Kids Celebrate!: Activities for Special Days Throughout the Yearby Maria Bonfanti Esche
Children love learning about special days and celebrating them with arts and crafts. Skipping the typical green shamrocks, orange paper pumpkins, and red doily hearts, Kids Celebrate! lists 100 days to remember with 200 related activities for children and grown-ups. There’s a Hansel and Gretel walk for Jakob Grimm’s birthday, a Mexican fiesta for/i>
Children love learning about special days and celebrating them with arts and crafts. Skipping the typical green shamrocks, orange paper pumpkins, and red doily hearts, Kids Celebrate! lists 100 days to remember with 200 related activities for children and grown-ups. There’s a Hansel and Gretel walk for Jakob Grimm’s birthday, a Mexican fiesta for Cinco de Mayo, and a first aid kit to make in honor of Clara Barton’s Birthday. The significance of each special day is explained in this educational tribute to the holidays, history, and accomplishments of many cultures and many people.
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Activities for Special Days Throughout the Year
By Maria Bonfanti Esche, Clare Bonfanti Braham, Mary Jones
Chicago Review Press IncorporatedCopyright © 1998 Clare Bonfanti Braham and Maria Bonfanti Esche
All rights reserved.
JANUARY 1 Happy New Year
"Happy New Year" in Sign Language
Happy — Bring right palm up to tap chest twice.
NEW — Both palms up. Back of right hand crosses over left palm twice.
YEAR — Right fist begins on top of left fist, circles left fist and ends back on top (earth revolving around the sun).
JANUARY 4 Jakob Grimm's Birthday
Jakob Grimm was born January 4, 1785, and with his brother Wilhelm collected and published many old German folktales, popularly known today as Grimm's fairy tales.
A Hansel and Gretel Walk
You will need:
A loaf of bread (stale bread is fine)
In honor of Jakob Grimm's birthday, read to the children (or have them take turns reading aloud) the story "Hansel and Gretel."
Afterward, taking a loaf of bread with you (stale bread is best), go for a walk. Let the children crumble the bread and drop it on the ground to mark the trail.
When it's time to turn around and go back, is the bread trail still there? If it isn't gone already, reassure the children that the birds will soon enjoy it.
JANUARY 6 The Epiphany
On January 6, some Christians celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. This day commemorates the arrival of the three kings (or wise men) who followed a star to Bethlehem to bring precious gifts to the Baby Jesus.
Giving Precious Gifts
You can inspire some lively discussion with older children with a read-aloud of O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi." Here are some questions to ask:
What precious gifts do you have to give? We all have some! (They might be your time, talents, listening attention ...)
What would the different people you love-parents, teachers, friends, brothers, sisters-consider a wonderful gift from you?
What precious gifts have others given you?
Think of a very precious gift you would like to receive that cannot be wrapped in a package.
Think of one you would like to give that cannot be wrapped.
A Mitten Tree
You will need:
A large bucket or flowerpot filled with sand
A few tall bare branches
Children of all ages can experience the joy of giving with the following activity.
Fill a large bucket or flowerpot with sand. Then stick tall bare branches in it. Ask the children for a pair of mittens to give to someone who needs them. (Clean used mittens are fine!) You can hang the pairs of mittens on bare branches with clothespins.
Enjoy your colorful mitten tree for awhile. Then deliver your warm gifts to a local charitable organization for distribution.
The Mitten by Jan Brett, Putnam, 1989.
JANUARY 15 Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday
Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929. Although he lived less than forty years, he succeeded in making enormous improvements in the lives of African American people. Let us honor his birthday by remembering what a difference this one man made.
Walk Back in Time
Explain to the children:
Not so long ago, when your parents were your age, African American people were not allowed to do many things or go many places just because they had dark skin. Let's try to imagine what it was like to be African American then.
If you were African American:
At the playground, you couldn't drink from the same water fountain as white children.
You had to sit in the back of the bus.
You couldn't use the same bathrooms as white people.
You could not go to school with white children.
The water fountains, bathrooms, and schools for you were not as good as those for the white children.
Your Mom and Dad were not allowed to vote.
If you were an athlete, you could not play on the same team as white athletes.
If you went into the Army or Navy, you could not serve in the same units as white people.
In the 1950s and 1960s, a black man named Martin Luther King Jr. worked very hard to change the way it was. He worked for peaceful change in the laws and the way people thought. Because of him, African American people have more equal opportunities today.
On January 15, we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.
* My First Martin Luther King Book by Dee Lillegard, Childrens Press, 1987.
* A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. by David Adler, Holiday House, 1989.
You may want to photocopy the following:
"All inhabitants of the globe are now neighbors."
"We have inherited a large house, a great 'world house' in which we have to live together — black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu — a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace."
Martin Luther King Jr.
