Day of the Dead Craft Activities – Sugar Skulls & Banderas

day of the dead craft

Kids can learn about the history and cultural significance of the Day of the Dead Mexican holiday with our Sugar Skulls pack and Mexican Banderas. The holiday starts on Halloween and ends on November 2nd. This kit comes with two different craft projects. Each person can decorate one cardstock sugar skull mask with markers, sequins and glue, and wear it when they are done! Then they can create three diecut banners each using Papel Picado Mexican Banner Paper and liquid watercolors that can be hung up together as a group.

Age Group: 6 and up

Project Time: 45 minutes


You Will Need:

  • Paper Towels
  • Decorating Materials of Your Choice (optional)
  • Paper Plates (optional)
  • String and Tape (optional)

Each Person Should Have:

  • 1 Sugar Skull Mask
  • 3 Banderas per person

Craft Instructions:

The markers, glue, sequins, glitter glue will be shared among the group for the Sugar Skulls. The liquid watercolors and pipettes will be shared among the group for the Banderas.

This kit makes 24 Sugar Skull Masks and 72 Mexican Banderas using Papel Picado. There are 72 banners. Each person gets 3 each to decorate. Once these are completed and dry, we recommend creating a garland with them and hanging them across the ceiling.

dead of the dead craft kit

Skull Masks:

  1. Use the markers to color the Sugar Skull Mask.
  2. Glue the sequins onto the Sugar Skull Mask however you’d like.

TIPS: Open the sequin packs and divide onto paper plates to make decorating easier. You can also use your own decorating supplies to make your mask even more festive!

Mexican Banderas:

  1. Dampen the paper first, then use the included eye droppers to apply the liquid watercolor paint. Watch as the differnt colors come together!
  2. Make new colors by applying one color on top of another – yellow on blue for green, yellow on red for orange, red on blue for purple.
  3. Additional Step: Once the Banderas are dry, glue sequins on to the Banderas. Let dry, then string the Banderas to create a garland. Hang across ceiling or even outside if you’d like.

TIPS: Have someone press out the punch cuts before giving them to the kids. Also, use a table cover for less mess!

History of Day of the Dead

Dia de los Muertos Facts:

  • Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a festival celebrated every November 2 by people in Mexico, parts of Central and South America, and increasingly throughout the United States.
  • Day of the Dead is not a sad or scary occasion, but a spirited holiday when people remember and honor family members who have died. All of this is part of the philosophy that death is not something to be feared, but a natural part of life.
  • People celebrate in their homes, creating altars (called ofrendas in Spanish) that display portraits, favorite foods and special possessions of their loved ones.
  • Families visit the graves of their loved ones, cleaning the headstones and decorating with flowers and bringing food and music.
  • The roots of the Day of the Dead are pre-Columbian, and many of the symbols and practices are derived from the indigeneous groups of Meso America (i.e. Maya and Aztec).
  • Images of skeletons dancing or doing other comical things are common.

day of the dead

Dia de los Muertos: Glossary of Words:

  • Antepasados – “ancestors”; the ones who are given offerings by their families and friends.
  • Atole – a hot beverage made with ground corn powder or cornstarch.
  • Calacas – skulls and skeletons that are shown in a variety of activities.
  • Calaveritas de azucar – sugar skulls that are elaborately decorated. Sugar represents thesweetness of life and skull represents death.
  • Cempasuchitl – yellow or orange marigolds that are seen on graves and altars and whose smell and color are believed to attract the spirits and lead them back home.
  • Mole – a chocolate-based sauce made with many herbs and spices, usually served on chicken or turkey.
  • Ofrenda – “offering,” another word for altar where food, candles, flowers, pictures and mementos are left for the dead.
  • Pan de muerto – “bread of the dead,” baked into different shapes (human, bones, etc.) and usually put on the altar.
  • Papel picado – “punched paper,” paper banners decorated with elaborate designs.

Fun Facts:

  • Indigenous Mexicans believe the soul is eternal and can travel back and forth from this world and the next. The Day of the Dead celebration is based on the belief that the souls of loved ones will come back and visit.
  • Mexican cempasúchitl (marigold) is the traditional flower used to honor loved ones. It is yellow like the sun and represents life and hope.
  • Candy skulls are part of the tradition. Mexico, in the 17th Century was abundant in sugar but too poor to buy fancy church decorations from Europeans, so locals quickly learned from Catholic friars how to make sugar art for their own religious festivals.

Special thanks to the Smithsonian Institution Latino Center, a great resource for more information and a key source for this guide.

For more Information check out your local Library or these on-line resources:

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