St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by the Irish, as well as many other Americans with the wearing of green, songs, dances, parties, and parades. People wear something green and if not they are pinched. There are many symbols to this holiday, although children tend to associate the color green, shamrock and leprechauns with this celebration. The Irish love folktales about imaginary fairies. The most famous of these “wee folk” are leprechauns, who are shoemakers for all the other fairies. A leprechaun looks like a tiny old man. They are tricky and mischievous. Legend says if you catch one, he is forced to reveal the location of his pot of gold.
Keep St. Patrick’s Day facts simple and relevant to children’s’ age, and this can be a fun, informative theme to celebrate with your little ones. They may not be ready for in depth tales about St. Patrick and his experiences and travels, but you can be sure they’ll love learning about the color green, rainbows, shamrocks, and leprechauns.
Here are some ideas for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with young learners.
The Leprechaun Says
Play this game as you would play the traditional Simon Says, but instead of saying Simon says you will say The leprechaun says… You or one of the children becomes the “leprechaun” and will give instructions using action words. For example you may say, “The leprechaun says to wave your hands.” The children must wave their hands. Then say, “Stop” Children must keep waving their hands until you say, “The Leprechaun says stop.” Repeat with other commands such as clap your hands, touch your head, turn around, or sit down. Sometimes the leprechaun will say, “The leprechaun says… ” and sometimes he won’t. This game helps young children develop their listening skills while having fun! Keep in mind that young children and English language learners should keep playing so that they can improve through play.
Cut out many gold paper circles, and write or draw simple directions on each. Hide the coins around the room, prior to the beginning of your class. Use a black witch’s cauldron from Halloween as a leprechaun’s pot.
Invite children to go on a treasure hunt and set a limit on how many coins they can find. Then after they have found theirs, the children can help others to find gold coins. Everyone drops his/her coins inside “the pot.”
Then invite children to sit in a circle, pull out and read the coins and have them act out the directions on them. For example coins may say, “Turn around three times and sit down.” “Clap your hands twice and shake your neighbor’s hand.” “Touch your heads and jump up and down three times.”
For very young learners:
Give each child a magnifying glass and hide gold coins, small toys, “lucky shamrock” stickers, gold rocks, or any other item you want to hide. Invite children to find the hidden “gold” pieces and count them. You can also do a sorting activity. Let each child take home one or two pieces of gold at the end of the class.
Sing this song to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot”
I’m a lucky leprechaun
Dressed in green.
The smallest man
That you’ve ever seen.
If you can catch me, it is told,
I’ll have to give you my pot of gold!