Chinese New Year | Kids Yoga Class Plan

This is part of the Seasonal Kids Yoga Bundle, including five kids yoga class plans for annual festivals.

I was doing a class this week about Chinese New Year, and thought it would be good to share my kids yoga class plan with you. It’s based on the story of the Great Race – about how the years became associated with different animals.

We’ve included some audio recordings of me being the different characters too, as inspiration for you if you intend to run a class!


Today we are learning about the Chinese New Year which this year falls on Sunday 10th February.

We open the door and it’s a sunny day. On all fours we get into our time machine. We cross our legs and “tick tock like a clock until I find my centre” (sat crossed legs, singing the rhyme, rocking side to side, using hands either side for balance)

We’re in China, and we go into a big beautiful temple, where the Jade Emperor lives. We bow and say Namaste. Today it’s his birthday, so the Emperor blows all his candles out on his birthday cake. Then the Emperor says:

“I wish to have a swimming race for the animals. And the first 12 to cross the fast flowing river will be the winners and will have a Chinese year named after them!”
Jaime’s impression of The Emperor

Now it’s time for the race! All the animals lined up.

The rat and the cat were good friends, but were worried because they were poor swimmers. Being clever they asked the strong ox if he would carry them across the river.

‘Of course’ said the kind ox. ‘Just climb on my back and I will take you across.’
Jaime’s impression of the ox

The rat and the cat quickly jumped up and were very excited when the ox soon took the lead in the race. They had almost reached the other bank when the rat pushed (with two hands) the cat into the river leaving him to struggled in the water (you could use Happy Baby here if you prefer). Then just before the ox was about to win the race the rat leapt on his head and on to the bank to finish first!

‘Well done,’ said the Jade Emperor to the proud rat. ‘The first Chinese Year will be named after you.’  He bows [bow with hands in Namaste].

The poor ox had been tricked into second place so the second Chinese Year was named after him.

Shortly after, the exhausted tiger clawed his way to the river bank to claim third place. Swimming across the river had been an enormous struggle for him against the strong currents. The Emperor was so delighted with his efforts that he named the third year after him.

Next to arrive was the rabbit [Down dog with hops up], who hadn’t swum across at all. He hopped across on some stepping stones and then balanced on a floating wooden log which carried him to the shore. ‘I shall be very happy to call the fourth year after you,’ the surprised Jade Emperor explained.

Just then a kind dragon swooped down to take fifth place.

‘Why didn’t you win the race, as you can fly as well as swim?’ the Jade Emperor asked.

‘I was held up because some people and animals needed water to drink. I needed to make some rain,’ the dragon explained. [Pitter patter with your finger tips all over our bodies] ‘Then when I was nearly here I saw a poor little rabbit on a log in the water and I blew a puff of wind [blowing] so that the log would float to the river bank.’

‘Well that was very kind of you and now you are here you will have the fifth year named after you,’ said the emperor.

The Jade Emperor heard something [rubbing his ears] … the sound of the horse’s hooves. Just as he was thinking the horse would be the next animal to arrive, a sneaky ssssssnake wriggled out from behind one of the horse’s hooves. The horse was so surprised that he jumped backwards so the snake took the sixth place in the race. The poor horse had to be satisfied with seventh place!

Not long afterwards a boat arrived carrying the Billy the Goat [seated twist with one leg stretched out and one knee bent with foot flat],the monkey and the rooster.

They explained to the Emperor how they had shared the raft that the rooster had found. The goat and monkey had cleared weeds and pushed the raft to the shore. The Emperor was very pleased that the animals had worked together. He said the goat [seated twist with one leg stretched out and one knee bent with foot flat] would be the eighth animal.

Billy The Goat is pleased!

…the monkey the ninth

Monkey’s pretty chuffed too.

…and the rooster the tenth.

Rooster’s clucking with joy.

The next animal to finish was the dog.

“Why are you so late when you are one of the best swimmers?” asked the Jade Emperor. “The water in the river was so clean that I had a bath on the way,” explained the dog.

His reward was to have the eleventh year named after him.

Now there was one place left and the Emperor wondered when the last winner would come. He had nearly given up when he heard a grunt from the the boar. [all fours – nose on the ground!]

“You took a long time to cross the river,” said the Emperor to the boar.

“I’m so sorry Emperor! I was hungry and I stopped to eat,” explained the boar, patting her head and rubbing her tummy at the same time. “After the meal I felt so tired that I fell asleep.”
The boar making her apologies

“You have still done well,” said the Jade Emperor. “The last year will be named after you.”

As for the cat who had been pushed into the water by the rat, he finally crawled out of the water but was too late to have a year named after him. He felt very cross with the rat and since then cats have never been friends with rats.

From that day on, the Chinese Zodiac has followed this cycle of years named after these twelve animals. We blow goodbye kisses and get back in our time machine [on all fours], sitting up with our legs crossed we rock side to side saying ‘tick tock like a clock until I find my centre’.

And then we’re home and we snuggle down into our beds for a rest…