The family perro wearing a sombrero? Must be Cinco de Mayo!

This year, you can let May 5th be just another spring day, or you can make Cinco de Mayo a day of fun and learning for your niños! Together you can explore Mexican culture, learn a little history, sing, dance, try some tasty South-of-the-Border treats, and even impress your kids with your high school Spanish. Sound good? Vamonos! Let’s go!

A little history

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. A small Mexican army of 2,000 poorly-equipped soldiers defeated an army of 6,000 French invaders, who were backed by Napolean III. This unlikely victory became a great source of national pride. Over the years, Cinco de Mayo has become less about that specific battle, and more of a celebration of Mexican culture in general.

Música with maracas

Music makes a fun introduction to any culture or country, and that’s especially true for Mexico. This cute animated clip pairs the traditional Mexican Hat Dance tune with new, kid-friendly lyrics.

In the video, they sing about shaking maracas, which you can easily make for your kids. Just take plastic eggs left over from Easter, pour in some dried beans, rice, or popcorn kernels. Glue the two halves of each egg together and start shaking! To make an optional handle, place 2 plastic spoons around each egg. Wrap colorful washi tape around the backs of the 2 spoons with the egg inside, then keep wrapping all the way down to secure. Your kids will be all set to keep time with the song!

Mariachi and más

Ready for a song that’s a bit more auténtico? Most Cinco de Mayo festivals feature strolling street musicians known as mariachi bands. Kids can learn all about their instruments in this charming animated clip.

Want more music? Play the Mexican Children (Children’s) Radio station on Pandora and enjoy sweet, folksy songs in Spanish, sung by adults and kids.

Say it in Spanish

Tired of reminding your kids to say “please” and “thank you”? You might have better luck getting them to say “por favor” and “gracias,” if only because of the novelty! A nap is so boring, but a “siesta” might sound tempting. It’s easy to Google Spanish phrases online to share with your kids. Then they can brighten everyone’s day with a cheerful “buenos dias,” and introduce themselves with a “me llamo _____” (my name is____). Or teach your preschooler 3 or 4 nouns in Spanish today, ideally tangible things you can point to, like perro (dog), gato (cat), sombrero (hat), zapatos (shoes), sol (sun), or luna (moon).

By the numbers

Thanks to TV shows like Sesame Street, many preschoolers can count to 10 in Spanish, rapidly rattling off, “uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve, diez!” But how well can your kids use these números? Challenge your family to use only Spanish numbers on Cinco de Mayo. You can start the day with a refresher, counting together on your fingers. Then ask questions like “How many pancakes do you want?” and “How many years old are you?” You can also grab a pair of dice, roll them, and see who can shout out the sum first. (Once is 11 and doce is 12.) Your kids will be drilling language and math while they’re having fun! You can even play Uno and have each player say the number of the card they are playing in Spanish for a fun twist.

Delicioso desserts

You may already be thinking of making Cinco de Mayo a taco night. But what’s for dessert? We have 3 festive ideas. Your kids may be surprised to learn that chocolate originally comes from Mexico, where it was enjoyed as a drink for many thousands of years. You can make a kid-friendly version of Mexican hot chocolate by adding a dash of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg to your favorite hot chocolate. It’s delicious served with these super easy, baked churros. See how they’re made on YouTube. 

(Try dipping the churros in the hot chocolate for a double dose of cinnamon bliss!) Or go for something light and cool with tri-color gelatin parfaits in honor of the Mexican flag. Your kids can help layer lime green gelatin into a tall glass, add a generous dollop of white whipped cream, then top with any flavor of red gelatin.

Libros, libros, libros!

Head to your local biblioteca to check out some of the vibrant and creative books for kids about different aspects of Mexican culture. New in 2017 is Lucia the Luchadora, by Cynthia Leonor Garza, about a girl who learns she comes from a line of traditional masked wrestlers. What Can You Do with a Paleta, by Carmen Tafolla, was inspired by the frozen treats sold in the barrio from little carts with tinkling bells. As kids will find out by reading the text in both English and Spanish, you can eat a paleta, draw with it, share it, and much more! Charming illustrations make Cinco de Mouse-O a delight for kids of all ages. Written by Judy Cox in English, with some Spanish words, the book follows a mouse as he explores a Cinco de Mayo celebration. The tiny hero is determined to get a piece of candy from the piñata, which keeps the story moving forward.

Make a mini piñata

Finally, you and your kids can create your own mini piñata from everyday items like cereal boxes and sticky notes. Our piñata is designed with a trap door, so no baby burros will be harmed when releasing the treats inside!

Try a few of the ideas here and soon Cinco de Mayo will become a fun family tradition and fantástico learning opportunity.


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