Fun Activities and Games to Learn about Mexico – Includes Arts and Crafts

Here, we’ve included a series of activities to help families learn more about the cultures of Mexico. In this section you’ll find word games and puzzles related to Mexican culture and history.  Additionally, we’ve including instructions for making your own arts and crafts for you and your family to enjoy at home.

Another great resource for activities related to Mexico, especially for children, is this website provided by the Mexico Government: “El Balero”.  They have lots of on-line games and a large list of simple crafts you can make at home.  They also have detailed history and culture sections.

Calaveras are short rhyming poems that are associated with the celebrations of the Day of the Dead in Mexico.  They have their origins in the famous epitaphs written by Spanish poet Jorge Manrique.  Calaveras are written to the “memory” of a person as if they were already deceased.  Calaveras about public figures and politicians are often published in newspapers at this time to satire or criticize them.  More often, though, Mexicans come up with these playful rhymes to tease their friends or family members.

Here’s an example:

My friend Pete is in the grave,
He worked until his dying day like a slave,
It’s too bad his fancy car,
Is the now the property of his brother Omar!

Writing your own calavera is easy!  Just choose a family member or friend you’d like to tease, and write a rhyming eulogy for them.  Calaveras are typically short, no more than ten lines lone.  Next, illustrate your calavera with silly images of skulls and dancing skeletons.

If your friend speaks Spanish, you can include some of the following common references to Death that often appear in calaveras:  La Calaca(the skeleton), La Flaca (the skinny lady) La Tilica (the really skinny lady), La Huesuda (the bony girl).

You can give your calavera to your friend like it was a Valentine’s Day card.  Just make sure they know that you’ve made your calavera as a celebration of the Day of the Dead, or they make look at you rather strangely!

ARTS AND CRAFTS ACTIVITIES:

Activity: Make Your Own Papel Picado!

  • What is Papel Picado?:

 Papel picado, Spanish for cut paper, is a typical Mexican craft that appears throughout the country during festivals and fiestas.  It involves cutting out intricate patterns in colored tissue paper and stringing up the sheets to decorate your home or garden.

The tradition of papel picado can be traced to the indigenous cultures of Mesoamerica, who cut images of deities into their homemade bark paper, also known as Papel Amate.  The indigenous Otomi continue this tradition with bark paper today.  The village of San Pabilto in the state ofPuebla is especially famous for bark paper cutouts.  In the rest of the country, plastic or tissue paper are the most common materials for making papel picado.

San Salvado Huixcolotla in the state of Puebla is where you can find the best and most elaborate papel picado made from tissue paper.

  • Materials needed:

 Tissue Paper
Scissors
Elmer’s Glue
X-acto knife

  • Instructions:

To make your own papel picado, buy sheets of tissue paper in several different colors.  Papel picado can vary greatly in size, but a good size to start with is an 11 inch by 16 inch sheet.

Take your tissue paper and place it horizontally on the table.  Next, take the bottom edge of the paper of the paper and fold it about an inch up.  Next, continue to fold the paper as if you were making an accordion until you can’t fold the paper anymore.

Now, take your scissors and cut different designs along the folded edge of the paper.  Make sure not to cut on the sharp edge of the paper that hasn’t been folded.  Open you paper to see your design!

If you want to make a more intricate design, follow in the instructions above and when you’ve completed the accordion fold, fold the sheet in half lengthwise.  With this kind of fold, you’ll create an interesting symmetrical type pattern.

After you have a nice collection of papel picado, you can lightly iron them to take out the folds.  To arrange the paper for display, take your string and lightly glue the string to one end of each sheet of paper, as if you were making a long, colorful banner.  You can vary the colors of the paper for an interesting effect.

Another variation of making papel picado is to actually draw a design onto the paper and cut it out with a x-acto knife.

Take your paper and fold it in half lengthwise.  Next, draw some kind of image onto the paper.  Try out a simple set of small triangles and circles first.  Now, cut of the images of the triangles and circles with your x-acto knife.  When you’re done, open the paper to see the symmetric images you’ve created.

As you become more comfortable with drawing and cutting designs, you can experiment with more complicated papel picado.  There are literally dozens of ways to fold and cut your paper.  Making Magic Windows: Creating Cut-Paper Art With Carmen Lomas Garza is a wonderful book that has lots of tips and techniques for creating beautiful papel picado designs.