For many, the holidays are all about spending time with family and friends. This is especially true when it comes to celebrating Kwanzaa, because the holiday can be an important time to check in with your children and remind them of the ideas that are so near and dear to the season.
For those who are unfamiliar with the holiday, Kwanzaa is built around seven foundational principles, or the Nguzo Saba. Each of these ideas presents an awesome opportunity for your family to teach your children what it means to care for one another and the people around them, making Kwanzaa the perfect occasion to connect with your loved ones. That said, there’s no better way to make memories than by creating fun arts and crafts, so we’ve compiled a list of all our favorite Kwanzaa activities and celebration ideas right here in this guide.
So whether this is your first year celebrating Kwanzaa or you’re just looking for new ways to celebrate with your family, read on to explore our complete guide to Kwanzaa activities and arts and crafts for kids!
What is Kwanzaa and How Is It Celebrated?
Unlike other winter holidays, Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday. Instead, Kwanzaa was established in 1966 as a way for families with African roots to celebrate their heritage, community, ancestry, and other overarching themes like nature, justice, family, and unity. During Kwanzaa, families are invited to celebrate black culture and black communities by inspiring themselves and others to become more united, self-determined, creative, and responsible for uplifting those around them.
Every year on December 26, families begin the week-long celebration of Kwanzaa. During this time, they’ll work their way through lighting the seven candles of the Kinara (a candelabra that holds one black, three green, and three red candles), then celebrate the Karamu (or Kwanzaa feast) on the sixth day of Kwanzaa, and finally exchange gifts on the seventh, final day of Kwanzaa.
What Do The 7 Candles in Kwanza Stand For?
Each of the seven candles on the Kinara stands for one of the seven principles, or the “Nguzo Saba”, of Kwanzaa. These guiding principles give families the opportunity to teach their children about each of these ideas and weigh in on the importance of each concept.
What Are the 7 Principles of Kwanzaa?
The seven principles of Kwanzaa, translated from Swahili, are as follows:
- Umoja or “Unity”
- Kujichagulia or “Self-Determination”
- Ujima or “Collective Work and Responsibility”
- Ujamaa or “Cooperative Economics”
- Nia or “Purpose”
- Kuumba or “Creativity”
- Imani or “Faith”
Each day of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of these seven principles. The day’s celebration is marked by the family lighting the designated candle on the Kinara to honor each of these seven principles.
The Best Kwanzaa Traditions to Celebrate With Kids
When it comes to actual Kwanzaa traditions, there are a ton of ways to get your kids involved and ensure they’re learning about the 7 principles of Kwanzaa. Read on for our best tips for celebrating Kwanzaa with kids, and how to keep them involved at every step of the way!
How to Set Up the Kwanzaa Kinara With Kids
Before lighting any candles, each family should secure a mkeka, or straw mat, to set their kinara on. Most families will display the mkeka and kinara on a communal place like a dining table, and then arrange the seven candles in their proper places across the kinara.
As mentioned, each kinara should be set with one black candle, three red candles, and three green candles. In the middle of the kinara, families should place the black candle, and then on either side place each of the three red and each of the green candles. When properly arranged, the kinara will then have three red candles side by side, the innermost black candle, and three green candles standing side by side.
Task younger kids with arranging the candles in the kinara, but make sure to ask older children to oversee their work. From there, you can also ask older siblings to remind the family what each candle represents and assign them specific days to lead the family’s discussion of the principle!
If you’re headed out to celebrate the holiday with loved ones, make sure to pack plenty of Kwanzaa arts and crafts supplies in Baby Brezza’s 17 pocket diaper bag. Beyond having room to spare for all your baby’s needs, you’ll be able to fit plenty of coloring and craft supplies for older children in this time-saving bag.
How to Light the 7 Kwanzaa Candles With Kids
Each day, families can allow their children to take turns lighting one of the seven candles on the kinara. An easy way to get your children involved is to give each child the responsibility of carefully lighting the candle, and then telling the family what the day’s principle means to them. Kiddos who are still too young to handle lighting the candle, can still lead the discussion, just make sure they know which principle they’ll need to discuss!
In order to properly celebrate Kwanzaa you’ll also need to stick to the designated schedule and light your candles in the following order:
- First Day (Umoja): Light the black candle on the first day of Kwanzaa.
- Second Day (Kujichagulia): You'll light the black candle and the far left red candle.
- Third Day (Ujaama): You'll light the black candle and the two far left red candles.
- Fourth Day (Kuumba): You'll light the black candle first, and the far left red, moving from left to right until all red candles are lit.
- Fifth Day (Ujima): You'll light the black candle first, then the three red candles, moving from left to right and the green candle beside the black candle.
- Six Day (Nia): You'll light the black candle first, then moving left to right, light the red candles and the first and second green candles closest to the black candle.
- Seventh Day (Imani): You'll light all of the candles, starting with the black candle. Move to the far red candle and proceed to light all of the red candles, moving to the first green candle beside the black candle. Continue until all of the green candles are lit. - Official Kwanzaa Website
When it’s time to turn in for the day, tuck your young ones in with Baby Brezza’s favorite 3-in-1 Swaddle Transition Sleepsuit or Smart Soothing Mat products. These will help baby fall asleep in no time, even if they stayed up a little later listening to their older siblings explain the seven Kwanzaa principles.
How to Celebrate Karamu, or The Kwanzaa Feast, with Kids
On the sixth day of Kwanzaa families can celebrate the Kamu, or Kwanzaa feast, by hosting friends and family for a warm bountiful meal and loads of fun Kwanzaa activities. The sixth day of Kwanzaa is also dedicated to “Kuumba” or “Creativity”, making it a great day to throw a Kwanzaa craft party!
Before the party, get your kids excited by decorating the house together in the traditional Kwanzaa colors of red, green, and black. From there, set up stations and tables throughout the house where they can work on fun Kwanzaa arts and crafts that help them celebrate the day’s principle, as well as the overarching themes of nature, family, and community! If you know you’re going to need all the sleep you can get before the big day you may want to turn to the WiFi-enabled Formula Pro Advanced. This smart device will allow you to prepare the perfect bottle for your baby from your phone, while you stay tucked in for those last precious moments of shut eye in the morning.
Help younger children create corn husk dolls and woven placemats to decorate the table, while older children help prepare a feast of traditional – or fan favorite – dishes for the family feast. If you’re preparing food for infants or toddlers, Baby Brezza’s Homemade Baby Food Maker can save you a ton of time and help you prepare a meaningful meal for your young ones in no time.
When it’s time to eat, gather everyone around the table and prompt each guest to discuss what Kwanzaa means to them, and which of the 7 principles they want to pay special attention to into the new year.
How to Make and Exchange Zawadi, or Handmade Gifts, with Kids
Traditional Kwanzaa gifts are called Zawadi, and refer to sentimental gifts that are made by hand. They are exchanged on the seventh, final day of Kwanzaa, which is also reserved for honoring the principle of “Faith” with the family. On this day, ask children to exchange gifts or crafts they prepared on the day of your family’s Karamu or at another point during the Kwanzaa holiday.
Fun Kwanzaa crafts that can double as meaningful zawadi on the final day of Kwanzaa include handmade beaded necklaces or jewelry, sweet treats or desserts like fried bananas or homemade cookies, candles, drawings, placemats, or picture frames. No matter the craft, the most important thing is teaching your children how to honor the different principles of Kwanzaa, and remind them that they are a part of a loving family that believes in supporting the people around them.