If you know Cinco de Mayo as a time of tequilla and tacos, you are missing out on so much that the Mexican culture has to offer! Celebrating Cinco de Mayo for kids means sharing and learning about authentic Mexican traditions and culture.
After I figured out our family’s reasons to homeschool, it became clear that I wanted to raise empathetic adults as well as world citizens. We would want to include travel as part of our learning process as well as exploring and discovering different cultures.
One way to define “culture” is the “arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievements.” Cinco de Mayo is a fun time for learning about some authentic Mexican culture.
Part of exploring other cultures includes sharing activities and projects that teach kids about our human commonalities. Art, history, food, crafts, and games are all elements that humanity shares.
So after gathering these resources, I wanted to share them with you!
Regardless of whether you use some or all of these ideas in your homeschool, in preparation for an upcoming trip, or just to broaden your child’s horizons – I hope that you enjoy them as much as we have!
History of Cinco de Mayo
The fifth of May – Cinco de Mayo — is a relatively small celebration in Mexico. Americans often confuse the celebration with Mexican Independence Day – which it is not.
Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). (Be honest: did you really even know that Mexico fought in a war against France? Yea. Me neither.)
Many Cinco de Mayo traditions include parades, mariachi music performances and street festivals all across Mexico and the United States.
American Celebration of Cinco de Mayo for Kids (at least kid friendly)
In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has become a festive celebration of Mexican culture and heritage.
Cities like Orlando and Honolulu even have their own city-wide block parties to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Next, for kids and adults alike, I say you definitely need guacamole at your Cinco de Mayo celebration. You can use the recipe below to get the kids involved in the kitchen.
Related Post You May Also Like: The Most Luscious, Time Tested & Easy Guacamole Ever!
Books About Cinco de Mayo
You can’t find a better way to start learning about specific holidays or the culture of another country than with a book!
Reading aloud is so important in our family. In the winter, we love curling up on the sofa in front of a fire with hot chocolate and reading books to one another. In the spring we may picnic in the backyard with scones and stories. What’s important is that we are spending time with one another and we are learning through the sharing of stories.
Related Post You May Also Like: Books About Mexican Culture for Kids
Authentic Mexican Games
I’m a huge fan of family game nights. So if your family enjoys games – or even if you haven’t held a game night – here are two legit Mexican games that are sure to grab and hold everyone’s attention.
Lotería is a traditional game of chance, similar to bingo, but using images on a deck of cards instead of plain numbers on ping pong balls. Every image has a name and an assigned number, but the number is usually ignored. Each player has at least one tabla, a board with a randomly created 4 x 4 grid of pictures with their corresponding name and number.
Toma todo can be played with two or more players. Each player gets about ten tokens. You can use anything – beans, small pieces of candy, pennies, bingo chips – you name it! To start, each player adds a token into the center of the table. Each player takes a turn spinning the top and follows the instructions on the side that faces up when the top falls.
Traditional instructions for Toma Todo have the players either take one, two or three tokens from the pile or add one, two, or three tokens into the pile.
Playing toma todo can also be a fun learning experience for some quick and easy phrases in Spanish:
Te toca a ti. – It’s your turn.
Me toca a mí.- It’s my turn.
¡Qué bien! – Great!
¡Ay, no! – Oh, no!
Introducing Mexican Culture Through Music
Mexico is quite a diverse country – both geographically and culturally. So it should come as no surprise that there are many styles of music. (Mexican music)
By far, the most popular genre of traditional Mexican music is the Mariachi. The word comes from the French word meaning ‘marriage.’ It’s frequently played at weddings, quinceaneras, Mother’s Day, and other special occasions.
Other than the Mariachi, the Ranchera genre of music focuses on the traditional folklore.
The third most common traditional Mexican music is the Norteño which highlights the music which has an influence of, get this…polka.
Here are a couple of good collections to listen to and enjoy!
Mexican Folk Art Traditions & Activities
There are many famous Mexican artists – among the most famous are Diego Rivera. The Complete Murals, The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait, and México 1900–1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde.
If you want to dig deeper, my friend Cindy is an amazing art appreciation teacher and she has dozens of lesson plans to help deepen your knowledge and understanding of Mexican art.
One of the least known, most versatile, and most beautiful expressions of Mexican folk art is hojalata (tin art work), also known in some parts of Mexico as, lamina or lata. Since the 1500’s, this humble metal has been made more pleasing by being shaped, stamped, punched, painted and cut into a wide variety of decorative and functional artwork.
These days, Mexican artisans use natural, oxidized and brightly lacquered paints to create ornaments, mirrors, lanterns and other decorative pieces. (Mexican tin folk art)
It’s easier than you think to make your own version of Mexican tin folk art! Check out this terrific tutorial with ideas, instructions, and examples of a beautiful art project you could do with your kids!
And here’s a video of another, not quite as traditional, project:
Movies That Reflect Mexican Culture
Not only do I love a good family game night, but I love a good movie night! So pull up a bowl of popcorn, kick up your feet with your family, and enjoy a movie or two to help celebrate Cinco de Mayo for kids!
I love this list of ten movies that reflect Mexican culture. There are great family movies in here as well as adult oriented selections. So, be mindful that not all selections are kid-friendly.
Natural Features of Mexico
“Almost anywhere you go in Mexico you will encounter stunning landscapes, beautiful valleys and unique natural formations. The country’s sheer size means that dozens of different types of ecosystems and climates await curious adventurers. (Mexico’s natural wonders)
One of the most fun ways to learn about another culture is to learn about the food that they eat. Traditional Mexican food has earned recognition by the UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage contribution to humanity.
Check out this resource for learning about Mexican food culture through the ages. And here’s s great site where you can find some authentic recipes specifically from the state of Puebla.
Further Resources For Exploring Mexican Traditions & Culture
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