Teaching Kids the Real Meaning of Cinco de Mayo in a Fun Way

The Cinco de Mayo holiday provides the perfect opportunity to teach children about Mexican hisotry, culture and traditions in a fun way.

Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s independence day like many people assume. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican Army’s over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. In Mexico, it is not celebrated nationally but only in Puebla.  In the 1960s and 1970s, civil rights Chicanos related the Battle of Puebla to their quest for respect in the United States and publicized it as a popular holiday.  Most people do not know about the real meaning of this holiday and why it has become so popular and today it is mostly used just an excuse to party, wear sombreros and drink margaritas.

Traditional Mexican dance Cinco de MayoHowever, Cinco de Mayo provides a great opportunity to educate my children as well as my friends about “real” Mexican and other Latino traditions and foods as Cinco de Mayo has become a day which most Americans relate to Latinos in general.  Here are some great ideas and easy activities to make for a Cinco de Mayo party that focuses on Mexican traditions and history, making it not only a fun party for kids and adults but also a great opportunity to learn more about the Mexican culture.

Read about the history of the holiday:  Start the party off by talking about the holiday’s history. We got a wonderful book from the library: Cinco de Mayo from Rookie Read about Holidays Collection and read it out loud with the kids. It outlines the events that led up to the Battle of Puebla in remarkably simple terms, and then shows various aspects of contemporary festivities, including a mariachi band, dancers, parades, and so on. Its colorful pictures kept the kids interested and there where a lot of questions, which means they were really paying attention.  You can also look for pictures and information online and print them out and even print out some Mexican coloring pages to explain to the children the real reason for celebrating this holiday in a fun way.

Cook a traditional Mexican dish:  this is a great opportunity to involve children in the kitchen and prepare a simple Mexican dish.  There are many simple kid-friendly recipes out there but my favorites are Guacamole, Tortilla Chips with Pico de Gallo and Tacos de Carnitas or some delicious chicken tinga empanadas, all easy to make and all are well received by the younger crowd.

Guacamole for Cinco de Mayo
Guacamole photo by Valerie Hinojosa on Flicker

Create Mexican inspired crafts:  Kids love crafts so we made some very simple maracas. We put some beans in a plastic cup and taped it to a second plastic cup using bright colored tape. Then the children decorated the maracas with more colored tape. There are many other crafts you can make for Cinco de Mayo. We tried to stay away from the chili peppers and sombreros and focused on Cinco de Mayo crafts that teach kids about Mexican traditions, history, and culture. You can get lots of ideas for Cinco de Mayo culturally relevant crafts for kids here from alebrijes and talavera inspired pinch pots to piñatas and Ojos de Dios.

Cinco de Mayo crafts

Play Mexican Music:  What is a party without music?  We are not of Mexican descent so my children had never heard mariachi music, this was an excellent opportunity to introduce them to it.  We also played some of their favorite Spanish children’s music CDs and did a parade around the park with the maracas and some Mexican sombreros. We talked about Mexican music, it’s origin and about Mexican traditions.

Mexican Mariachis
Mexican Mariachis photo by Hilary Perkins on Flickr

Learn about Mexican traditions and culture: Cinco de Mayo is a great opportunity to learn about Mexican traditions and culture. One of these traditions, that kids are sure to love this.

Teaching kids the real meaning of Cinco de Mayo in a fun way

Ideas & Activities for Teaching Kids About Cinco de Mayo

Ideas & Activities for Teaching Kids About Cinco de Mayo


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3 thoughts on “Teaching Kids the Real Meaning of Cinco de Mayo in a Fun Way”

  1. Happy Cinco de Mayo! Heavily celebrated here in Los Angeles with many of the ways you mentioned. Especially food and music and of course the pinata.

    Great post with lots of creative ideas to help your little ones learn what this day is all about!


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