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9 Ways to Celebrate Day of the Dead With Kids

Published on: October 17, 2014

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated throughout Mexico and many other Latin American countries and countries with a large Latino population. The holiday typically begins October 31 and continues through November 2. Although the festival is best known for the skull and skeleton imagery used in Mexican celebrations, it is far from morbid. Whimsical skeletons are depicted dancing and playing instruments, and skulls are brightly painted with flowers. Filled with vibrant color, music and food, Día de los Muertos is a way of honoring and remembering loved ones who have passed on — a festival that children are easily drawn to.

Make calavera sugar skulls 

One of the most iconic symbols of the Day of the Dead is the calavera, which means skull in Spanish. Sugar skulls, a popular decor and food item, are sold in markets in Mexico in the weeks leading up to the festival. But you don’t have to live in Mexico to find sugar skulls —  you can make and decorate them at home. All you need is a sugar-skull mold, sugar and water! Check out this blog post from the blog Around My Family Table for complete instructions.

Magnificent marigolds 

Marigolds are the flower traditionally used to honor the dead in Dia de los Muertos celebrations. People leave marigolds at graves and at ofrendas (small family altars); the scent is thought to draw the spirits of the dead to Earth. Make a long-lasting memory by creating tissue-paper marigolds using the directions in this post by Teach Kids Art.

Papel picado banners

During the Day of the Dead festival, colorful garlands called papel picados grace streets and homes. Papel picado means “punched or perforated paper” and these are usually made from bright tissue paper. Happy Thought blog offers this free template and a video tutorial. Here’s the free calavera templateClick here for a video tutorial and other shapes for your banner.

Use discount code PARENTMAP and save 50 percent on all Day of the Dead printables!

Rockin' sugar skulls

Make sugar skulls last by painting these pretty symbols onto rocks. Over at Hodgepodge Crafts, they painted the details onto small stones in acrylic, then added glitz with glitter and sequins. Substitute colored sharpies for paints and even little kids can participate in this fun project!

Day of the Dead party printables

If you are throwing a party to celebrate Día de los Muertos, check out this party printable kit from Happy Thought. For only $5 you get 15 printables — from cute top hats to coffin favor boxes — for your party, all decorated in the whimsical colors and symbols that define the festival.

Use discount code PARENTMAP and save 50 percent on all Day of the Dead printables!

Pan de muerto

A traditional food served during the festival is a bread called pan de muerto, which translates to "bread of the dead." This sweet yeast bread, often scented with anise or orange, is sometimes shaped into bones, skulls or angels. Try this yummy dessert at home with this recipe from

Día de los Muertos lanterns

Fun a fun, frugal Day of the Dead project, try these kid-friendly Día de los Muertos lanterns from the Growing Up Bilingual. These are calaveras drawn onto white plastic cups in sharpie, and then illuminated with LED tea lights. Put your own twist on these little lights by drawing a picture of a deceased relative or writing their name. Place along a window sill for a pretty decoration.  

Photo candle holders

Both candles and photos are an important part of honoring loved ones. Put the two elements together and remember your relatives by creating these vellum photo candle holders from the Tikkido blog. Adults will need to print the photos onto vellum, but kids can help to create and decorate the frames.

Photo credit: Steve Bridger (CC by 2.0)

Día de los Muertos altar

Families often create ofrendas or private altars to honor deceased relatives and friends. The altar usually contains candles, marigolds, sugar skulls, Day of the Dead bread and pictures of the deceased. Sometimes toys (for deceased children) or the favorite foods of those honored are placed on the altar as well. This photo depicts a Catholic Día de los Muertos shrine in Mexico. Try creating your own ofrenda by gathering together any of the above elements and use this as an opportunity to remember loved ones and teach children about those in your family who have passed on. 

Other stuff you may like:

Where to celebrate Día de Muertos around Seattle

Fall cross-cultural excursions

Halloween crafts

Fall decor crafts

Halloween cake and cupcake inspiration

Halloween treats for kids


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