrate our learning into other areas such as history, geography, visual and performing arts, world religion, culinary, and political science of that specific country or region of the world that the holiday is celebrated in.  The children have so much fun choosing a new holiday each month and have created "passports" that are about the size of a small book made out of construction paper that are used as a way to journal about their experience.

Many of you I’m sure have heard about the Little Passports program, which we’ve never used as we like to create our own, but that’s an option if you are interested.  In our imagination, we travel to different parts of the world and add some of our favorite things about that region into our passports, it may be a drawing of a famous landmark, a description of the holiday, a phrase written in that country’s language, or thoughts on what it was like to cook a traditional meal.  Whatever resonates with the children is what they decide to add to their passports.  This monthly experience of learning about different cultures is a part of our family rhythm.  To learn more about how to create a family rhythm click here.

I plan to write a monthly blog post sharing resources and ideas on how to bring this cultural experience into your homes.  My hope is to keep these posts short with easy and fun information and inspiration!

With the Chinese New Year coming up on February 8th, my family is enjoying learning all about China!  Here is a summary of some of the things we have begun, and things that we will continue to do over the next several weeks:

The children and I start off our new monthly adventure by going to the library and picking out books to read on the region and holiday we are studying about.  Here are some of our favorite books on China and the Chinese New Year:

Folk and Fairy Tales:

Folk and fairy tales from the region are fun to read and are filled with wisdom.  One of our favorite stories from China is The Serpent Slayer.   The Serpent Slayer and other Stories of Strong Women by Katrin Tchana includes this Chinese fairy tale along with many other tales from around the world.  This month the children made beautiful drawings of The Serpent Slayer in their passports.

Some Fun Books on the Chinese New Year:

D is for Dragon Dance by Ying Chang Compestine

We also really enjoy reading living books such as Festivals: My Chinese New Year by Monica Hughes as it is told by a real person experiencing the holiday.

A Couple Good Overview Books on China:

China by Adele Richardson

Another great living book is We Come From China by Julie Waterlow.


YouTube is a great resource for looking up videos on any certain area the children want to learn more about.  We will be watching some on the Dragon Dance and various New Year celebrations such as this one here.


It's fun to play traditional Chinese music throughout the month.  We especially like to listen to it while working in our passports.  I simply create a station on Pandora, or you can pick up a CD at your library. 

Arts and Crafts:

We plan to make these Chinese Red Envelopes.  Last year we did a different version of this craft where instead of the Chinese letters, we dipped a coin in gold paint and stamped it onto the envelope. 

A Traditional Chinese New Year Craft


We’ll have some fun learning how to cook a traditional Chinese meal.  We’ll shop for the ingredients at our local Asian supermarket, that in and of itself is an exciting experience for the children!  Seeing all the different types of food, smelling all the different scents, and hearing people speak in their native language is a thrill for the children.  Martha Stewart has some fun recipes and other Chinese New Year ideas here.  Visiting a local Chinese restaurant is a fun experience too!


We’ll have some fun learning a couple of words and phrases in Mandarin Chinese, we like this little video. 

Other Resources:

National Geographic for Kids is a great resource. Here's the link on China.

Local Community:

We like to leverage our local community as one of the primary resources for learning, in support of our value in place-based education.  Therefore, we will be visiting Chicago’s Chinatown and attending the celebrations on the New Year.  Check out your local Chinese cultural center if there is one available to you. Talk to your neighbors or people in your community!  We enjoy speaking with our Chinese American neighbors and learning about their traditions.  It is a joy for the children to learn from people of all ages in our community.

As you can see, there is a lot you can do.  You can go as deep as you like or make it a light - touch approach, choosing from a couple of books and activities.  We follow our children’s interests as we travel throughout the world without ever getting on an airplane!

How do you plan on celebrating the Chinese New Year and learning a bit about China?


  1. This post is just...awesome!!! You have done a wonderful job of gathering together tons of excellent resources. This type of learning is so much fun to do, and it's the type of learning that sticks with kids for a long time. Can't wait to read more of your posts on this topic! Oh, and we have done the Highlight Top Secret Adventure subscription program before. It was a great way to learn about a new country every month. I used to do more of this type of learning through holidays more when the kids were younger, but you've got me excited about doing this again.

    1. Chris, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on the post! Makes my heart happy to hear that this information is helpful! We've been doing this for some time now, initially we were just going to do it for a few months, but the kids kept asking for more. Whenever we do take a break from it, they miss it and ask when we can start again. I think it's the simple rituals like this that have so much meaning for our children. Thank you so much for reading my blog and Highlight Top Secret Adventure sounds awesome, will have to check it out!!

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