Oh, no. I stepped on a Shamrock!

St. Patrick's Day — March 17th

by: Diane Flynn Keith

St. Patrick's Day will soon be here. I thought you might enjoy some suggestions for celebrating the day with your wee ones...

"Erin Go Braugh!" means "Ireland Forever!" On St. Patrick's Day the Irish take pride in their heritage and lore as they celebrate the feast day of St. Patrick, Bishop and Patron Saint of Ireland.

There are many legends about St. Patrick. You can tell your children that it is said that he was kidnapped by pirates in his native Wales and sold into slavery in Ireland. (Be sure to show your children where Wales and Ireland are located on the globe.) While in servitude, Patrick found his religious faith and vowed that upon gaining his freedom he would spread God's word to all of Ireland. He kept his promise, and in doing so, it is said he used the shamrock to explain the religious concept of the Holy Trinity (three persons in one God). He is credited with driving all snakes out of Ireland.

Here are some ideas for sharing more Irish legend and lore with your little ones:

The Wee Folk

Shenanigans are the order of the day, as is the wearin' of the green, to remind people of Ireland, The Emerald Isle). Irish folklore embraces the wee folk, leprechauns. They are fond of music (especially harps and fiddles), and love to dance the Irish jig. They prefer a diet of raw mushrooms and shamrocks washed down with a splash of Irish whiskey. Leprechauns enjoy playing tricks on people, who try to capture them in pursuit of the leprechaun's elusive pot of gold.

My family's observance of St. Patrick's Day included the wee folk. On the eve of St. Patrick's Day, the children carefully prepared a plate of raw mushrooms and shamrocks and left it out for the elfin people. The children went to bed, hoping the leprechauns would be pleased with the offering and leave a small treasure as thanks. For their efforts my sons were rewarded with gold coins (gold, foil-wrapped chocolate coins), puzzles, games, and even roller skates one year!

The leprechauns couldn't resist playing a few tricks on us though, including switching the sock drawer with the pajama drawer, changing our white brand of toilet paper to green, re-arranging the furniture and turning some of it upside down, and filling our shoes with green confetti-like leprechaun dust!

Your children will love finding evidence of elfin handiwork too!

It's magically delicious

Great St. Patrick's Day Reads

(available at your library or favorite book store)

The Leprechaun's Gold by Pamela Duncan Edwards

In this delightful story, two harp players -- the generous and good-natured Old Pat, and the mean-spirited braggart Young Tom -- vie to be designated the best harp player in Ireland by the King of Ireland himself. Tom uses dirty tricks to win ignoring the distress cries of a leprechaun. Old Pat sets aside the competition to help the poor leprechaun, and in the end his kindness makes all the difference. The illustrations are great fun, and your child can look for 16 four-leaf clovers hidden throughout the pages of the book! Recommended for ages 4-8.

The King of Ireland's Son by Padraic Colum

This is an epic Irish folk tale in chapter book format. The title character makes a heroic journey to regain his life from an evil Enchanter. He faces many trials and beats insurmountable odds along the way. Love, friendships and foes, magic, giants, witches, and triumph of good over evil are all encompassed in the tale. Children as young as 3 (who love to listen to stories at great length) will enjoy this book that is recommended for children ages 3-9.

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St. Patrick's Day Music

(available at your favorite book store or library)

Seal Maiden: A Celtic Musical Read by Karan Casey

This CD blends Celtic music with an enchanting Irish myth about Silkie, the seal who becomes a girl. This touching story is beautifully told by Karan Casey accompanied by the sound of Irish fiddles, whistles, and harps to make an unforgettable Irish experience your whole family will enjoy. For ages 3 and up.

Note: Your library may or may not have this title. If not, do ask the librarian for Irish folk music that you can bring home and listen to. There are many popular songs as well as classics such as "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," "My Wild Irish Rose," and "Danny Boy."

My kids especially enjoyed The Irish Rovers who were best known for their rendition of "The Unicorn Song." You can listen to "The Unicorn Song" and print out the lyrics for free.

An Irish Movie and a Refreshing Magical Beverage

Wrap up your celebration with a family screening of Disney's "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" (starring a very young, singing, Sean Connery!). You can probably pick up a copy at your local library or video store.

Darby O'Gill is an estate caretaker, but in his advanced years he's more fond of telling tall tales about the wee folk than keeping the grounds. A new man (Sean Connery) is sent in to take his place, and O'Gill doesn't know what will become of himself and his daughter. He snags three spectacular opportunities, however, when he catches the king of the leprechauns.

Enjoy the movies while sipping our family's favorite St. Patrick's Day beverage -- a Darby O'Gill!

You might also consider another video, "Finian's Rainbow," with Fred Astaire and Petula Clark. A mysterious Irishman, Finian, and his daughter arrive one day in a small Southern town of sharecroppers and plant a crock of leprechaun gold. Fred plays Finian McLonergan, an Irishman who has traveled to America in hopes of planting a pilfered pot of gold near Fort Knox and watching it grow. (Check your local library for availability.)

Enjoy St. Patrick's Day!

Darby O'Gill Recipe

Place a drop or two of green food coloring into a clear glass and fill it with crushed ice. Then, gather the children around and pour 7-Up or Sprite into the glass.

The oohs and ahhs of watching the "magic" of a clear beverage turn green right in front of their eyes is worth the little effort. Garnish with a green (mint-flavored) maraschino cherry.

A Decorative Science Experiment

Make Green Carnations!

We dyed our own carnations as a sort of biology lesson for the kids. This simple experiment not only provides you with decorations, but it demonstrates how water and food is transported through plant stems.

Materials List:


Cut approximately 1-2" off of the bottom of the carnation stems. Fill the vase or jar 3/4 of the way up with water. Add enough green food coloring to make the water a deep emerald green color. Place the carnations in the vase (stem-end in the water). Leave the flowers standing in the water for 48 hours.


After 48 hours the flowers will have changed color from white to green.

Why? The Carnation flower stems have tiny tubes inside called "xylem" that extend up the stalk to the flower petals. The green water flows through the xylem allowing the color to be distributed throughout the cells in the petals causing their color to change. In the same way, food or nutrients in the soil are carried to the plant cells providing food for flowers and leaves -- and that's no blarney!

Make St. Patrick's Day Irish Wish Cookies

Materials List:

If these are too sophisticated for your children, simply make up some positive sayings that will be meaningful to your child such as: You're the best! Your mommy and daddy love you! You're getting smarter every day! Your mommy and daddy are very proud of you! (You get the idea.)


Select some sayings that you especially like or that would be meaningful to your child. Write them on paper (small and legible) or type and print them out on a computer. Cut them up into strips that will fit in the cookies. Use a toothpick to roll the paper strips very tightly and tuck one inside of each cookie, removing the toothpick once the paper is inside the cookie. Tie each cookie with a green ribbon. Faith and begorrah! You've made instant Irish Wish Cookies! Invite your child to have one -- but before they break the cookie to retrieve the good luck inside -- tell them to make a wish! It will come true if they eat the cookie.

Have fun celebrating St. Patrick's Day with your little ones!

Updated: February 26, 2011