St. Patrick’s Day is a weird holiday: it memorializes a saint, but it’s hardly religious. It’s a tribute to Ireland’s patron, but American’s celebrate it like crazy, Irish-American or not. It’s a fun time, but not a day off, and it’s popular, but not a big greeting card holiday like it’s February counterpart, St. Valentine’s Day. Traditionally, this weird and often wacky holiday is marked in schools with a lot of green clothing (even teenagers can be convinced to join in), shamrock cut-out crafts and the occasional leprechaun poster stuck on a classroom door. Afterall, nothing else much is going on in March. In communities, there may be parades or special functions like Irish step dancers or singers. At home, though, there’s not too much tradition involved – unless you’re really into cabbage. How can you add a little fun to your kids time at home come March 17th? Here are six at-home ideas for activities that can make this uncategorizable holiday more of an adventure. Why miss a chance to have a special day at your house?
1. Play Secret Leprechaun.
Everyone’s heard of “Secret Santa” – the gift-giving system where everyone picks one person out of a group and does little things for him or her as Christmas approaches and then buys the person a gift? Why not use this secret good-deed doing idea for the week of St. Patrick’s Day? Leprechauns are a kind of elf afterall, known for disappearing quickly. Let everyone in the family pick a name a few days before St. Patrick’s Day. Until the 17th, the person does good deeds (and pulls some pranks if you like) on the person he or she picked. On St Patrick’s Day, the family members all have to guess who their Secret Leprechaun was. The Secret Leprechaun then presents his or her “person” with a promise to do a good deed – do a sibling’s chore, make someone’s favorite meal, etc. (I’d suggest leaving presents out of it, since so many holidays seem to be becoming too much about buying gifts!) This can become a nice family tradition that helps kids think about ways to be generous in a fun way.
2. Dye Food Green
I know, this is an old reliable. The truth is though kids, even adolescents, like weird-colored food. Why not spice up the days food with some green food coloring on St. Patrick’s Day. Green eggs (and ham?), green oatmeal, green mashed potatoes, green vanilla ice cream (or get it pre-greened, like mint chocolate chip.) Experiment with making everyday food a little more fun with a wee bit of Irish color.
3. Drive The Snakes Out Of Ireland
Part of the reason St Patrick’s a saint is because he drove the snakes out of Ireland. Kids can play an equivalent (and less snakey) game on St Paddy’s day with a version of the popular kids’ party game “Stomp the Balloon.” To drive the snakes out of Ireland, kids will first need snakes. Snakes in this case come in the form of long, thin balloons – the kind that can be twisted into giraffes and dogs. On St. Patrick’s Day, no twisting is required. Just tie one end of a string to the balloon (at the tied end) and the other end to each kids ankle and tell them their objective: get that snake (the other kid’s balloon) out of Ireland (your living room, or wherever you are.) Put on some fast-paced Irish music and ready, set, let ’em go to town. This is a rowdy and loud game sure to get kids riled up. Don’t try it right before bed!
4. Find the Shamrock
Nothing represents the luck of the Irish more than the four-leaf clover, the shamrock. Elementary school aged kids can have fun trying their luck finding a shamrock of their own. There are several ways to play this game. One involves your cutting out a
bunch of small three-leaf shamrocks, putting them in a bag with just one four-leaf shamrock and passing the bag from kid to kid. Whomever pulls out the four leaf clover wins a small prize – like a shamrock sticker or a little candy. Make sure to fold the shamrocks so no one can count leaves before they pick their clover. Another variation of this game involves hiding a shamrock somewhere in the room while the kids are somewhere else, then calling them in to try to find it. A game like this can last for a while with young kids, as anyone who’s played hide and seek already knows.
5. Fill In The Blank Limericks
Not every limerick has to be “adult only” in content. Kids can enjoy this form of Irish poetry, too as a St. Patrick’s Day activity requiring some creativity. For older kids who are interested, you can just give them the necessary pattern and let them go for it (Rather than giving an explanation of poetic meter and foot, you might just want to recite one for them, or let them read one to get the idea or what rhymes with what and where….) For younger kids, you can set up the framework of the limerick and let them fill in blanks as with “Mad Libs”. For example you might start “There once was a ____ from ____” and you child might fill in the blanks “There once was a girl from school…” Explain that the last word in the next line has to rhyme with “girl” and see what they come up with. You’re bound to have some pretty funny examples of this Ireland-bred poetry form when you’re done.
6. Pin The Pot of Gold On The Rainbow
Who says you need a birthday party (or a donkey) to play a game involving pinning? An activity that kids might find fun on St Patrick’s Day is Pin the Pot of Gold On the Rainbow. Get a poster board and ask your kids to turn it into a rainbow – they can use whatever colors they like. Make sure the rainbow goes in the traditional arch. You don’t even need to tell them what it’s going to be used for. Then ask them to create some “pots of gold” by gluing “gold” (tin foil circles or yellow paper circles, or whatever’s handy) onto bigger circles of paper (brown, black, any color will do). After they’re done with the art work, explain the game. Post the “rainbow” on a wall, blindfold a kid, pspin her around, give her a “gold pot” (with tape on the back) and let her try to pin the pot on either “end” of the rainbow. Do it just for fun and challenge or offer a small prize.
St. Patrick’s Day isn’t the biggest holiday of the year, but why not try a few things at home to give the kids one more day of the year that comes with some magic, surprises, and fun?