Dia de Muertos may sound scary, but it’s really not once you understand it! We’ve put together 24 Day of the Dead activities including day of the dead facts and day of the dead history to help kids better understand and have fun with it!
So, let’s start at the beginning:
What is Dia de Muertos or Day of the Dead?
Dia de Muertos, or Day of Dead, is a Mexican Holiday that celebrates ancestors along with All Soul’s Day. It is celebrated from October 31 to November 2 to honor family relatives who have died. Day of the Dead is not just “Mexican Halloween” and it is not the same as Cinco de Mayo.
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Day of the Dead Traditions and Understanding Day of the Dead for Kids
For the people who celebrate the Day of the Dead festival, death is not seen as necessarily sad.
Instead, Dia de Muertos is viewed as just part of the cycle of life and children are taught not to fear death.
(Novel idea, huh?)
It is meant to be a happy time to share memories of loved ones that have passed.
Families who celebrate often set up a Dia de los Muertos altar, or ofrendas de dia de muertos (ofrenda de muertos), in their homes to honor the deceased.
They then place some of the deceased family member’s favorite things on the alter — food, drinks, and any other items that the family member enjoyed while they were alive.
It is also traditional to put sugar skulls and marigold flowers on the alter.
After they have decorated their homes, the families then go to the cemetery for a celebration.
They have a huge feast and spend time cleaning the tombstones and honoring their family members who have passed.
So, What’s Up With the Scary Day of the Dead Makeup Skulls?
OK, I will admit that some of the Day of the Dead face paint can be a little . . . jarring.
However, there is a reason that people celebrating wear painted Day of the Dead makeup skull faces and also why they decorate with painted skeletons.
In the past, painted faces, costumes, and dances were used to “scare away the dead” at the end of the Dia de Muertos celebration.
However, it has evolved into painting your face to celebrate something about a loved one or simply as a way to express yourself during the celebration.
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24 Day of the Dead Lesson Activities, Crafts, Plans & Ideas
There are so many interesting ways to incorporate Dia de Muertos into your learning and fun Day of the Dead activities for kids!
Check these out:
- Make Pan de Muerto (with a twist!)
- Watch Coco (and do some theme lessons for the movie!)
- Make TRADITIONAL MEXICAN PAPEL PICADO, which are the decorative papers and streamers
- Create a SUGAR SKULL COLLAGE
- Learn about traditional Day of the Dead food
- Make Day of the Dead Ornaments
- Spend a couple of weeks with a Day of the Dead study unit
- Have fun with this Day of the Dead Educational Activity Guide
- Complete this Day of the Dead lesson plan and also this one if you need more
- Do a free Dia Muertos mini art lesson
- Color your own Sugar Skull Masks
- Make tissue paper marigolds [VIDEO]
Learn About Dia de Muertos Colors
According to AZ Central, the colors during Dia de Muertos have very specific meanings:
Yellow – Represents the sun and unity, because under the sun, we’re all the same.
White – Using this color in decorations represents spirit, hope and purity.
Red – Represents blood and life.
Purple – For this holiday, purple represents mourning, grief and suffering.
Pink – The bubbly color signifies happiness.
Watch 2 Kid Friendly Day of the Dead Videos
Here’s a good (kid-friendly) video that explains Dia de Muertos:
I also thought this was a cute short film, but you may want to watch it beforehand because some kids (especially little ones) may find it sad or scary:
Paint Your Face for Day of the Dead
You can paint your face, or take turns painting each other’s face, for your Day of the Dead celebrations.
This Day of the Dead makeup face paint kit makes the painting super easy!
There are also cool Day of the Dead makeup skull face tattoos that you can put on just for the day!
Make Sugar Skulls
Sugar skulls, or calavera, are candy skulls that are created to resemble the deceased.
They are a traditional treat during the Day of the Dead celebrations.
Making Day of the Dead sugar skulls is a fun hands-on addition to your Dia de Muertos lessons.
Just make sure you have a skull candy mold before you get started!