JANUARY 17 Ben Franklin's Birthday
Born January 17, 1706, Benjamin Franklin is remembered by most of us as a great political statesman and inventor. However, his contributions were so many and varied that he deserves a closer look.
* A Picture Book of Benjamin Franklin by David Adler, Holiday House, 1990.
An Electrifying Experiment
Most of us have heard about Ben Franklin's famous kite and key experiment. What this experiment proved was that lightning is electricity. Lightning is caused by natural static electricity in the atmosphere.
The following experiment from Mr. Wizard's Supermarket Science (Don Herbert, Random Books, 1980) shows static electricity in action.
You will need:
A few balloons
Something made of wool (e.g., scarf, sweater, other clothing, etc.)
You may want to work in small groups so that everyone can see.
1. Pour the unflavored gelatin onto a dish.
2. Blow up a balloon and tie it shut.
3. Rub the balloon on the wool. (What you are doing is rubbing electrons from the wool onto the balloon thus producing static electricity.)
4. Touch the area of the balloon that you rubbed to the dish of gelatin. Raise the balloon slowly and watch the gelatin. What happened? Why?
Your "charged" balloon attracted the gelatin. The balloon is charged with static electricity — the same static electricity that Mr. Franklin found in lightning.
It's Fun to Get Mail
You will need:
I envelope for each child
I stamp for each child
A note or drawing done by the child
Ben Franklin was postmaster of the thirteen American colonies. Let's remember him by making use of that postal system he organized more than two hundred years ago.
1. Help each of the children address an envelope with his or her name and home address as the destination. Be sure and put a return address (the child's home, school, or child care facility) on the envelope and explain why a return address is important.
2. Inside the envelope put a picture the child has drawn or a note he or she has written. Then seal it up.
3. If it is convenient, you could visit the post office to buy your stamps and stamp and mail your letters. Explain to the children that the stamp we buy and stick on our letters is how we pay for the service of mail delivery. A stamp is not just a sticker — it is like money. While you are at the post office, look around, and if they aren't busy, talk to the post office employees about their work.
4. If a post office visit isn't possible, stamp your letters and walk to the nearest mailbox to mail them.
5. When your letter arrives, think of Ben Franklin who set up the system so long ago.
You Can Learn Anything at Your Library
Ben Franklin helped to start the first lending library in America. In honor of him, let's pay a visit to the local library.
Many children have been to the public library for story-hour programs and to pick out books to take home. Do they know they can find a book on any subject they are interested in?
Duplicate the call number guide on the following page and give one to each child. Help the children select a subject that interests them and then to find the books on the shelves by call number. Remind them to keep the call number guide and take it along when they visit the library again.
JANUARY 18 A. A. Milne's Birthday
Alan Alexander Milne was born in London, England, on January 18, 1882. Although he published many plays, novels, and a detective story, he is best known for his Winnie-the-Pooh stories, which were written for his son, Christopher Robin.
* Read aloud from Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne (especially chapters 1 and 2).
Then try the following cookie recipe.
Winnie-the-Pooh's Honey Bears
Have the children blend:
½ cup butter-flavored shortening
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup honey
Add dry ingredients:
2½ to 3 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Blend well. Dough will be soft. Let the children pat dough flat with their hands on a well-floured surface. Cut out with bear cookie cutters. Bake at 350°F for 5 to 10 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet. Enjoy!
BETWEEN JANUARY 21 AND FEBRUARY 19 Chinese New Year
First locate China on a globe or a world map. What countries are China's neighbors? Where is China in relation to your location? What route would you travel to get there?
An exciting holiday for Chinese people all over the world is Chinese New Year, which begins on the first full moon after January 21 and lasts for fifteen days.
The following seven activities work well together as a unit. However, each one can be used alone.
In early January, we learned how to say "Happy New Year" in sign language. Now we can learn a New Year greeting in Chinese.
"Gung Hay Fat Choy" means "Happy New Year" in Chinese. If you meet a Chinese friend when it isn't New Year, you can always say Ni hao (Nee how). Ni hao means hello!
* Chinese New Year by Tricia Brown, Henry Holt, 1987.
Chinese Calendar — What Animal Are You?
You will need:
Copy of the animals on pages 16 and 17
Oaktag or heavy paper
Paint, markers, or crayons
In the Chinese calendar, each year is named for an animal. There are twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac. They are the rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. It is believed that a person's personality and character are determined by the animal of the year in which he was born. (Many children can understand this by comparing it to our zodiac signs for each month.)
Below is a calendar that you can use to discover what animal you are! Find your birth year and help the children find theirs. Then look at the descriptions below to see if your personalities match your Chinese zodiac sign.
Born in the year of the:
RAT — You are popular, good at inventing, and very artistic.
OX — You are calm and dependable, a good listener with strong opinions.
TIGER — You are brave, a deep thinker, and courageous in action.
