Chinese New Year – Year of the Snake

by Mary Ann on February 8, 2013


snake picture

Rattlesnake entering its burrow.
Photo Source: National Geographic Photo Gallery
Photographer: Bruce Dale

On February 10, Sunday, we celebrate the Chinese New Year – the year of the Snake. When I was a child I saw a Chinese Zodiac and the year of my birth makes me an OX. Not a very glamorous animal. I always thought it would be way more fun to say that I was a tiger or a dragon. Yes a dragon would have been perfect. However, for me it is an OX and this is the Year of the Snake.

Year of the SnakeThe Chinese Zodiac, known as Sheng Xiao in Chinese, is based on a twelve year cycle, each year in that cycle related to an animal sign. These animal signs are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. It is calculated according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar . The selection and order of the animals that influence people’s lives very much was originated in the Han Dynasty (206 – 220) and based upon each animal’s character and living habits. This is the Year of the Snake.

Whenever there is a special event in the world, such as a holiday, it gives you a wonderful opportunity to create some special learning experiences for your children. In this case you could learn about the Chinese New Year itself and recreate the celebration in our home.

You could learn the difference between astronomy and astrology and there is a big difference.

You could study the country of China, the writing, the history, the culture, the arts.

As I have been thinking about it I have decided to help you come up with a very unique way to celebrate the Chinese New Year: learn about snakes. After all it is the year of the Snake.

snake pictures

Below you will find a raft of activities that you can share with your children, using your Spark Station, to interest and enthuse them to learn about snakes. Take the next week or month, put books and materials about snakes into your Spark Station and extend your learning of the Chinese New Year. Enjoy!

Chinese New Year-Year of the Snake Super Facts

• Did you know…There are about 2,700 species of snakes, of these 375 are venomous.
• Did you know…Brahminy blind snakes are the smallest snake at two inches in length. The anaconda can reach lengths of 38 feet.
• Did you know…In captivity, some species will live as long as 50 years.
• Did you know…Most snake species lay eggs, but some species give birth to live young.
• Did you know…Snakes don’t have eyelids.
• Did you know…Snakes can’t bite food so they have to swallow it whole.
• Did you know…Snakes smell with their tongue.

Chinese New Year-Year of the Snake Books to Read

Put some good books into your Spark Station to get your children excited to learn more about snakes.

snake books

1. Introduce Aesop’s Fables. Aesop used the snake to teach lessons about life. You can find these stories in any Aesop’s fables book. Here are some story titles:
• The Laborer and the Snake
• The Farmer and the Snake
• The Serpent and the Eagle

2. Read fictional stories books about snakes

• Snakes and the Boy Who Was Afraid of Them by Louis P. Barry
• The snake Who Was Afraid of People by Louis P. Barry
• Never Fear My Dear! by Rolf Siegenthaler
• The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble
• The Great Snake Escape by Molly Coxe
• The Last Snake in Ireland: A Story about St. Patrick by Sheila Macgill-Callahan
• Jimmy’s Boa and the Bungee Jump Slam Dunk by Trinka Hakes Noble
• “Verdi” by Janell Cannon

3. Read some non-fiction about snakes.
Discuss what the snakes eat, where they live and how they survive. Talk about how and why snakes shed their skin

• Amazing Snakes by Alexandra Parsons
• African Rock Pythons by Valerie J. Weber
• Eyewitness: Reptile by Colin McCarthy
• See More Readers Giant Snakes by Seymour Simon
• Desert Animals: Rattlesnakes by Emily Rose Townsend
• Slinky, Scaly, Slithery Snakes by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent
• Time For Kids: Snakes by Editors of TIME For Kids
• Snakes by Melissa Gish
• Snake-Tacular by Jeff Corwin
• The Fascinating World of Snakes by Maria Angels Julivert
• Welcome to the World of Snakes by Diane Swanson

Chinese New Year-Year of the Snake Games

Put the required materials for each game, art activity etc. into your Spark Station and watch your children get inspired to learn!

