Celebrating Chinese New Year with Hong Poas

Chinese New Year is traditionally about celebrating the end of winter, generating as much good luck as possible and scaring away bad spirits. Join in at your early years setting with "hong paos" or lucky red envelopes
What you will need:

Preparing the activity

It is certainly worth having a go at making a Hong Paos yourself before getting the children doing them too. The process is quite simple, just follow along closely with these steps:

  1. Begin by cutting an A4 sheet into quarters
  2. Fold a flap 1 - 2cm deep along the top edge (1) and then fold the remaining card in half (2)

  3. Fold another flap of similar depth all the way down one of the long edges (3) and cut the lower half of the flap away (4)

  4. Trim the smaller flap on both ends (5 & so that it will be easier to form your envelope

  5. On the opposite corner from the flap you've just finished, cut away a strip of card 1 - 2cm deep (7)

  6. Apply glue to the 2 flaps you created initially, fold the other half of card over the top and secure it to the flaps (8). You should now have a simple envelope with a lip extending out of the top.

If you would like the children to have a go at writing some good luck messages on their Hong Poas using Chinese characters, print a copy of these examples with their stroke-by-stroke guides.

Doing the activity:

Once the children have made their hong paos, it's time to put the gift inside and seal them with glue. You could talk to the children about the symbolism of putting a few penny coins inside; the idea that the gift will bring luck for the year ahead. With younger children, using chocolate coins may help them to understand that it's about giving something nice to a loved one. Remember; don't put exactly 4 coins in your envelope. Four is the unluckiest number in Chinese culture!


Traditionally children would be given the hong paos by adults in their family. However, as you're celebrating Chinese New Year in your early years setting, it might be nice for children to gift their envelopes to one another. Alternatively, encourage children to take them home to share with siblings or parents.

As well as the creative activity involved in making their hong paos, this is a great opportunity to talk about understanding the world. Why not show the children some photos and videos of fireworks displays and other celebrations of Chinese New Year too?

Tracking the activity:

22 - 36 months

Understanding the World, People & Communities; "Has a sense of own immediate family and relations"

Expressive Arts & Design, Exploring & Using Media and Materials; "Experiments with blocks, colours and marks"

Communication & Language, Listening & Attention; "Single channelled attention. Can shift to a different task if attention fully obtained – using child’s name helps focus"

30 - 50 months

Understanding the World, People & Communities; "Shows interest in different occupations and ways of life"

Expressive Arts & Design, Exploring & Using Media and Materials; "Realises tools can be used for a purpose."

Communication & Language, Listening & Attention; "Is able to follow directions (if not intently focused on ownchoice of activity)." 

40 - 60+ months

Understanding the World, People & Communities; "Enjoys joining in with family customers and routines"

Expressive Arts & Design, Exploring & Using Media and Materials; "Manipulates materials to achieve a planned effect"

Communication & Language; Listening & Attention; "Maintains attention, concentrates and sits quietly duringappropriate activity."

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