Painting Calaveras: A Fun Dia de los Muertos Kids Activity
Tell me one person who's not excited to carve pumpkins to welcome Halloween? But leaving one out during a warm night in Florida spells bugs and an unfathomable smell for me and everyone else coming for a trick-or-treat visit. You might say that I can opt for a plastic-version but what's the fun in that for the kids? Besides, I personally hate anything plastic.
Growing up as a child in Argentina, everything we owned were handmade with noble materials -- wood, fabric, wool or paper. In comparison, my kids (born and raised in the US) would come home with an array of plastic toys, decor and costumes every time a new holiday creeps in. I'm teaching them that it's much better to make things ourselves, using materials we can find home or naturally available around us, and with our own hands. I've always thought anything handmade had a soul; in a way, the creator breathes life into his or her creation.
I found a great alternative while shopping plastic pumpkins for my 6-year old's school project. I saw a group of white ceramic skulls perfectly organized on shelves in our local arts & crafts store. It was a breath of fresh air! I was immediately taken back to El Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, which is a Mexican celebration to celebrate and commemorate our lost loved ones.
Many cultures, particularly Mexican, react to death differently, with happiness and joy. They reflect their fear of death by mocking and living alongside death.
On this day in Mexico (and many parts of Latin America), the streets near cemeteries are filled with flower decor, candy calaveras (skulls & skeletons) and candle-lit, religious parades. It's believed that the spirits of the dead visit their families on October 31st and leave on November 2nd. Children make ofrendas (offerings), usually customized & decorated with delightful foods, candies & toys in miniature.
It reminds me of how children talk about death. For them, it is as natural as birth and as cyclical as a flower blooming, or a seed sprouting.
I thought this was the perfect Halloween craft to do with kids, painting death with beautiful colors.
How to Paint Your Own Calaveras
- Create some interesting patterns and drawings on the skulls using a wide sharpie. You can draw flowers or any geometric shapes in any size.
- Have the kids paint within these shapes using brightly colored paint. Acrylic or tempera can be used. Also try colored Sharpies.
- Glue sequins or use some glitter to add that extra sparkly shine.
- Once the skulls are decorated, place them at your doorstep among the pumpkins. They will stand out among the traditional orange and black decorations littered across your neighborhoods.