HARE — You are very friendly and talkative. You are trustworthy.
DRAGON — You are very healthy and energetic. You are a considerate friend.
SNAKE — You love good books, good food, music, and plays. You will have good luck with money.
HORSE — You are cheerful, popular, and very complimentary to others. You are a hard worker.
SHEEP — You are very artistic and inquisitive (always asking questions). You are also very wise.
MONKEY — You have a good sense of humor and can always make people laugh. You are good at solving problems.
ROOSTER — You are a deep thinker, a hard worker, and a very talented person.
DOG — You are loyal and good at keeping secrets. You tend to be a worrier.
PIG — You are a very good student and always finish what you start. You are honest and brave.
Copy the animals on the following pages and cut them out. Let the children (or help them) trace their particular animals on oaktag or heavy paper and cut them out. Then ask the children to decorate their animals with paint, markers, crayon, etc.
If you plan to make Chinese paper lanterns, ask the children to sign their animals and give them to you temporarily.
If you are not making lanterns, the children can punch a hole in their animals, slip yarn through, and wear them as necklaces.
Chinese Paper Lanterns
You will need:
Two 9-by- 12-inch pieces of construction paper (one red and one yellow)
Have the children:
1. Take two 9-by-12-inch pieces of construction paper, one red and one yellow.
2. The yellow paper is the light inside the lantern. Cut a strip 1 by 12 inches from the yellow paper. Save for later.
3. Roll the remaining 8-by- 12-inch yellow paper into a tube 8 inches tall. Overlap about 1 inch and staple into a cylinder shape.
4. The red paper is the outside of your lantern. Red is considered a lucky color in Chinese tradition and is seen a lot at Chinese New Year. Fold the red paper lengthwise in half so that it measures 4½ by 12 inches.
5. Cut straight slits about 1 inch apart from the folded edge almost (but not quite) to the cut edge.
6. Open the red paper. Lining up the tops and bottoms, wrap the red paper around the yellow cylinder, and staple the two together.
7. Attach the yellow 1-by-12-inch strip as a handle on top. If you made animals for the Chinese calendar activity, the children can staple their animals to their lanterns.
8. If you are going to do a New Year's Parade, the lanterns look great hung off bare branches and carried carefully in the parade.
You will need:
One 9-inch paper plate
Scissors or X-acto knife
Brown and orange paint
Two Styrofoam meat trays
Small pieces of sponge
Red, orange, and yellow tissue paper
Black and red markers
Tongue depressor or craft stick
One Chinese New Year tradition is the Lion Dance, performed to "scare away evil spirits and bring good luck for the new year."
Read the following story and then enjoy making your own lion masks with the children.
Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan*s Chinese New Year by Kate Waters and Madeline Slovenz-Low, Scholastic, 1990.
1. Take a 9-inch paper plate. You (older children can do this themselves) carefully cut the plate with an X-acto knife as illustrated, cutting eye holes and a nose flap. Cut where lines are shown. Cut one plate for each child.
2. Put brown and orange paint out in Styrofoam meat trays. Give each child a small sponge to sponge paint in brown and orange all over the plate. Demonstrate how to just touch the paint-covered sponge to the plate to get a textured effect for the lion's fur.
3. While the paint is still wet, give the children red, orange, and yellow tissue paper. Let them rip strips of tissue about 1 by 9 inches and stick the tissue strips in the wet paint around the circumference of the plate.
4. When the paint dries, let the children outline the eyes in black marker, add a triangle nose and a lion mouth filled with teeth. Let the children fill in the mouth around the teeth with red marker.
5. Staple a tongue depressor or craft stick to the bottom of the plate as a handle.
Enjoy your Chinese lion mask!
You will need:
Copy of the following illustration
Paint or markers
One 3-by- 12-inch piece of construction paper, or
Two 2-by-36-inch pieces of construction paper
Two tongue depressors or craft sticks
Two tongue depressors or craft sticks
The Chinese New Year celebration ends with the Lantern Festival. On this night, a beautiful giant dragon made of silk and bamboo is paraded along the street. Crowds of people accompany the dragon, lighting his way with paper lanterns.
We can make our own individual dragons for Chinese New Year.
1. Copy the following page, one copy for each child. Let them (or help them) cut out the dragon head, tail, and eyes. Then mount the pieces on cardboard to stiffen them and cut them out again.
2. Let the children use paint or markers to color their dragons in vivid colors.
Excerpted from Kids Celebrate! by Maria Bonfanti Esche, Clare Bonfanti Braham, Mary Jones. Copyright © 1998 Clare Bonfanti Braham and Maria Bonfanti Esche. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Both Maria Bonfanti Esche and Clare Bonfanti Braham have worked as day-care providers. Esche is a librarian. She lives in Trenton, New Jersey. Braham lives in Marlton, New Jersey.
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