Holidays are fun. They are also a time to tap into for learning opportunities with children. St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday that mixes history with folklore and facts. The end result is a fun event, when done right, instills a better understanding of the true historical reason for the day. Enjoy the day as a parent, teacher or care giver to a child with these fun facts and activities centered around symbols associated with St. Patrick’s Day:
The clover – This is also called the shamrock. It is a small green weed-like plant with three small leaves shaped like hearts. The legend of St. Patrick includes historical evidence that he used a clover to explain the trinity to common folk. He explained that the three Biblical figures of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit were one being yet separate, much like the leaves on a clover. This history is an obvious foundation to discuss spiritual beliefs and interpretations with your child, especially if St. Patrick represented your faith. If not, it still allows for a study in religious beliefs. It also creates an easy counting lesson of 1, 2, 3. The clover is also a fun basis for several craft ideas. One easy craft is to cut the bottom of a bell pepper off and use the remaining pepper as a paint stamper to create your own clovers. The shape of the pepper when sliced is much like that of a clover. Once you and your child stamp the clover design onto paper, paint a curved line under each one to represent the stem. Many other clover designs can be made using the heart shape (3 times) combined with a curved line for the stem.
Leprechauns – These are fictitious figures that come from Irish folk lore. They are elf-like tiny creatures that look like fat men wearing a hat (sometimes a tall green hat with a clover on it) and boots with a gold buckle. Dress up like a leprechaun or have fun playing “leprechaun games”. These include just about any activity, such as leap frog, Hide ‘N Seek, Tag or even Hopscotch. Turn it into a “leprechaun” version by using your imagination or creating leprechaun bean bags or pictures of the make-believe character to hide or pin to a child’s shirt.
Rainbows – This colorful symbol of a promise, of unity, of diversity, of chasing a dream and finding an elusive pot of gold. The rainbow is also an interesting way to teach children colors, facts about science and of faith (as found in the account of Noah and the Ark when a rainbow appears in the sky as a promise). They are associated with St. Patrick’s Day because of folk stories that suggest there is a pot of gold treasure to be found when you find the end of a rainbow. Of course, in reality, the rainbow is a bit of an illusion to the human eyes. There is no beginning or end to the rainbow. So many activities and crafts can be made using rainbows. They also create the beginnings of some scientific discussions about light, droplets of water and reflections. Obviously, rainbows make a good resource for teaching colors. One easy way to remember the order of the rainbow (from the top down) is to remember the letters: ROY G. BIV. They stand for Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.
The Color Green – Green is associated with St. Patrick’s Day. This is one of the colors on the flag of Ireland. It is also the color of the clover. It also represents the color of life and is an appropriate color that goes along with St. Patrick’s message of life-filled hope. The color green is worn during St. Patrick’s Day. Some traditions suggest that if you are not wearing green, you are to receive a pinch. Others choose the alternative color orange (also found on the flag of Ireland), or wear a combination of the two.
Snakes –There is much history that surrounds St. Patrick. Some are factual accounts, while others are devised out of folk lore. One of the stories told of St. Patrick insists that he drove the snakes out of Ireland using a stick. Of course, you’re not going to want to reenact history by using real snakes for your child to drive away. However, you can use toy snakes or imaginary snakes and create an obstacle course for your child to run through being careful to avoid the snakes. While you’re at it, do a little study on snakes. Talk about what snakes are common in your area. Then, help your child determine which ones are poisonous and which ones are helpful.
Corned Beef and Cabbage – This is the food most commonly associated with the holiday. Some even turn the meal green by adding a touch of food coloring. Others accent the meal with a mug of beer colored green. Of course, green-colored beer is not appropriate for children. So, try some green-colored non-alcoholic drinks or even some healthy smoothies. Put your corned beef in a pot to cook throughout the day while you enjoy the other activities listed above. It will be a tasty treat when you and your child have completed a fun-filled day of learning.