It’s finally March, the month where the color green returns to the landscape around us. Little signs of spring are beginning to come out of hiding and St. Patrick’s Day is on the horizon. Not only is St. Patrick’s Day a spring holiday that celebrates the Irish culture and traditions, but it also provides us with some awesome learning opportunities for our little ones.
Of course beyond leprechauns and pots of gold, there are few things that children really know about St. Patrick’s Day. In reality most of the actual history of the holiday and why we have the traditions we do today (Green beer, need I say more?), are too adult for most children to understand. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other fun things you can do to help your child learn about the holiday.
I believe that learning should be fun, especially for young children, so the following ideas and activities are filled with hands-on projects.
I also love it when families do things together and I feel it’s really important for children to see their parents learning and participating right along with them. Your children will be so much more engaged and interested if you are too!
At school, some of our St. Patrick’s Day projects include color word identification and writing the color words to make short holiday stories since rainbows are so prominent in St. Patrick’s Day literature for children. Almost every children’s book related to St. Patrick’s Day involves a pot of gold under a rainbow. Children love being able to tell you the order of the colors and my kindergarten students are so proud when they can read and write the color words all by themselves.
For toddlers and preschoolers, reading and writing are not age appropriate. But don’t worry, I have fun ideas for them as well! This age group needs really engaging, hands-on experiences, which all of these activities will provide.
St. Patrick’s Day Fun for Littles
1. Color treasure hunt
Many discount and craft stores have black plastic pots you can use for this activity, but any bucket or basket will do. I like to show my daughter a picture of a rainbow by printing off some rainbow clipart. That way she can see what colors we need and we can mark them off our paper as we find them. Going in the order of the rainbow, have your child hunt for an object in your house that is red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. As they find items, have them tell you what color it is and then drop it in your bucket. Continue until you have found something for every color. You can even make it more of a challenge by trying to find 2 or 3 items for each color and then counting how many you have at the very end of your hunt. Being a rainbow detective is a great way to practice color identification and recognition!
2. Rainbow Collage
Print off a blank rainbow or draw one of your own on a piece of cardstock. Work together with your child to decorate each color stripe with craft items, magazine pictures, colored snack foods, etc. If you are using craft items, you can glue them on, let them dry, and then you’ll have a cute decoration to hang up in your house. If you use colored snacks or food, use the rainbow page and have your child sort the snacks by their color, putting them onto the corresponding color stripe. It’s a wonderful way to begin having them practice sorting and patterning skills. They could also count how many they have of each color to sneak in a little math.
3. Rainbow in a jar
Your children will LOVE this activity and so will you! All you need is hot water, a clear container or jar, and food coloring.
Prepare for creating the rainbow by filling the jar with hot water. The hot water will allow for more movement from the food coloring as you drop it in. After you have filled it with hot water, have your child carefully drop in a few drops of red food coloring. As you wait to see it swirl, ask your child to predict what they think might happen (Will it turn the entire jar of water red? Will it drop straight down to the bottom?).
Once the red has swirled throughout the jar, your child can add a few drops of blue food coloring to a different area of the jar. While you patiently wait for what will happen, you can again ask your child about what they think will happen with two colors in the jar together (Will they blend together?).
When the blue starts to swirl, add your last color by squeezing a few drops of yellow into another different spot of the jar. Your child will be so excited when the yellow starts to swirl and creates a rainbow! To end the activity, on a plain piece of paper, have your child draw what you did and create a picture of the finished product…their very own rainbow!
4. Dance a Jig
Get your child up and moving by first downloading some traditional Irish music. Teach them how to dance a jig by showing them a few steps. An actual jig is danced in triple time, but since you are most likely not a professional Irish dancer, keep it simple!
- Jump up and down from one foot to the other, pulling the right knee up while the left foot is down and then vice versa.
- Shuffle the right foot forward and back three times then switch. Do this several times.
- Swing your right foot across the left leg. Bring it back quickly and then swing the left foot across the right and back.
- Repeat this several times as quickly as you can. After doing these moves to the music, you will have burned a few calories, your child will have burnt off some energy, and all while having a little fun!
5. Magic Leprechaun Snacks
Children love to help cook and there is no better way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day then by making fun snacks! One of my favorite snacks for March is pistachio pudding (only if you are serving it to kids that do NOT have nut allergies though). I love making up a story about the leprechauns visiting us and leaving some white magic powder. Have your children smell the white powder and then they can help you add 2 cups of cold milk. The magic will happen when the white powder all of a sudden turns green! After taking turns beating it for 2 minutes, put it in the fridge until set. Serve it up and enjoy a yummy green treat!
6. (My personal favorite!) Build leprechaun traps
So much creativity and imagination comes out while working on this project and everyone always has a blast! To make the traps, gather up materials to build with. Some materials we often use at school to build traps are paper towel rolls, shoe boxes, newspapers, cleaned out milk jugs, tin foil, string or yarn, rubber bands, paper cups, and paper plates.
All of you have to do is raid your recycling bin and get started. I always tell my students that they can build them how ever they choose, but they need to make sure that it’s built in a way that when the leprechaun knocks it over, something falls on them and keeps them trapped. Leprechauns also love gold, so make sure to include something sparkly inside your trap!
The night after building the traps, gently knock one down. Make it look like a leprechaun was there by leaving a little note or painting small footprints using green tempera paint. Sometimes I leave a little trail of green or gold glitter too. I love to do both the note and footprints that lead to a pot of gold (Rolo candies or chocolate coins). The best part of this whole project is seeing your child’s excitement when they notice a leprechaun visited their trap when they were sleeping!
So this St. Patrick’s Day, don’t just celebrate by engaging in all of the better-known adult festivities. Do one of the activities above with your family and experience the holiday through different eyes. Which activity will you try out first?