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Celebrate the lunar new year with this Chinese New Year dragon craft made of recycled cardboard tubes. You can make the dragon craft into a puppet and make it dance!
Growing up in Taiwan, the Chinese dragon (龍) has always been a huge part of my culture. It symbolizes power, strength, and good luck. That’s why as part of Chinese New Year celebrations, you can look forward to seeing the Chinese dragon dance (舞龍) performance.
This Chinese New Year dragon craft imitates the dragon used in the traditional dragon dance performance. The dragon in the dance is assembled by joining series of sections held up by poles, with the ornamental head and the tail at the ends.
The awesome thing about this Chinese dragon craft is that you can easily convert it into a puppet. The different sections connected with the brads can move just like the dragon used in the Chinese dragon dance. So after you finish the craft, your kids will have tons of fun playing with the dragon and making it dance to Chinese music.
Chinese New Year Dragon Craft Tutorial
Chinese Dragon Craft Supplies:
- 2 paper towel cardboard tubes
- Tempera or acrylic red paint
- 6 to 8 brads (depends on how many cardboard tube sections you include)
- Colorful paper flowers (you can also cut out your own)
- 2 googly eyes
- 2 small red buttons
- Glue or glue dots
- Gold ribbon
- Hole puncher
- 2 popsicle sticks (optional, for making the dragon into a puppet).
1. Make the Sections of the Dragon
Cut each paper towel cardboard tube into 3 equal-sized pieces (each should be about 3” long). How many pieces you end up using will depend on how long you want your Chinese dragon to be. Leave one piece aside for the head.
Cut a curve on each side of each piece. This will allow the body to have room to move when they are attached.
2. Make the Dragon Head
Take the cardboard tube piece you reserved for the head in the previous step and cut it so that you have a piece that’s about 1” long and another about 2” long.
Cut a curve on one side of the 1” piece so that it will fit on the 2″ section to form the head of the dragon. Glue this 1” piece to the top of the 2” piece (it should rest toward one side of the cardboard tube).
Cut a curve on the side of the 2” piece that does not have the 1” piece on top. This will allow the head to connect to the rest of the body.
3. Punch Holes in Each Section
Punch a hole in each of the pointed ends created by the curves. We used a star-shaped hole puncher, but you can use just a regular hole puncher. Just make sure the hole is smaller than the brad front you are using.
4. Paint the Dragon
Chinese dragons are typically red (because red symbolizes good luck). Paint all the cardboard tubes with red paint and allow them to dry completely.
5. Decorate the Head
Decorate the head with paper flowers, googly eyes, and red buttons. All of these materials are substitutable with construction paper or cardstock if you don’t have them at home.
Glue the paper flowers on the 1” section so that they cover the front and sides of the face. Glue the googly eyes on the paper flowers.
Glue the buttons on the 2” section for the nose.
6. Create the Fire-Breathing Dragon Mouth
Cut lengths of the gold ribbon and glue them together on one end. Then glue them to the inside of the dragon’s mouth. This will make the dragon look like it’s breathing gold flames.
7. Put the Dragon Together
Connect all the sections together using brads. Just simply place the brad into the holes with the prongs inside the cardboard tubes. Separate the prongs and spread them flush with the sides of the cardboard tubes.
Decorate the body of the dragon with paper flowers and other decorations! Feel free to use stickers, sequins, or other items you have at home.
You are done with the Chinese dragon craft! But if you want to make the dragon into a puppet and have it dance, then keep reading!
8. Transform the Dragon Craft into a Puppet
Use scissors or a craft knife to pierce a small slice on the bottom of the head and the tail. Place a popsicle stick through each hole.
If the holes you made are too big, the popsicle sticks may fall out or feel wiggly. In that case, you can use glue to make sure the popsicle sticks stay in place.
The Chinese dragon is ready to dance!
How to Play with the Chinese Dragon
To make the dragon dance, simply hold on to the two popsicle sticks and move them up and down. You can try making wave-like patterns and watch the different pieces move!
If your dragon is having trouble moving, try loosening the brads a little. If they are too tight, they might prevent the cardboard tubes from moving freely.
I hope you and your kids have a lot of fun making this Chinese New Year dragon craft! If you have never seen a dragon dance performance before, here is a good video to show your kids:
If you like this Chinese new year dragon craft and looking for more craft ideas for the Chinese New Year, make sure you check out our Chinese Lantern Tutorial.
Happy Chinese New Year! 新年快樂！