Chinese New Year Role Play Space For Toddlers

Chinese New Year Sensory Play

Chinese New Year Role Play Space For Toddlers

A holiday sensory and role play space is an area that introduces and teaches your little one about the holiday you will be currently celebrating. You can use the holiday sensory and role play space to introduce real-life situations to prepare your little one for the real world when those holidays come around.

It’s also a great way to expose your child to diversity.

Related: How To Start Exposing Diversity To Your Child

This past Christmas, I made a Christmas sensory role play space for my toddler. I made a role play space for the Chinese New Year for my toddler that is similar to my Christmas sensory role play space.

I thought I would share for those of you who also celebrate Chinese New Year, Lunar New Year, or Vietnamese Lunar New Year also known as (a.k.a) Tet, and would like a fun and creative way to introduce this holiday to your child.

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Table of Contents

    What is Chinese New Year and why is it celebrated?

    Chinese New Year, in short, is a 15-day festival that occurs around mid to end of January to around mid to end of February. It is a celebration to bring luck, happiness, and prosperity to the new year. It’s a Chinese festival that other Asian countries like Vietnam, celebrate as well.

    It is celebrated in accordance with the phases of the moon, which is why the Chinese New year is also known as Lunar New Year. According to, the Lunar New year is based on the ancient Chinese Lunar Calendar that dates all the way back to the 16th century.

    It is also a tradition for those who celebrate the Lunar New Year to sweep one’s floors and clean one’s house. It’s perceived that how you start the new year is how your year will be. Britannica also has more information on the Chinese New Year if you would like to learn more. It’s an interesting read with a lot of fun facts.

    Why is each year in the Chinese calendar named after an animal?

    This year, 2021, is the Year of the Ox. It follows the Chinese Zodiac which is part of the Ancient Chinese Calendar. Your personality traits are dependent on the year you were born.

    Just like the traditional Zodiac and its symbols associated with months, the Chinese Zodiac has animals that are associated with years. There are a total of 12 animals, which are the “rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig,” in that order. The specificity of these animals was all in part of an ancient legend about a Chinese Jade Emperor who decided that animals were to be a part of the Chinese Calendar, and whatever 12 animals came to him first, would be part of it.

    Read more on the Chinese Zodiac here.

    According to China Highlights, the personality traits of the Ox are strong, diligent, dependable, and determined. So, if you have a child that was born in 2021, then that would be his/her expected traits according to the Chinese Zodiac.

    Last year, 2020, was the year of the rat. My father-in-law would say the gold rat. For those of you who had a child who was born last year, the rat’s personality traits are versatile, kind, resourceful, and quick-witted.

    You can learn more about the personality traits of each Chinese Zodiac animal and its associated years on

    Why do we celebrate Chinese New Year?

    Again, the Chinese New Year is celebrated to bring in luck, happiness, and prosperity of the new year. My husband is Vietnamese American and he and his family celebrate Tet every January in the same way Chinese New Year is celebrated. I asked my husband if his family says Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year because the Vietnamese Lunar New Year (Tet) is similar to the Chinese New Year. He laughed at me and said that only Americans will call it Lunar New Year and that it’s just called New Year, or Tet.

    Going back, it’s important for me to introduce this holiday to my kids to continue my husband’s traditions and so they’re not left in limbo as to why they collect little red envelopes every year. This is why I decided to create a Chinese New Year Role Play space for my toddler.

    Just some fun facts I would like to mention. Red symbolizes prosperity and good luck. Actually, there is a fun legend based on the Chinese origin of red. Apparently, every Chinese New year, a sea monster would visit the villagers and eat them and their livestock. This monster, known as Nian, was scared of the color red amongst other things.

    There is also a fun legend surrounding the origin of the red envelopes. A long time ago, there was a demon that would visit kids in their sleep on the eve of Chinese New Year, and one family gave their son 8 coins in which the son later wrapped in red paper that was placed under his pillow. These 8 coins emitted a light that scared away the demon. Now, families would give children red envelopes for luck and to keep them safe. Info on the Chinese legends can be found on China Highlights.

