This year, Chinese New Year begins on Feb. 10 and will be “The Year of the Snake.” That’s based on the Chinese zodiac, which follows a 12-year cycle with each year named for a different animal.
Of course, I use the Chinese New Year as an excuse to learn more about each of the animals in the zodiac (in turn). But even if you aren’t Chinese, the New Year is a fun reason to talk snakes with your kids.
I should preface this by pointing out that I’m not personally a big fan of snakes. But I treasure wildlife and want my kids to do the same, so it’s time to strap on my big girl shoes and show snakes some love.
Here are some simple Chinese New Year nature activities for kids that celebrate snakes:
Gather some intel.
I think snakes get a bum rap. Sure, some of them are deadly. And some make a rattling sound that sorta freaks me out. But kids deserve a chance to learn the facts. Science Kids has lots of interesting stuff worth checking out. Do your kiddos know that:
- Snakes can’t bite food, so they swallow it whole?
- Snakes have flexible jaws that allow them to eat prey bigger than their head?
- Snakes do not have eyelids?
- There are around 3,000 different species of snake (700 are venomous)?
No time like the present to teach your child to be snake safe. Wildlife education officer Penny, who also blogs at Wildlife Fun 4 Kids, does a great job explaining the importance of fostering knowledge instead of fear in kids.
Make a snake craft.
I couldn’t decide between a painted stick snake or a cork snake, so I let the kids choose. Unfortunately, the cork snake isn’t really a kid-friendly craft, though they were quite happy with the end result (see photo above).
If you’d like to make a cork snake for your explorer, here’s what you’ll need:
- 5 to 10 corks (we bought ours at a craft supply store)
- Red yarn
- Black marker
- Needle (large enough to work through cork)
- Knife (for slicing the corks)
- Slice the corks into equal-sized pieces. Make a hole in the center of each. (We discovered that a hammer and nail work well for this task.)
- For the head of the snake, round the sides of one cork down. Add eyes with the black marker.
- Thread a needle with the red yarn. Tie a knot at one end and thread the cork pieces through.
- Thread the head on and tie another knot, leaving some string hanging out for the tongue.
Once you’re done learning some snake basics, becoming snake safe and making a snake craft, it’s time to go see the real thing. Check out the snakes near you at a local zoo or wildlife rescue center. (In the Los Angeles area, The Los Angeles Zoo, STAR ECO Station and Wildlife Learning Center are great options.)
Your turn! What’s your favorite way to celebrate snakes with kids?