women dancing at Cinco de Mayo festival

As you and your child(ren) may already know from your One Third Stories story boxes the Spanish word for the number five is cinco. The Spanish word for the month of May is Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo is a celebration that started in the Spanish-speaking country of Mexico. (You may want to show your child(ren) where Mexico is located on a world map.)

Many people mistakenly believe that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day.

Rather, Cinco de Mayo celebrates a battle that took place on May 5, 1862, when an army of French soldiers invaded Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico, in an attempt to bring it under French rule. Though the Mexican soldiers were outnumbered, they fiercely fought the French troops and were able to win the battle and force the French soldiers to retreat.

While Cinco de Mayo is still celebrated in Mexico, it is now even more widely celebrated in the United States, to honor Mexican culture. The holiday features Mexican foods, mariachi music, parades, traditional Mexican apparel, and Mexican folk dancing.

To help your children learn more about Mexican culture and Cinco de Mayo, check out some of the following activities and resources, provided by Marla Wagner, a mom, and author of the soon-to-be-published Cool Kids book that introduces children and their caregivers to cultures from around the world, through crafts, activities, books, music, recipes and more.

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Children

Enjoy Latin American Music and Dance

Transform your living room into a festive scene with a dancing or singing party. Search online for mariachi music—such as performances by Jose Luis Orozco or tracks from Disney’s Encanto soundtrack—to experience the vibrant sounds of Latin America.

Embrace the Tradition of Siesta

Introduce your children to the relaxing tradition of taking a siesta, a short nap commonly taken in the afternoon in Spanish-speaking countries. This practice not only teaches them about cultural norms but also offers a moment of rest during the festivities.

Host a Mexican Fiesta at Home

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo by hosting a mini fiesta. Prepare and enjoy Mexican culinary delights like hot cocoa with chili powder and quesadillas. This is a fantastic way to engage children in cooking while exploring the flavors of Mexican cuisine.

Craft Traditional Mexican Papel Picado

Engage in making papel picado, a traditional Mexican craft that involves creating intricate designs in colorful paper. This activity allows children to develop their artistic skills and learn about Mexican decorative traditions.

Explore Mexican Culture Through Literature

Enhance the celebration by reading books about Mexico and Cinco de Mayo. Recommended titles include Mice and Beans by Pam Munoz Ryan, Cinco De Mouse-O by Judy Cox, and The Tale of Rabbit and Coyote by Tony Johnston. These stories provide children with insights into Mexican folklore and traditions.

See Recipes and Crafts Below

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Recipes and Crafts

Quesadillas

above view of Quesadillas

Ingredients:

  • 10 medium flour tortillas
  • 2 cups diced cooked chicken
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Olive oil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425° F. Line baking sheets with foil, and drizzle with olive oil. Rinse and drain the black beans. Mix the beans with chicken, cheese, salt, and garlic powder. Spread the mixture on half of each tortilla. Bake these, open-faced, for 5 minutes, then fold the uncovered half of the tortilla over the half with the mixture (similar to an omelet). Press on the folded tortilla so it stays closed. (The melted cheese should hold the tortilla closed.) Bake the folded tortilla for 1 more minute. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and cut each folded tortilla into three equal wedges. Serve with salsa, sour cream, and guacamole.

Papel Picado

craft photograph of Papel picado

Papel picado translates to perforated paper or picked paper. Paper Picado is a traditional Mexican craft featuring colorful paper sheets with cut-out designs. The sheets of paper are often strung together to create colorful banners as decorations for celebrations and festivals.

What you’ll need:

  • Brightly colored construction paper or tissue paper
  • Scissors
  • Tape or yarn

Fold each sheet of paper into an accordion. Cut small geometric shapes along both edges of the folded paper. Open the paper to reveal the cut-out designs. You can also experiment with larger designs by folding the page in half or thirds.

If desired, display the designs by taping them to a window, or string the papers together by looping or taping twine or yarn through the cutouts, and then hang them around the room as decorations.

As you explore these vibrant and engaging activities with your family, celebrating Cinco de Mayo becomes more than just a fun day—it’s a valuable opportunity to deepen your understanding and appreciation of Mexican culture.

From mastering basic Spanish phrases to enjoying traditional music and crafts, each activity helps foster a greater connection to the rich heritage of Mexico. So, gather your loved ones, try out these family-friendly activities, and make this Cinco de Mayo a meaningful celebration of cultural diversity and historical significance.

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