Dia de los Muertos Artifacts

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The lesson plan to go with Travis’s “Frightful Fiesta” recipes was all about Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. As a parent, I appreciated the cultural lesson, as well as the inclusion of crafts and entertainment, all rolled into one lesson plan.

We started with a sort of pop quiz. I printed out iconic images that go along with other holidays (Santa for Christmas, hearts for Valentine’s Day, etc.) and asked Travis which holiday each represented.

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Then I showed him a provided image of a sugar skull. Having learned briefly about the holiday before, he guessed Dia de los Muertos right away!

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As he colored in the sugar skull, we watched a read-aloud of a wonderful children’s book that helped explain the holiday.

The lesson plan suggested drawing along to everything as your child listens to the story, focusing on the bright colors and happiness associated with the holiday, rather than grief.

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Little sister Veronika wanted to color, too!

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Next came the most beautiful part of the lesson: setting up an offrenda for a loved one. We looked at National Geographic Kids for inspiration, then brainstormed some items that would be dear to our loved one (Travis’s grandfather).

The next day, we put together the offrenda! It included an old sweater of Papa’s, his photo, flowers from the market, battery-operated candles, a sugar skull lantern, and some of Papa’s favorite foods, including cashews, chips, and plantains.

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I loved watching the children interact with the display joyfully (especially stealing the chips to eat!). Having never celebrated the Day of the Dead before, it truly was a moving experience.

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Note: You could also have your children create an offrenda for a deceased pet or a historical figure, if that is more appropriate in your home.

To extend the lesson, we made two crafts. First up, was a Paper Bag Pinata. Fill a sandwich-size brown bag with candy, then fold the top over and tape shut. Cut 6 (18-inch long) strips from tissue paper, and then fringe the edges with scissors.

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Tape the first strip to the bottom of the bag. Continue taping on the strips, overlapping them so the fringe dangles over the one below.

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We suspended the pinata from the ceiling, then… Fiesta time! Travis and Veronika loved taking turns whacking at it.

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Inflatable light sabers weren’t strong enough, but a wiffle ball bat was. Candy!

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Next we created Papel Picado. This is a fun tissue paper craft that is normally strung up during the festival, and the process is similar to making paper snowflakes. Fold a square of tissue paper in half twice, and then into a triangle. Fold one side down like you’re making a paper airplane fin. Begin making little slits and shapes with scissors. Travis loves fine scissor work like this, so was thrilled that this was the “assignment”.

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Open up for the big reveal!

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We taped them to a string so we could suspend them across one archway in our home, where they looked especially gorgeous when the sun was shining through.

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We finished by watching the movie Coco. This was a fantastic way for Travis to understand the nuances of the holiday. The film is highly recommended for those who have not viewed it.

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Glitter Shapes

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You’ll combine early learning (shape-recognition, colors) and messy art with this fun toddler project!

To start, I cut out simple basic shapes from bright construction paper, using a different color for each shape. Soon we had a pile of green rectangles, purple triangles, red hearts, orange circles, and more. As I worked, I asked Veronika to identify each one, and she was a willing participant.

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Now for the mess! Have your toddler smear a glue stick all over each shape. One or both sides, it won’t matter!

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Place one or two shapes at a time in a small shoebox with a lid, then dump in copious amounts of glitter. Yes, toddlers, the more glitter the merrier!

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Now seal the box and shake. I hadn’t counted on small holes in the bottom of our box that allowed some glitter to escape, but luckily we were using large pieces of glitter that were easy to sweep up.

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Needless to say, the result was worth the mess.

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Open the lid and reveal to your child how each shape is now sparkly. Veronika loved them!

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