Día de los Muertos – An Introduction
Imagine a colorful and vibrant celebration where families gather to honor and remember their loved ones who have passed away. Imagine a festival filled with music, dancing, delicious food, and beautiful ofrendas (altars) adorned with marigolds, candles, and photographs. This is Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. This traditional Mexican holiday holds deep cultural significance and offers a unique opportunity to teach kids about Mexican traditions, history, and the importance of honoring and remembering our ancestors.
As busy teachers and parents, it is crucial to introduce Spanish and its corresponding cultural events to kids in a fun and engaging way. By incorporating Día de los Muertos into our curriculum, we can capture their interest and excitement, while helping them develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the rich cultural heritage of Spanish-speaking countries. In this blog post, we will explore why teaching kids about Día de los Muertos is important and share some fantastic Spanish teaching resources to make learning about this holiday both enjoyable and educational.
First, here’s a short video that does a nice job of getting across the meaning of the holiday. My students love Eddie! 🙂
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Understanding the Significance of Día de los Muertos
Día de los Muertos is not just another Halloween celebration. It is a unique holiday that combines indigenous beliefs with Catholic traditions, creating a beautiful and meaningful way to commemorate the lives of those who have passed away. By teaching kids about the significance of Día de los Muertos, we can help them understand the importance of honoring and remembering their ancestors, fostering a sense of respect and gratitude. I know many kids (especially younger ones) tend to think that Día de los Muertos is scary. However, despite all of the skeletons, it’s not (and thankfully, movies like The Book of Life and Coco have helped show how the holiday is anything but frightening).
One way to introduce the significance of Día de los Muertos is by explaining the belief that during this time, the spirits of the departed return to visit their loved ones. Kids can learn about the concept of the “ofrenda,” an altar created to welcome the spirits, which typically includes photographs, favorite foods, and mementos of the deceased (see photo below for an example). By understanding these rituals, children can develop empathy and a broader perspective on life and death.
Furthermore, Día de los Muertos offers an opportunity to explore Mexican history and culture. Kids can learn about the origins of the holiday, its pre-Hispanic roots, and how it has evolved over time. Teaching them about the traditions and customs associated with Día de los Muertos allows them to connect with the rich heritage of Spanish-speaking countries and appreciate the diversity of cultural practices around the world.
Día de los Muertos – Coco Learning Resources
Speaking of Coco, here are some fabulous resources that you might like to use in your classroom or at home with your children:
- To begin, here is a collection of The Best Teaching Resources For The Movie, “Coco”
- Next, here is a great film guide with downloadable activities
- Then check out this amazing collection of Coco resources from Mis Clases Locas!
- If you teach upper grades, read this post featuring upper-level resources for Coco.
- Finally, this collection of resources from The Positive Mom includes tons of information and free printables!
Fun and Engaging Día de los Muertos Resources for Kids
Now that we understand the importance of teaching kids about Día de los Muertos let’s explore some fantastic Spanish teaching resources that will make learning about this holiday exciting and enjoyable for children. These resources will help kids develop their Spanish language skills while immersing themselves in the vibrant traditions of Día de los Muertos.
One engaging resource is children’s books that focus on Día de los Muertos. These books are educational and captivating, with colorful illustrations and age-appropriate storytelling. Some popular titles include “Rosita y Conchita” by Eric Gonzalez and Erich Haeger (I love that this is in both Spanish and English!), “Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book” by Yuyi Morales, and “The Day of the Dead/El Día de los Muertos” by Bob Barner. These books provide an excellent opportunity for kids to practice their Spanish reading skills while learning about the holiday in a fun and engaging way.
Arts & Crafts
Additionally, interactive activities can make learning about Día de los Muertos more exciting. Creating papel picado (paper cutouts) is a fantastic craft activity that allows kids to explore traditional Mexican art while practicing their fine motor skills. They can also design and decorate their ofrendas using printables or art supplies, encouraging creativity and self-expression. These hands-on activities enhance Spanish language learning and provide a sensory experience that makes the holiday come alive for young learners.
