Kwanzaa Activities and Fun Ideas for Kids

Kwanzaa is an African- American holiday that celebrates the harvest and teaches principles that go far beyond ethnic boundaries.

It is a week-long holiday celebrated primarily in the United States, honoring African-American heritage. It is observed from December 26 to January 1 each year. Kwanzaa consists of seven days of celebration, featuring activities such as candle-lighting and pouring of libations, and culminating in a feast and gift giving. It was created by Maulana Karenga and first celebrated from December 26, 1966, to January 1, 1967.

Talk about these Kwanzaa facts:

  • Kwanzaa was created in 1966 in the U.S. by Maulana Karenga, a professor.
  • The name Kwanzaa, which means “first fruits of the harvest,” comes from the African language of Swahili. Many of the new words you will hear associated with Kwanzaa are Swahili words.
  • During Kwanzaa seven candles are placed in a kinara (kee-nar-rah), which is a wooden candle holder. For each day of Kwanzaa, one candle is lighted to celebrate a special principle. These principles come from beliefs held by families in many parts of Africa.
  • The seven principles of Kwanzaa are: unity, self-determination, responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
  • On each of the seven days, families will participate in an activity which symbolizes that day’s principle. For example, on the sixth day of Kwanzaa people make up dances to perform for family and friends, showing creativity.
  • Kwanzaa gifts, called zawadi (zah-wah-dee), are made by hand. Gifts symbolizing African ancestry. Some examples are: fabric dolls with black-button eyes, homemade storybooks with African folk tales, and necklaces strung with specked beads. These zawadi are made and given by adults and children alike on Kwanzaa.
  • Choose a day of Kwanzaa with the group. Plan a performance for that day.

Illustrate the Kwanzaa principle of the day

Some ideas are:
Unity: Write and sing a song about the unity in school community
Self-determination: Write books or read stories about determined people who achieved great goals.
Responsibility: Make posters encouraging responsible behavior in the community. Plan a community service day for school.
Cooperative economics: Start a small business with your group in School. Work together to raise money. Use profits for the common good.
Purpose: Find and bring videos or story books to school. Choose stories where characters show strength of purpose. Discuss the videos or stories.
Creativity: Open an art gallery.
Faith: Have children of different faiths describe their beliefs. Invite clergy or other religious people to school.

Make Kwanzaa beaded necklaces
Measure out desired length of fishing line. Make a double knot at one end. String beads onto the fishing line. Use different colors and make a pattern. For example, put three red beads, three yellow beads, three blue beads, and then repeat the process. Use speckled beads. Make your own by dotting paint on solid-colored beads. Tie the necklace securely around a friend’s neck. Make and exchange many strings of beads with friends. Have a great time celebrating one of America’s own holidays!

Kwanzaa Candle Favors
From Crafts for Kwanzaa
by Kathy Ross, text coipyright Kathy Ross Used by permission of the Millbrook Press
tp rolls 1-per child
black, red and green construction paper
orange or yellow tissue paper
1. Cover cardboard tube with glue and then any of the colors of contstuction paper. 2. Cut a 10 inch square of tissue paper and place candy, nuts or a small prize in the middle of the square. Gather the tissue up around the prize and push the prize down into the tube so that the ends of the tissue papaer are sticking out like a candle flame. ~~~~Tissue paper is the candle flame!

Sand beads
Mix 1 cup of sands with 1/4 c. white glue in plastic tub. Pinch off enough sand dough to roll a bead in the size you want. With a nail, poke a hole through the center for stringing. If the dough is too soft to hold the hole, more sand until it is stiff enough so that the hole does not collapse. Let bead dry on tray until hard. Tape the end of a piece of yarn that is long enough to make a necklace and string the beads on it. Tie ends together to make a necklace. Can decorate beads by coloring them with markers or gluing tiny seed beads to them.

Fried Bananas
An African-American holiday of Kwanzaa is a holiday in which people celebrate their Aferican heritage. (Dec 26 – Jan1) The holiday is based on traditional “first fruits” or harvest.
A snack idea for this would be Fried Bananas –
Materials: 6 med to large bananas; plastic knives; lemon juice; brown sugar; cinnamon; butter; frying pan; spatula; paper towels

Ask the children to peel the bananas and cut into 1/2″ slices (you may want to do the cutting). Place banana slice on a plate and sprinkle a little lemon juice, brown sugar and cinnamon onto the slices. Put butter in the frying pan over med heat. Place a layer of slices in the frying pan. Fry both sides of the slices until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve.

Chocolate Heaven
You may also want to serve this with hot chocolate. Tell the students that cocoa and chocolate are made from the beans of cacao trees, which are found in
the troplical rain forests of Africa. Ask students to name some different kinds of chocolate and ways it is used.

Old-fashioned hot chocolate
Mix together 1/3 cup of cocoa, 1 cup sugar and 3 quarts of milk in a saucepan over med heat (serves approx 15 students) Enjoy!




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