    Chinese New Year Role Play Space For Toddlers

    Because my husband and his family celebrate Tet, I wanted to introduce this holiday to my toddler. My son is already familiar with the holiday. He’s 11 and had 10 years going on 11 years of exposure and red envelopes.

    How I will be introducing and exposing the Chinese New Year to my toddler is by creating a Lunar New Year role play space. As mentioned earlier, in the Vietnamese culture, the Lunar New Year is called Tet. This is how I will introduce this holiday to my toddler. Although my son is already familiar with the holiday, I plan to still teach him a little more about the holiday so he is informed.

    Again, tet is not very different from the Chinese New Year, which is why I keep mentioning the Chinese New Year specifically in this post. It is also because most people are familiar with the Chinese New Year versus Vietnamese or Lunar New Year.

    Items I gathered to create my Chinese New Year role play space for my toddler

    1. A small table, wooden chair, or floor – You can use anything you already have around your house to display the items I am about to list. I am using a Montessori weaning chair to display my items. I use this chair for practically everything, even a stool.

    2. Books related to the Chinese New Year or Tet.

    3. Red Envelopes

    4. Lucky cat nesting doll – I’ve read that the lucky cat actually originated in Japan, but was adopted by the Chinese as well. In both cultures, the lucky cat is to attract good luck for business owners. This is why you often see these lucky cats at Asian restaurants and markets.

    Did you know that there are different color lucky cats for a reason? Each color symbolizes something different. The gold lucky cat symbolizes wealth and prosperity. You can find more fun facts about each color here.

    I have decided to include the lucky cat because it was something I already owned so I wanted to try and implement it into the role play space. Also, both the lucky cat and the Chinese New Year symbolize luck and prosperity.

    Some may disagree to include the lucky cat, but again, because I already owned it, I wanted to implement it anyway. I will explain further why I chose to use it down below aside from it symbolizing wealth and prosperity.

    Why I chose these items for my Chinese New Year role play space?

    Red Envelope – The role-play in this play space is inserting play money into the red envelope. This will teach my daughter real-life situations so that when she is no longer a child and a working teen or adult, she can follow my husband’s traditions and pass out red envelopes with lucky money to other young children in the family. She will also be exposed to the red envelopes so that she has some knowledge as to why she is receiving them and what they entail.

    Lucky cat nesting doll -I chose to display the lucky cat because it is a nesting doll that my daughter can take apart and put back together encouraging size relation, fine-motor skills, and hand-eye coordination. Again, the lucky cat has no association with the Chinese New Year. In fact, not one of the Chinese Zodiac animals is a cat. However, I wanted to include the golden lucky cat because it was something I already owned, my daughter can learn from it, and because it symbolized luck, wealth, and prosperity, which is similar to the festivities and celebration of welcoming the Chinese New Year.

    12 Lucky Animals book – A cute book that teaches about the Chinese Zodiac animals. It is a bilingual book that goes through each Zodiac animal, their characteristics, and how you would write and say each animal in Chinese. On the back of the book is a Zodiac display with each Chinese Zodiac animal in association with their years.

    Books I found on Amazon for those of you who celebrate Tet

    1. The TET Pole: The Story of TET Festival

    2. Golden Blooms: Celebrating Tet-Vietnamese Lunar New Year

    3. Ten Mice for Tet!

    Chinese New Year Role Play Space Take away

    Chinese New Year a.k.a Lunar New Year or Tet, is about a 2-week long festival. It’s a celebration to welcome prosperity, luck, and happiness in the new year. Because of the Chinese legends, the Chinese New Year is celebrated by giving children red envelopes with lucky money in them. The same goes for Tet.

    Since my husband is Vietnamese American and his family celebrates Tet, I wanted to pass on his traditions. My son has been exposed for many years but wanted to start exposing my daughter to this holiday. I did this by creating a Chinese New Year role play space for my toddler.

    I hope you were able to find some inspiration from this post if you are a family who celebrates Chinese New Year or Tet, and are looking to find fun and creative ways to teach your little ones about this holiday.

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