For older kids, here is a great lesson on papel picado that even includes templates: Make DIY papel picado banners for Día de Muertos
For younger kids, here is a version that is still super fun but a bit easier (the cutting can be tricky on some of the more intricate versions!): Make Your Own Colorful Papel Picado
Next, digital resources such as videos and online games can be valuable tools for teaching kids about Día de los Muertos. Websites like PBS LearningMedia and YouTube offer a variety of age-appropriate videos that explain the holiday’s traditions and customs in a visually engaging manner. Online games and quizzes, such as those on the Rockalingua website, can help reinforce vocabulary and comprehension skills while making learning fun and interactive. Boom Cards are another great digital resource that kids absolutely love! Check out these 2 Día de los Muertos-themed sets from my Teachers Pay Teachers store:
Fostering Cultural Appreciation and Empathy
Teaching kids about Día de los Muertos helps develop their Spanish language skills and fosters cultural appreciation and empathy. By learning about different cultural practices and traditions, children gain a broader understanding of the world and become more accepting and respectful of diversity.
Engaging in activities that encourage cultural exchange, such as virtual pen pals or classroom collaborations, can further enhance this appreciation. By connecting with children from Spanish-speaking countries who celebrate Día de los Muertos, kids can learn firsthand about their experiences and traditions. This intercultural exchange promotes empathy and understanding as children realize that despite cultural differences, we all share common values of love, respect, and remembrance.
Finally, celebrating Día de los Muertos in the classroom or at home can be a powerful way to create a sense of community and togetherness. By involving kids in the preparation of an ofrenda or hosting a Día de los Muertos-themed party, we create opportunities for them to connect with their own heritage or the heritage of others. This celebration allows children to actively participate in the cultural traditions they are learning about, reinforcing their understanding and appreciation of Día de los Muertos.
Here are some great sites where you can grab some great (free!) resources, and kids can learn more about Día de los Muertos through interactive activities:
- National Geographic Kids – Day of the Dead: National Geographic Kids offers a kid-friendly introduction to Día de los Muertos with articles, pictures, and videos that explain the traditions and significance of the holiday.
- PBS Kids – Day of the Dead (mentioned above): PBS Kids provides an interactive webpage with games, videos, and printable activities that teach children about Día de los Muertos.
- Ducksters – Day of the Dead: Ducksters offers a simplified overview of Día de los Muertos with easy-to-read articles and fun facts suitable for kids.
- Mexicolore – Day of the Dead for Kids: Mexicolore provides a comprehensive guide to Día de los Muertos with interactive features, stories, crafts, and quizzes designed specifically for kids.
- KidsKonnect – Day of the Dead Facts for Kids: KidsKonnect offers educational resources, including articles, worksheets, and printables about Día de los Muertos.
These websites provide various engaging resources that cater to different learning styles and interests, making it a fun and educational experience for kids to learn about Día de los Muertos.
Some Additional FREE Resources for Día de los Muertos
- First, see this Lesson Plan with printable activities – Originally written for 5th grade, but could be adapted for grades 3-12.
- Also, this is an amazing resource from MisCositas: Thematic curriculum unit about the Day of the Dead for intermediate Spanish students: This interdisciplinary unit comes with lesson plans, worksheets, and resources for celebrating the Day of the Dead in your classroom. Downloadable and FREE!!!
- Additionally, this is a great Free Day of the Dead Mini-Unit for grades 4-5
- Further, be sure to explore this collection of resources from Inside Mexico.
- Finally, don’t miss this FREE printable Day of the Dead Educational Activity Guide from Mexic Arte Museum.
Games & Activities
- To begin, here’s a fun Webquest (it is all in Spanish, so it is best for upper levels).
- Next, Mommy Maestra has a fabulous collection of printables to make learning about this holiday fun!
- Further, Homeschool Super Freak has this awesome collection of 24 Day of the Dead Activities (Dia de Muertos) for Kids
- Also, this huge collection of resources from Spanish Mama is not to be missed!
Arts & Crafts
- First up is a fun Día de los Muertos DIY Catrina Activity for Kids.
- Then see this adorable Felt Skull Banner project from Crafty Chica
- Additionally, if you enjoy crafts, here are 10 Awesome Day of the Dead Crafts for Kids from Hodge Podge Craft
- Finally, Growing Up Bilingual has this fabulous collection: 25 Easy Day Of The Dead DIY Projects
I hope you enjoy these resources! I’d love to hear how you used them – please leave a comment sharing which one(s) you used and how they worked out! Also, check out this post about Bilingual Children’s books. If you are interested in also learning some Spanish words related to Halloween, please check out these resources, including a FREEBIE (you can save 20% by getting all 6 in a bundle here):
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Feliz Día de los Muertos!