Dragon 600x400

Have some fun this Lunar New Year making dragon puppets with the kids! Dragons represent wisdom, good luck, health and strength. Many Lunar New Year celebrations include a dragon dance, but 2024 is the Year of the Dragon, making them even more special. An odd number of dragon segments is more auspicious than even numbers, which is why this project consists of five segments. Did you know? Dragons are the only mythological creature in the Chinese Zodiac.

 

To learn more about Lunar New Year, I’ve included a list of picture books about Lunar New Year at the end of these instructions.

 

SUPPLIES

  • Five 4” cardboard tubes 
  • Red paint
  • Water cup
  • Paintbrush
  • Hole punch
  • Black scrap paper
  • Scissors
  • Craft glue
  • One piece of red construction paper or cardstock 
  • White and red pom-poms
  • Red, yellow and orange tissue paper (about 4” x 6”) 
  • Paper fasteners*
  • 2 chopsticks, dowel rods or bamboo skewers
  • Glue gun or glue dots

 

I always start projects by covering my workspace with an opened large paper bag, placemat or plastic cloth.

 

DIRECTIONS

1) Paint all cardboard tubes red; allow to dry.

dragon 5

2) Make a dragon head:

  • Fold one end of the tube in to make the mouth/snout. Glue on two red pom-poms as shown in the photo. 
  • Cut red, yellow and orange flame shapes from tissue paper, gather together and glue into the mouth. It might be easier to connect all the flames at one end (with a couple of staples or tape), so you only have to glue in one piece. 
  • For the eyes, cut two ovals from red paper. Fold down about ¼ of the oval and glue to the opposite end of the tube so that the larger part of the oval is up; repeat with second oval, glue the white pom-pom “eyes” onto the ovals. See photo for reference.
  • Use a hole punch to make two black dots for pupils; glue them to white pom-poms. 

dragon 2.   

3) Make the body*:

  • Hole punch each pointed tip. Arrange segments so that holes line up and attach paper fasteners. Keep them loose enough that the dragon can move. Again, see photos for reference.
  • Cut the end of each segment (cardboard tube) in a slight triangle shape that points outward away from the center. This is where each body segment will attach to other segments. Leave one tube with one flat end for the tail. 

dragon 3

4) Make the tail: 

  • Cut red cardstock in a flame shape and glue onto the remaining flat end.

dragon 1

5) Poke a hole in the bottom of the head section and press a chopstick into it, affixing with a bit of hot glue. Repeat in the section just before the tail. 

*Optional way to connect body segments, instead of using paper fasteners: 

Connecting segments with paper fasteners on the inside of the tubes is challenging. As an alternative, create a movable puppet using ribbon instead of fasteners. If you choose to do it this way, it’s not necessary to cut triangular shapes on the ends of the tubes. I didn’t have red ribbon handy, but I tried it with strips of paper (as shown below) and it worked, but the dragon would be more flexible using ribbon.

dragon 7     dragon 1  

Lunar New Year Picture Books

  • A Sweet New Year for Ren by Michelle Sterling; illustrated by Dung Ho
  • Tomorrow is New Year's Day: Seollal, a Korean Celebration of the Lunar New Year by Aram Kim
  • 12 Lucky Animals: A Bilingual Baby Book by Vickie Lee; illustrated by Joey Chou
  • Ruby's Chinese New Year by Vickie Lee; illustrated by Joey Chou 
  • The Tray of Togetherness by Flo Leung

 

Alyssa Navapanich is an award-winning art educator who teaches art to elementary school kids in East San Diego County.


 

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