A to Z Mysteries: Chinese New Year Art Lesson for Kids

Watercolor dragon

An art lesson for kids using watercolors!

Grade Level: 2nd – 4th grade

Time Required: 2 45-min. class periods


Students enjoy reading a fun chapter book surrounding the Chinese New Year, and create an exciting watercolor painting of the culture’s legendary symbol.


Squiggle Warm/Cool Bleed Dimension Pattern Texture


Faber-Castell Connector Paint Box

Brushes – round and flat


Black pen

Faber-Castell 9x12 Watercolor Paper

Table salt

 A to Z Mysteries Book Cover

A to Z Mysteries Super Edition #5: The New Year Dragon Dilemma 

by Ron Roy, illustrated by John Steven Gurney

This popular chapter book series presents an exciting story of three young amateur detectives solving their latest puzzling mystery taking place in San Francisco’s China Town.

This lesson plan celebrates the Chinese culture’s legendary symbol of power, strength and good luck with the fierce and mighty dragon! Combining drawing, the concept of warm and cool colors, pattern design and paint effects, this lesson plan shows students how to create a fun and powerful piece of art.

Pencil squiggle

1. Begin with a 9x12 piece of watercolor paper. Demonstrate in pencil, how to start their drawing with a large, loose, squiggle and a basic head position. Encourage students to try different kinds of squiggles, with heads high or low, on the right or left.

Dragon drawing

2. Next, with the squiggle as the guide, show how to fill in the body. Draw basic head and horns, legs and flaming tail.

Dragon drawing

3. Continue by adding details: eye, teeth, tongue, scales and claws.

Watercolor dragon

4. Using watercolor paint in warm colors, demonstrate how to paint the dragon with a round brush, letting colors bleed together in areas. Add a pinch of salt to wet paint, and leave a bit of white paper showing through in spots for added dimension.

 Watercolor dragon

Finally, paint background and outline the dragon.


Show students how to use a medium size flat brush, and beginning in a corner, lightly paint over paper with water. Add a dramatic, inky blue (cool) color, and watch the paint spread on it’s own. You can push it around with your brush a bit, too, creating lighter and darker areas. Add a splash of purple here and there. Use a smaller round brush in between outer scales. While paint is still wet, add pinches of table salt in areas to achieve an exciting, starry effect. Be careful not to overdo it, this effect shows itself off best next to areas that are left plain.

Black outline:

When painting is dry, have students outline their dragon in black pen, and add additional texture and interest by drawing any type of pattern representing scales on the body.

Download the entire lesson plan here!


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