A celebration of the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day has become a worldwide celebration of Irish ancestry and culture. Outside of wearing green, your kids might not do much to participate in the holiday. But like most any holiday, St. Patrick’s Day could prove a day of learning, having fun and giving to those in need. Create memories with any of these fun and potentially educational activities to celebrate the holiday.
1. Teach Them About St. Patrick
How many people actually know about the history of St. Patrick, a saint who spent years in captivity? Read to your children about St. Patrick with an age-appropriate book. After you read to them, encourage them to give to charity by buying products that support charitable causes to help those who suffer like he did. Take them out for a day of shopping at a non-profit organization, and ask them to buy something green.
Lead by example and do the same yourself, especially for large purchases. For instance, instead of buying that brand new boat you’ve had your eye on, check a list of available donated boats and buy one from an organization that gives profits to charity. Let your children know why you choose to shop secondhand through charitable organizations.
2. Practice a Traditional Irish Dance
Search for traditional Irish dance instruction videos online and practice a jig with your kids. There are four basic types of Irish dance to start out with:
- Slip jig
- Light jig
- Single or “hop” jig
- The reel
Practice one or try all of them. Practice throughout the day, and if you want to have some extra fun, have everyone dress up in green or even traditional Irish clothing as you dance. Give a performance to your spouse or the kids’ grandparents or friends at the end of the day, or just keep it simple and have fun together. To keep up the charitable acts of the day, perform the dances for a retirement home.
3. Hold a Pot o’ Gold Scavenger Hunt
When it comes to entertaining kids, you can’t go wrong with a scavenger hunt, but you can add a little St. Patrick’s Day twist by making it a “pot o’ gold” scavenger hunt. Write the clues on green paper in rhyme, and try to incorporate symbols associated with the holiday – leprechauns, Irish hats, shamrocks, etc. – as much as possible into the locations where the kids are looking. Make the final goal a black cauldron full of chocolate gold coins or fake golden coin jewelry, and ask your children to share their “riches” with others.
4. Craft With Shamrocks
Shamrocks are practically synonymous with the day, so charge your children with cutting shamrock shapes out of green construction paper with stencils and scissors. Use the shamrocks to decorate the home or make a necklace or other crafts. If you start the shamrock project a day or two early, your child can decorate the shamrocks and pass them out to everyone else at school on the actual holiday. You could also arrange to visit a hospital, retirement home or shelter to pass out the crafts.
5. Bake Traditional Irish Foods
Children aren’t typically known for their willingness to try a lot of foods, but it will still prove educational and perhaps even surprising to bake traditional Irish foods with your kids on St. Patrick’s day. Some ideas include:
- Corned beef and cabbage
- Irish lamb stew
- Shepherd’s pie
- Reuben casserole
- Baked potato soup
- Irish soda bread
Even if your kids refuse to eat more than a bite, you can invite other adults over for dinner to help you eat your kitchen creations, or even take the food to a shelter. For the kids, serve potatoes and something they’ll eat, like some basic grilled beef you set aside before making corned beef and cabbage. You can bake and serve green-colored, decorated cakes, cookies or cupcakes for them, too. It may not be Irish per se, but it’ll still help your kids get invested in the day.
The United States Census Bureau reports that 34.7 million Americans have some Irish ancestry, more than seven times the number of people who live in Ireland. It’s thanks to holidays like St. Patrick’s Day that children can learn more about the culture and history of their past — and even if you don’t claim any Irish ancestry, there’s no reason not to get in on the fun. Have an educational, fun holiday with your kids this year, one where you emphasize giving, and come to see the holiday as more than just a day for adults and drinking.
About the Author: Ella Fairbanks is a child psychologist and mother of two who blogs about crafting and cooking on a frequent basis.