If you’re interested in simple, family-friendly Day of the Dead activities for kids, this is the place for you! With links to yummy recipes, magical picture books, fascinating movie/documentary recommendations, and other fun resources, you’ll find TONS of great activities!
But first, here’s a brief overview of Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos!)
Day of the Dead, (Dia de los Muertos) is celebrated every year on November 1st and 2nd. During this time, it is believed that the border between our world and the spirit world dissolve, and families welcome back the souls of their deceased relatives for a brief celebratory reunion.
The roots of Dia de los Muertos date back to around 3,000 years ago, in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. The people living there viewed the universe as cyclical, and saw death as an essential part of the circle of life. With the eventual arrival of Europeans and inevitable human migration, a fusion of different cultures and religious practices blended together over time. While still predominately associated with Mexico, it is now celebrated throughout Latin America, the United States, and other places throughout the world.
This beautiful and meaningful celebration honors the lives of loved ones who have passed with music, dancing, favorite foods, and a sharing of fond memories. It is a time of remembrance, honor, and celebration.
DAY OF THE DEAD activities for kids – important things to know
Here are some important things to know as you learn more about Day of the Dead:
Altars – Often decorated in orange and purple, items like candles, flowers, and favorite personal possessions are incorporated. The altars are usually built at home, although in some communities they are constructed directly at gravesides.
Calacas (skeleton figurines) – Decorated colorfully and often dressed in traditional Mexican attire, these are displayed in festive and entertaining ways.
Calaveras (sugar skulls) – Bought or made by families and added to altars, the name loved ones are often written in icing on the forehead of the sugar skull. And these can be eaten as well!
Cempasuchiles (marigolds) – Also known as flor de muerto, these flowers are used to help guide the souls of those who have passed, back to the world of the living.
Ofrendas (offerings) – Items such as candles, flowers, favorite foods, and personal possessions are placed on, or near the altars. These items encourage loved ones to return home for the celebration.
Pan de Muerto (sweet bread) – A lightly orange-flavored sweet bread topped with suger. Yum!
DAY OF THE DEAD ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS – great overviews!
The following 10 resources provide a fantastic overview of the significance of this important celebration.
- Day of the Dead – Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead.Holiday)
- Top 10 Things to Know About the Day of the Dead (National Geographic)
- Day of the Dead (History.com)
- Day of the Dead in Latin America: Customs and Traditions (Elisabeth from Spanish Mama)
- Exploring the Traditions of Mexico’s Day of the Dead (Culture Trip)
- Smithsonian Latino Center (Smithsonian)
- Dia de los Muertos Traditions (Day of the Dead San Diego)
- 10 Facts About Day of the Dead & How Disney Pixar’s Coco Incorporated Them (Kathy from The Crafty Chica)
- What’s el Dia de los Muertos? It’s Not Scary, and it’s Not Halloween! (NBC News)
- Day of the Dead in Mexico (Mely from Mexico in My Kitchen)
Day of the dead activities for kids – simple & fun ways to celebrate!
You and your kids are sure to find some of these activities interesting and engaging!
- A Collection of Day of the Dead Songs (Elisabeth from Spanish Mama)
- How to Make Sugar Skulls for Day of the Dead (Stephanie from the Spanglish Spoon)
- Day of the Dead DIY Felt Sugar Skull (Ruby from Growing Up Blackxican)
- Easy Glow in the Dark Day of the Dead Lanterns (Paula & Cesar from Growing up Bilingual)
- Tissue Paper DIY Marigolds (Kathy from The Crafty Chica)
- Easy To Make Day Of The Dead Skull Pumpkin Candle Holders (Paula & Cesar from Growing up Bilingual)
- How to Make a Day of the Dead Altar (Elexia from Artelexia)
- Stone Sugar Skulls (Alisa from Redefine Creativity)
- Day of the Dead Planters (Regina from Creative Kismet)
- DIY Papel Picado for Day of the Dead (Think, Make, Share – Hallmark)
Recipes to day of the dead activities for kids – recipes!
There are so many delicious traditional Mexican dishes that are enjoyed and I’ve listed several below. There are also a few nontraditional but fun and festive ideas included!
