Growing up in an Irish family, St. Patrick’s Day traditions started when my brother and I were infants.
Now that I have three children of my own, I want to continue to celebrate my heritage both in old and new ways. So, while I can’t attend a parade this year, which I have (somewhere) every year I can remember, I will be doing some fun St. Patrick’s Day activities with my wee ones at home.
The gift of gab comes naturally to my family, even for those who’ve yet to kiss the Blarney stone. I plan to share a folk tale or two, and a little bit about who St. Patrick is. St. Patrick was the Bishop of Ireland in the 5th century, and he is now the patron saint of Ireland, and his feast day (March 17th) is a Holy Day of Obligation for all Catholics in Ireland.
Searching for shamrocks and leprechauns
My eagle-eyed kids love to play “I spy,” so we’re going to go spying for shamrocks. A shamrock, unlike the four-leaf-clover, has three leaves and was used by St. Patrick to explain the holy trinity to the Irish. While we hunt for shamrocks, I’ll help my kids with early math skills (I was a math teacher, I can’t help it!) by counting the leaves on the plants and sorting the shamrocks from the non-shamrocks. Considering how kindergarteners are, I expect this to last all of 5 minutes before my middle gets bored, but for those of you with older kids, maybe you can have them look for a four-leaf clover and stretch out the activity a bit.
While we’re outside, I’ll also challenge my kids to try and find a leprechaun. In Irish folklore, leprechauns are mischievous little imps who make shoes and hide pots of gold at the end of a rainbow. If you catch one, they have to give you all of their gold! I plan to make a rainbow and tape it up outside along my fence, leaving a pot of gold chocolate coins at the end of it.
It wouldn’t be a St. Patrick’s Day celebration at my house without music. A céili is an Irish social gathering with music, singing, and dancing. I will re-teach my children the unicorn song, complete with the silly motions my parents taught me, and to play a bunch of my favorite folk songs. (I recommend “Songs for the Wee Folk” by the Irish Rovers, available on Spotify).
A St. Patrick’s Day Craft!
Finally, I want to observe St. Patrick’s Day by doing a small craft with my kids that highlights one of my favorite symbols from Ireland, the Claddagh. This project is so easy that you can do it with littles who have tiny attention spans!
Supplies needed: construction paper, pencil or crayon, glue stick
1. Take a piece of yellow construction paper and trace each of your child’s hands onto it. The hand should be flat and closed. You should also trace a crown and a heart. The crown should be as wide as the heart. Cut these out.
2. Take a piece of paper and glue the heart into the center. Glue the crown just above the heart as though it is sitting on the heart.
3. Finally, take the hands and put them on the sides of the heart, as though they are holding the heart and presenting it to the recipient.
4. Explain to your kids that the hands signify friendship, the heart signifies love, and the crown signifies loyalty.
5. Have your kids give their Claddaghs to someone they love. (Ours will be going to Maimeó and Daideó.)
I can’t wait to start these new traditions with my kids. I hope you have a fun and blessed St. Patrick’s Day.