Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with Kids
May 5, or Cinco de Mayo, is a big deal in Texas. Cinco de Mayo is a day we put on the calendar and celebrate together as a family. Although my family is not Mexican, we enjoy learning about and celebrating other cultures. My girls attend a Fine Arts and Dual Language Academy, where they learn Spanish as part of their coursework and study other cultures as part of the curriculum. We love learning about holidays that are celebrated in other cultures, and Cinco de Mayo is no exception (although it’s been suggested that Cinco de Mayo is celebrated more in the US than in Mexico!).
The History of Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo (which translates to the Fifth of May) celebrates the Mexican army’s May 5, 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. Cinco de Mayo is not to be confused with Mexican Independence Day, which is celebrated on September 16.
Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with Kids
Cinco de Mayo is a great opportunity to teach kids about the Mexican culture. Work with your kids to learn about popular traditions, outfits and customs in Mexico and incorporate them into your day.
Enjoy Mexican Cuisine
- Make guacamole for an appetizer. Guacamole is fun to make because your kids can do it with very little assistance! Grab a few ripe avocadoes, some Tajin powder, salt, tomatoes and onion and prepare your guacamole! If your children are too young to use a knife by themselves, dice the onions and tomatoes for them. Then, cut the avocado into small chunks for them. Let them mash the avocadoes in a bowl and add the other ingredients until they like the taste and consistency of the dip. Grab some tortilla chips and dig in!
- Set up a taco bar for your main course. Let the kids brown the meat you choose, whether its beef, chicken, turkey or meatless meat. Then set out bowls filled with cheese, lettuce, black beans, onions, tomatoes, avocadoes and any other toppings you like with your tacos. Warm tortillas in the oven for a few minutes before serving.
- Try some authentic Mexican candy for dessert! Mexican candies often incorporate a mix of sweet and spicy, like pairing watermelon flavor with chili powder, as in the popular candy Rebanaditas. If you want sweet and spicy, try Vero Mango. Like sour candy? Try Limon 7. Crave chocolate (like I do)? Give Ricolino a shot!
Participate in a Fun Mexican Tradition
Have your kids take turns trying to break open a piñata!
Your kids will love this fun tradition often associated with a holiday or special occasions. You can usually pick up a piñata at a local party store (or make one yourself with a great tutorial here!) and then fill it with candy and small trinkets. Use a stick and a blindfold and have children who are not trying to hit the piñata stay well clear of the festivities so they don’t accidentally get hit with the stick. Have the kids take turns hitting the cardboard candy-holder (if they are older kids, spin them around blindfolded once or twice for a true challenge!) until all the candy and trinkets fall out. Be sure and provide the kids with bags or baskets to gather their winnings.
Although piñatas are commonly associated with Mexico, there is much discussion where the colorful candy-holders actually originated. Some say they actually were started in China and then came to Italy with Marco Polo. They were then discovered by Spanish Missionaries in Italy and brought across the ocean to Mexico that way.
Watch a Movie or Television Show that Celebrates Hispanic Culture
One of our favorite movies that has come out in recent years in Coco. The music is outstanding and the graphics just incredible. Although this movie doesn’t reference Cinco de Mayo, this movie does talk about Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a Mexican tradition I didn’t know much about until I watched Coco. If you haven’t seen this movie, you are truly missing out on a wonderful story that will likely bring tears to your eyes and make you thankful for your family!
Dora the Explorer is also another fun movie and television show that will entertain kids of all ages and teach them some Spanish as they watch. The television show from Nickelodeon is animated and perfect for kiddos younger than seven. For older kids, check out the movie that came out in 2019 entitled “Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” which follows a teenaged Dora and her cousin Diego through an adventure in Peru.
Make a Homemade Maraca
Listen to Mariachi music and make festive noisemakers!
Get crafty by making Maracas at home is super easy and requires just a few steps:
- Grab dried beans and empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls.
- Gather items to decorate the cardboard: markets, crayons, tissue paper, sequins, glue, glitter, etc.
- Decorate the outside of the paper towel or toilet paper rolls. Make them as bright and fancy as you’d like!
- Seal one end of the roll with paper and tape.
- Add in beans. Just fill the roll about 1/8th of the way.
- Seal the other end of the roll with paper and tape.
- Shake away! See what rhythms or patterns you can create while shaking your maraca.
However you choose to celebrate this fun holiday, be sure to use it as a learning opportunity for your children to explore other cultures and broaden their worldview. Learning about traditions outside of the ones in your own family gives you a greater understanding of what life is like in other parts of the world.