- Pan de Muerto (Dia de los Muertos Recipes)
- Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate (Paula & Cesar Diaz from Growing up Bilingual)
- Tamales (Dia de los Muertos Recipes)
- Sopa Azteca -Mexican Tortilla Soup (Day of the Dead.Holiday)
- Horchata (Day of the Dead.Holiday)
- Candied Pumpkin – Calabaza en Tacha (Mely from Mexico in My Kitchen)
- Day of the Dead Cookies (Delish.com)
- Day Of the Dead Sugar Skull Fruit Pizza Dessert (Paula & Cesar Diaz from Growing up Bilingual)
- Disney Pixar’s Coco Krispy Treats (Christa at Pura Vida Moms)
- Day of the Dead Marshmallow Sugar Skull Pops (Mom.com)
day of the dead activities for kids – magical picture Books
The following 10 picture books offer festive, enchanting, educational glimpses into this meaningful holiday. For detailed descriptions of each title, be sure to check out 10 Magical Day of the Dead Picture Books!
- Dia de los Muertos by Roseanne Greefield Thong and Carles Ballesteros
- I Remember Abuelito: A Day of the Dead Story / Yo Recuerdo a Abuelito: Un Cuento del Dia de los Muertos by Janice Levy, Loretta Lopez, and Miguel Arisa
- The Day of the Dead: A Bilingual Celebration by Bob Barner
- Rosita y Conchita by Eric Gonzalez & Erich Haeger
- Gustavo, the Shy Ghost by Flavia Z. Drago
- Day of the Dead Activity Book by Karl Jones and Steve Simpson
- Coco: The Junior Novelization by Angela Cervantes and RH Disney (Disney/Pixar) For middle schoolers, check out Coco: A Story About Music, Shoes, and Family by Diana Lopez.
- The Spirit of Tio Fernando / El Espiritu de Tio Fernando: A Day of the Dead Story by Janice Levy, Morella Fuenmanyor, and Teresa Mlawer
- Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston and Jeanette Winter
- Chicano Jr’s Day of the Dead Adventure by Raul Jimenez and Felipe Vasconcelos
DAY OF THE DEAD activities for kids – MOVIES & DOCUMENTARIES
Several of the recommendations below are 5 minutes or less and appropriate for young children. Towards the end, there are a few which are slightly longer and might be more interesting for older kids.
- Day of the Dead – This super quick intro to Dia de los Muertos by Nani Nani Kids, is perfect for young kids and is only a few minutes long!
- Dia de los Muertos – A delightful short animated film, (under 5 minutes) created by Film School Shorts. This film truly captures the spirit and magic of this holiday.
- A Celebration of Life: El Dia de los Muertos – Another short video (just over 5 minutes) by Beautiful Destinations.
- Day of the Dead: Flavor and Tradition – Best List Travel provides another simple and short overview.
- Day of the Dead Sugar Skulls – This video by Muy Bueno, focuses on how and why sugar skulls are used. It also highlights several different children as they honor specific loved ones who have passed.
- Coco – This 2017 Disney animated film follows young Miguel, an enthusiastic musician, as he embarks on a quest to meet one of his ancestor’s and crosses into the afterlife. A vibrant, colorful film that celebrates the rich traditions and history of Dia de los Muertos. Rated PG.
- Book of Life – In the Mexican town of San Angel, Manolo, Maria, and Joaquin have been friends since childhood. Although their lives have taken different paths, Manolo and Joaquin are both eager to marry Maria. Drama ensues and elements of Dia de los Muertos are woven throughout the film in interesting and engaging ways. Rated PG.
- BBC Culture Documentary – Dia de los Muertos – Food writer and presenter Stefan Gates visits Oaxaca, Mexico and explores the customs, celebrations, and significance of this holiday.
- Dia de Muertos and Authentic Mexican Food! – In this video, (just over 13 minutes) The Round the World Guys experience Dia de los Muertos in Mixquic, just outside of Mexico City. Another short, but informative, introduction to this holiday.
- KCET Dia de los Muertos / Day of the Dead – Día de los Muertos – Explores the origins of Dia de los Muertos and its migration to other regions. There is a first part and second part so be sure to catch them both.
The Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is a beautiful, creative, and festive celebration honoring the lives of ancestors who have passed. I hope you and your children enjoy learning about it together!
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