For the month of January, we worked on a mini unit on Chinese New Year, together with Letter N and Letter Z. It was much fun as we basked in the festive mood and we took the opportunity to do a little more Chinese. I also tried some baby sensory activities for J which works well for C too! We have a grand total of 14 activities and here’s what we did:
1. Exploring the colour orange with a aloe gel sun catcher
I have been wanting to try one of these window-suncatcher activity, especially we have a low window in the kids room. So I set this up during her nap time. You will need a ziplock bag, gel (I used expired aloe), colouring, tape and a window.
C also invited J to join in the fun and guided him to touch the bag 😍 Once J can stand or prop himself up steadily, I foresee this to be a fun activity for the big and small kid. I can’t wait for then!
2. Red discovery basket for J
Find a basket (mine is from Daiso) and gather all things red (or whatever theme you have in mind) that you can find in the house. Make sure they are safe for the baby and tadah, a discovery basket!
3. CNY themed sensory bottles
I filled one bottle (I’m using the juice bottle from Starbucks) with rice and called it the [n]oisy bottle, and the other with paper in CNY colours and called it the quiet bottle. C had a preview of these bottles earlier and it was such a simple tool to get the idea of noisy and quiet to her. She told me to speak quietly and could tell when it is noisy.
How do we play with sensory bottles? I present them to baby. Baby decides what to do with them while I sit nearby and observe (and take a video). Sometimes he plays with them for 5 minutes which is really long time in a baby’s world. Sometimes he gets bored, leaves them there and gets back. Sometimes he prefers the noisy bottle, sometimes the quiet one. Sometimes C comes along and snatches from J, I mean join in the fun 😅
4. Tinker tray
I took the opportunity to toy with the idea of a more purposeful set up around the house, that C has full access for free play while the adults gets busy with chores and such. I set up this CNY themed tinker tray for some open-ended play. This tray is here to stay the entire month and into CNY, for C to tinker, explore and create whenever as she wishes.
I sat with her during the day when J was napping just to guide her through the first time we used the tray. Subsequently, she “asked for permission” to tinker and off her goes. I could even nurse J nearby while she is kept occupied. Win-win! Now what I really love about such set up is that it allows multiple visits for a period of time with one single set up. I guess we’ll be exploring more of these tinker trays, which can also be portable.
5. Counting in Chinese
We combined Letter N with our C[N]Y theme so here we have our N for [n]umbers. Since C doesn’t quite fancy counting, I thought we could do the same but in Chinese. I made these number cards with velcro dots to encourage her to count. These velcro dots are a great help because they provide a guide of how much to count, as compared to the open-ended-fill-in-the-blanks-accordingly ones (which might suit older kids better). C could attach the corresponding number of pompoms to the number as she sings along so I guess we are moving forward in numeral literacy.
6. Learning to write
The husband removed the suncatcher to clean the sticky residue on the window and I found C “trying to write” on her favourite “orange bag”. So I grabbed a few of the Chinese number cards (numbers with simpler 笔画）and guided her to write the [n]umbers in Chinese. This is the first time she enjoys copy-writing! Who says you gotta copy-write with paper and pen?
7. Books about the Chinese New Year
Titles on Chinese [N]ew Year is a really tough one because I wasn’t satisfied with the authenticity of the English titles. You know, just lack of something when a festival of your own culture is retold by someone from another. Chinese titles are even harder to find (how strange right?) After trips to the library and various bookstores, these are our final selections for our CNY reads:
《年》 tells an adorable tale of a misunderstood monster, 年, and its adventures with humans, which eventually explains the simple traditions of CNY. Simple mandarin text, delightful twist in the plot and beautiful watercolour illustrations. It is so rare to come across a good book about the Chinese New Year, so this is definitely a keeper in our home library! This books comes together with the Lunar New Year dough kit from Messy Fingers.
《公鸡的新邻居》 isn’t really a CNY read but because this year is the year of the rooster. I thought it is quite apt to bring back this book to our shelf. It also coincides with Letter N for [n]eighbour. Translated from Japanese, 《公鸡的新邻居》tells a heartwarming story of how the rooster and his new neighbour befriended each other. It talks about making compromises and sustaining a friendship despite their differences. Simple story with a powerful message.
《过节啦：春节》is a really fun and cute (可爱版）little book about Chinese New Year because it is a sticker book! Which little human doesn’t like stickers right? I love that the book includes simple descriptions of traditions and practices of CNY, which little humans can participate in by adding stickers to the scene! It can then reused in the subsequent years. And best of all, it is light and portable which you can easily bring out if you need to keep your little humans occupied.
8. Stickering and learning Chinese characters
A super quick activity to set up and naturally an invitation because 1. stickers 2. bright colours. We are practicing on stickering on the line, Chinese characters and number recognition (I wrote the sequence of the 笔画).
I made a mistake by doing this activity on the dining table which had a million of other things by the side (read: distracters). True enough after stickering for a while she wanted this and that on the table. This has never happened to us when we work at our work station. So for those who are facing the problem little humans being distracted/not interested, you might like to consider setting up a designated work station for them.
C made 2 nian monsters.
10. Even more open ended play with CNY themed sensory bin
We had some little guests over at our place and I’m really glad that the sensory bin and play dough kit kept them occupied while the adults managed to have a decent conversation! You can read more about the bin here.
11. Z for [z]odiac
We also can’t miss out on the Chinese zodiac this festive season. It’s a good time to revise our animals and to introduce C to their Chinese names. I read about the Montessori 3-part cards recently and decided to try and see how it works. I made these 3+1 part cards in Chinese for us to learn about animals. It is +1 because I included animal figurines in this learning pack. C doesn’t quite match the picture card on top of the full part one but placed it above/beside/below. I think it’s okay because she is still matching them. Using the cards alone is quite boring haha because the more fun part is the +1 which C prefers: matching the figurine to the animal on the cards.
J also has discovery basket with part of the [z]odiac troupe. We bought these animal toys from K-Mart while in Perth in 2015. They work great as bath toys and in sensory bin for babies.
12. TP roll rooster
To go with our rooster read, we did a very simple toilet roll rooster craft for the Year of the Rooster. I made a sample and set it up on C’s working space in the living room. She goes “wow! I want make”, so we spent the next 5minutes pasting on the parts. We also went on to talk about the different parts of a rooster.
I am still figuring out how to craft with little humans. There are rather specific steps, unless process art. So here are what I have learned and what worked for us this time round:
Crafting with Preschoolers Tip 1: having a sample (whether the actual one or one on screen) may invite your little human to craft. It gives them a target to model after. It may also help you to have a feel of the difficulty level of the project.
Crafting with Preschoolers Tip 2: you may like to pre-cut the materials for younger children so all they need to do is to stick on the parts.
13. Rooster painting with a fork
We used a plastic fork as our “brush” to create the feathery texture on the rooster. This is painted with crayola washable paint but it seems like acrylic paint might work better.
14. Music with A Carnival of Animals
We listened to “Hens and Cockerals” from Saint Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals to usher in the new year and to round up the animal bit of Letter N (Noah’s Ark) and Letter Z (Zodiac). We have been having our own little carnival here at home the entire month.
We play the music during our car rides, introducing C to to the different animals. Sometimes she tells us that she hears the piano or the violin and we’ll share with her what these instruments are playing e.g. the lion’s roar, the rooster’s call etc. Sometimes she talks about the animals. Sometimes she shares with us what animals she thinks the music represents. The Carnival of Animals is also perfect to be used to explore sounds and movement of the featured animals.