How to Celebrate Día de los Muertos for Kids

You’ve probably heard of Día de los Muertos for some time. We had, but it wasn’t till we watched the movie Coco that we really started to become interested. Deciding to celebrate on our own this year, I put together a few Día de los Muertos activities that are perfect for celebrating with the kids!

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What is Día de los Muertos?

Día de los Muertos is a celebration done in Mexico and other Latin American countries. It is a day when people will make an ofrenda and put up pictures of their loved ones who have passed. In doing so, their loved ones are able to cross between the land of the deceased over to the land of the living so that families can be reunited (in spirit) for a short time each year.

The movie Coco has quickly become one of our favorites, and it does a great job introducing Día de los Muertos for kids.

When is Día de los Muertos?

Día de los Muertos runs from October 31 to November 2 each year. October 31st is the eve of the holiday. November 1st is día de los Innocentes, where children who have passed are celebrated and able to visit. But November 2nd is the main day of Día de los Muertos.

How to Celebrate Día de los Muertos

If you travel to Mexico, you’ll find that there are large parades in certain towns to celebrate. There is beautiful artwork, people’s faces are painted, and there is plenty of food. Día de los Muertos is not a day to grieve, but rather a day to celebrate and remember those who have passed.

Here’s how we celebrated at home:

How to Create an Ofrenda

An ofrenda is the altar where you put pictures, candles, and things to remember your ancestors by. Often people will put on a person’s favorite items and favorite foods. Flowers, specifically Marigolds, are used to create a strong scent and bright colors to guide the way for the spirits to return.

To make our ofrenda, we put on a colorful tablecloth. Then I placed pictures of loved ones who have passed away. We lit a few candles, placed some flowers, and put a traditional Pan de Muerto on the table. The Pan de Muerto, or “bread of the dead” is often embellished on the top with bones made out of the dough. The bread is actually really good. It was one of my kids favorite parts 🙂 Here is the recipe we used.

Dia de los muertos ofrenda

Hang a Papel Picado– Dia De Los Muertos Activities

You’ve probably seen papel picado in plenty of pictures, or if you’ve actually visited Latin American countries. I was a little late in ordering papel picado, so we ended up making our own.

To make it, get some colored papers. Fold it in half, then in half again. Cut designs all along the edges. when you open it up, it resembles papel picado! This is a perfect way for kids to help prepare for Día de los Muertos.

After cutting, just tape some string to the back and hang it up high or along the ofrenda.

Dia de los muertos papel picado

Sugar Skull Masks– Dia De Los Muertos Activities

Sugar skulls are a big part of Día de los Muertos. Traditionally there are two sizes: small and large. The small ones are representative of the children or innocentes who have died. These can be eaten as well. the larger ones represent adults who have passed and will often have their names written on the forehead of the skull. These larger ones are not eaten.

Sugar skulls are used in decoration and appearance as well.

To help get in the spirit, we printed off some sugar skull masks and colored and decorated them. Then tape some string on and wear them for the celebration! We used this free printable from Paper Trail Design.

Dia de los muertos skulls
kids coloring Dia de los muertos pictures

Make A Sand Tapestry- Día de los Muertos Activities for Kids

People will work for long hours in the streets to create art masterpieces out of sand during Día de los Muertos. They are along the streets and often in front of the ofrendas. The sand tapestry shows both life and death, and is a reminder that all things die and blow away. Again, it celebrates the transition from life and death.

To make a sand tapestry or tapete, buy a few jars of colored sand. Then use your imagination to create some artwork with vibrant colors on a paper plate or clear bucket. If inspired, you can get a small sifter to help spread and “paint” with the sand. This is a great way to celebrate Día de los Muertos with kids!

Check out this cool time lapse of a sand tapestry being made!

Dia de los muertos kids activity of sand tapestry

Who is La Catrina?

For the next activity, it’s relevant to know who La Catrina is. You’ve probably seen pictures of La Catrina. She’s a skeleton, but adorned with bright beautiful colors and a headband of bright flowers. La Catrina is a symbol in Día de los Muertos. She shows everyone that it doesn’t matter how rich or fancy you are, you can’t escape death. So even this woman who is full of elegance met death.

la catrina from Dia de los muertos

Make a La Catrina Headband– Día de los Muertos Craft for kids

This Día de los Muertos activity is perfect for kids. Buy a few simple, plain headbands (or for a DIY, cut the outer edge of a paper plate). Then get some bright colored flowers (real or artificial…we used artificial). Snap off the heads of the flowers and glue them onto the headbands.

kids in skull masks and catrina headbands for Dia de los muertos

The Celebration of Día de los Muertos with Kids

After prepping the masks, headbands, banner, and sand tapestry, it’s time to celebrate! We lit the candles and shared and stories and memories of those of whom we put a picture up. This was a great way to connect and dig into our family heritage. While we didn’t dwell on the idea of their spirits coming to visit (traditionally this happens at midnight of the night before…so adult spirits would come at midnight the night of the 1st/morning of the 2nd), we did try and teach about why each person is special and deserves to be honored and remembered.

While doing so, we enjoyed the Pan de Muerto as well as some Mexican Hot Chocolate.

Día de los Muertos for Kids

Our kids did go trick-or-treating for the typical Halloween night. However, I love celebrating Día de los Muertos with them. Día de los Muertos has so much more meaning and opportunities to learn about each person’s family.

Let me know how your celebration of Día de los Muertos with kids goes for you!

Want more holiday fun?

Check out How to have a Christmas Train…at home! or

How to Make Giant Paper Snowflakes

Huge list of Valentine’s Activities

Christmas Traditions for families

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