Making a Chinese Dragon that Dances and Inspires

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Dragons are the most important creatures in Chinese mythology, powerful symbols of imperial China believed to bring rain for a bountiful harvest and luck throughout the year. Here’s how to make a lifelike dancing dragon that can inspire kids to explore this iconic animal’s role in Chinese holidays and folklore.

Kids will love decorating this dragon craft project. An adult can string together cups for the dragon’s body, while smaller hands draw, cut and color shapes for the animal’s head, scales and tail. Working together, this project holds at least an hour of creative play.


You can use your finished dragon to act out stories, stage your own living room dragon dance or recreate a scene from your city’s Chinese New Year parade. Each instance provides an opportunity to share legends about the dragon’s auspicious powers and enduring role as a symbol of strength and luck.

There are plenty of occasions during the year to make this Chinese dragon. This is a great craft for Chinese New Year, of course, when dancing dragons appear in Chinatowns across the United States. However, don’t overlook the summer’s Dragon Boat Festival or just a lazy spring afternoon spent reading about the zodiac animals in a children’s book.

Here’s how to make a dancing Chinese dragon, step-by-step. The detailed tutorial with pictures and directions is at the bottom of the page.

Your turn! Can you share any tips from your experience making this Chinese dragon? Want to ask a question before making it yourself? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!


Dancing Chinese Dragon

Makes: 1 Dragon | Prep Time: 5 Minutes | Project Time: 2 Hours



10 red plastic cups (9 ounce size)
5 toilet paper rolls or 2 paper towel rolls
3 construction paper or foam sheets
2 plastic washers
1 sheet tissue paper (20″ x 20″)
Dragon head template (HT:
Kitchen string

Hole puncher


Step-By-Step Tutorial


The required materials to make this craft are the plastic cups, string, plastic washers and paper rolls, which together form the dragon’s body. The rest of the materials are used for decorations, which you can follow through this tutorial or create yourself.


Start by cutting the paper rolls into 9 – 2″ lengths and punching holes in the bottoms of each of the 10 cups.


Gather the sheet of tissue paper at its center and snip 1/4″ off the tip to create a hole.


Thread one end of a 4′ length of kitchen string through the hole in the tissue paper and knot to the plastic washer. Thread the other end of the kitchen string through the hole in the first of your red cups.


Pull the string through the red cup until the tissue paper is drawn into the cup and the plastic washer is securely flush against the bottom of the cup — this is the dragon’s tail. Thread the loose end of string through a section of paper roll, then through the hole in another plastic cup.


Repeat threading the string through sections of paper roll and plastic cups until all 9 paper rolls and all 10 plastic cups are nested together. Pull the construction taught and knot the end of the string behind the last cup with a plastic washer — the body of the dragon is now complete!


Time to decorate! Kiddo handprints make a great way to create dragon scales — you’ll want to trace and cut out a set of 16 handprints from colored construction paper or foam sheets. The more colorful the better. Also, download and color in the dragon head template.


Here are all of your dragon decorations once you’ve finished tracing, cutting and coloring.


Tuck each handprint into a plastic cup and secure with tape. Continue down the line until all but the last cup has a handprint attached.


Flip the cups over and continue on the other side.


Placing the line of cups with the thumb-side up, snip holes on the tops of the 2nd and 8th cups. Secure a 2′ length of kitchen string on each hole, then join the two lengths of string together to form a triangle with the dragon body at the base. The strings are used to hang the dancing dragon.


Finally, secure the dragon head pictures on either side of the first plastic cup.


You’re done! Hang the dancing dragon on your child’s wall or from a coat hanger to create a fun marionette doll.

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