1. Have a snake egg hunt
For this find some small rocks. Have your children paint them with different colors or use markers. After decorating the eggs, hide them in a selected area somewhere outside or in your home. Once all the “snake eggs” are hidden, have the children pretend to be predators looking for food. Have them locate the rocks. Discuss which rocks were hidden the best and perhaps include a discussion on camouflage.

2. Play a snake game – “ssssilent sssstalking”
One child stands in a circle of children. They are blindfolded. Each person in the circle has an assigned number. When that number is called out they must try to approach the person in the middle without making any noise. The person in the middle must point in the direction of any noises heard. If they identify the direction of the sound correctly that person is out. You can then send a new person into the center if you want. The point of the game is to demonstrate how quiet you have to be not to be spotted by a predator. Also predators must be paying attention to spot prey.

Chinese New Year-Year of the Snake Art

snake color page1. Year of the Snake to color

2. Draw that Snake Activity
For this activity name a snake and have children draw what they think it would look like based on its name. Then show them a picture of the snake they just drew. (red-eared slider, pipe snake, tree viper, alligator snake, black rat snake, mud snake, pit viper, copperhead, coral snake, hognose snake, mamba, cotton mouth, side winder)

3. Make a paper plate snake
Provide each child with a paper plate, safety scissors, crayons, markers, glitter and a pair of googly eyes. Show the children how to useChinese New Year - year of the snake the scissors to cut the paper plate in a circle by starting at one edge and ending in the middle of the plate. You can then have them decorate their snakes with eyes, glitter, markers, paint, etc.

Chinese New Year - year of the snake4. Make a play dough snake
Make play dough by combining 3 cups flour, 1 cup water, 1 cup salt and 1 tbsp. vegetable oil in a large bowl. Add bright green food coloring and knead the ingredients together until smooth. They can color the dried snakes with markers. You can have them add eyes and even glitter. This is the perfect time to share snake facts.

5. Print off some snake coloring pages, here and here

Chinese New Year-Year of the Snake Riddles and Songs

1. Every day at lunch, for the whole week, ask a new snake riddle. Maybe your kids will come up with some of their own.

Snake Riddles
Q: What subject are snakes good at school?
A: Hiss-tory !
Q: What kind of snake is good at math?
A: An Adder!

Q: What did the snake give to his wife?
A: A goodnight hiss!

Q: What do you get if you cross a snake with a pie?
A: A pie-thon!

Q: What do snakes do after they fight?
A: Hiss and make up!

You can check out a couple more riddles here, as well as a coloring page to go with each one.

2. Sing a silly snake song

A Silly Slippery Snake
(Tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”)

Oh, I wish I was a silly, slippery snake.
Oh, I wish I was a silly, slippery snake.
Oh I’d slither across the floor and I’d slip under the door
Oh, I wish I was a silly, slippery snake.

child with snake

Chinese New Year-Year of the Snake Activities

1. Visit a nearby zoo or pet shop to see some snakes

2. Make a dot to dot snake

3. Watch a video about snakes

Chinese New Year-Year of the Snake Food

snake treats1. ssssslithering ssssnake ssssssuckers

2. Slithering Snake Burritos

3. Strawberry Banana Snake

If you love having so many ideas about Chinese New Year – Year of the Snake at your fingertips check out the fabulous Rockin Spark Station Idea Packets.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie February 12, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Thanks for the ideas. I’m going to see if my library has some of those books!


Mary Ann February 12, 2013 at 9:51 pm

Julie when I go to the library I take my list but i also ask the librarian if they have any others. I always come away with lots of books even if they don’t have many on my list. We have a fairly small library and the librarians are soooo helpful and love helping me find books. Good luck.


Katharine Trauger February 18, 2013 at 12:46 pm


I’m Katharine, from over at Danny’s. Now you have my email address so we can converse.
Amazing photos, here. Crawly, in my opinion! 🙂


Mary Ann February 18, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Hi Katherine. When you work with children ages 1-12 like I do then crawly is the name of the game. : ) I’ve got your email and I will send you mine.


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