Mexico Family Travel

10 Culturally Appropriate Day of the Dead Kids Activities to do at Home

October 5, 2021
Astrid Vinje

If you’re lucky to be in Mexico during Day of the Dead, you’ll be treated to a festive celebration of color, tastes, and smells. Families all throughout Mexico celebrate this special time with Day of the Dead kids activities and plenty of family togetherness as well. 

Falling between October 31st and November 2nd every year, this Mexican holiday is a special time for people to remember and honor family members who have passed away. It’s an opportunity to celebrate their life, and engage in some activities for the Day of the Dead as a family.

But you don’t have to travel all the way to Mexico to take part in this beautiful Mexican tradition. You can respectfully celebrate Día de los Muertos for kids at home with these fun Day of the Dead kids activities.


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An ofrenda with a beautiful flower arch for Dia de los Muertos

Table of Contents

What is Day of the Dead and other frequently asked questions

Day of the Dead, also known as Día de los Muertos, is a traditional holiday in Mexico honoring those who have died. It stems from indigenous culture, but is now celebrated all over Mexico with plenty of Day of the Dead kids activities for families.

Though often mistakenly compared to Halloween, Día de los Muertos holds a very different meaning to Mexicans. Rather than a time of spookiness, Día de los Muertos is more of a celebration of life. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Día de los Muertos.

A couple dressed as a catrin and catrina for Dia de los Muertos

What is the history of Day of the Dead?

Day of the Dead stems from indigenous traditions of the Aztecs, Toltec, and Nahua people. These cultures believed that during Day of the Dead, the spirits of the deceased temporarily return to earth to spend time with the living.

When Spanish colonialism introduced Christianity to the indigenous cultures, the tradition of All Saints Day was incorporated into indigenous traditions and beliefs. Today, Día de los Muertos is a unique combination of ancient Day of the Dead activities and colonial traditions.

Traditional Aztec dancers in front of a cathedral in Mexico City for Day of the Dead

Where is Day of the Dead celebrated?

Día de los Muertos is celebrated all throughout Mexico. Many cities hold official activities for the Day of the Dead. And even in smaller towns you might find some Day of the Dead kids activities for families.

In Mexico City, the city has a large ofrenda, a Day of the Dead altar, in its main square, known as the zocalo. You can also find large sculptures of alebrijes, mythical creatures typically found in Mexican folk art, throughout the city.

Other cities with plenty of activities for Day of the Dead include Oaxaca, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, and Guadalajara. You might also find some kids Día de los Muertos celebrations in the Yucatán peninsula as well.

Use these Mexico travel tips to plan your next trip to Mexico.

Colorful alebrije sculptures in Mexico City for Dia de los Muertos

How do Mexican families do Day of the Dead activities?

There’s a misperception that Día de los Muertos is Mexico’s version of Halloween. But this is not the case. While there are references to death in both holidays, the similarities essentially end there.

Día de los Muertos is a very personal holiday for Mexican families, because it centers around remembering and honoring their past loved ones. As such, much of the activities for Day of the Dead revolve around spending time with family members.

Some Mexicans do enjoy painting their faces and dressing up as La Calavera Catrina, an elegant skeleton figure that symbolizes death. In fact, this is one of the more popular Day of the Dead kids activities. 

However, it’s important to note that dressing up as a Catrin or Catrina is not meant to be a costume. Rather, it serves as a remembrance for loved ones who have passed away.

The character of La Calavera Catrina was first created by José Guadalupe Posada. It was later popularized by artist Diego Rivera, who included the character in one of his murals, called Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park. La Catrina stands front and center in that painting.

Diego Rivera's painting, Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park

How can I take part in Day of the Dead activities respectfully?

Remember that Día de los Muertos is an important holiday for Mexican families. It’s more than dressing up and eating food. So when choosing what Day of the Dead kids activities to do, remember to keep this in mind.

If you want to respectfully celebrate Día de los Muertos, make an effort to learn about how Mexicans celebrate it. Find out how Mexican families honor and remember their loved ones who have passed away.

Also, take this time to support the Mexican artists and businesses in your community. If you can, avoid buying mass produced decorations that portray Mexican culture as a caricature. Instead seek out Day of the Dead Mexico art made by Mexican artists in your community. 

Mexican art honoring famous artists such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo

Is it okay to paint your face for Day of the Dead?

This is a tricky topic. Most Mexicans are okay with non-Mexicans painting their faces as a sugar skull for Day of the Dead, as long as it’s done respectfully. Remember that Día de los Muertos is not a day of scariness, so painting your face in a scary manner is a big no-no.  

Since Día de los Muertos is a celebration, using bright colors and incorporating flowers is encouraged. Common colors used during Día de los Muertos include pink, purple, red, white, and yellow.

If you’re unsure of whether you can respectfully paint your face for Dia de los Muertos, avoid doing altogether. Instead, choose other Day of the Dead kids activities that don’t require painting faces.

A girl with her face painted for Dia de los Muertos

What are some good kids Día de los Muertos books?

If you’re looking for ways that you and your family can learn about Día de los Muertos and take part in Day of the Dead kids activities, here are a few books to dive into:

Citali and the Day of the Dead, by Berta De Llano and illustrated by Jaime Rivera Contreras (recommended for ages 4-9 years old)

Skulls to the Living, Bread to the Dead, by Stanley Brandes (recommended for adults)

Take a look at these other suggestions of Day of the Dead books, including information about Day of the Dead kids activities, from Hispanic Mama. It's a great resource for learning about Día de los Muertos.

If you're curious to learn more about Mexico in general, click here to dive deeper into Mexican culture.

Colorful sugar skulls for Dia de los Muertos

10 fun Day of the Dead kids activities to do at home

There are plenty of ways you and your kids can celebrate Día de los Muertos at home. Take a look at these fun Day of the Dead kids activities that you can do to respectfully celebrate Día de los Muertos.

1. Attend a local Día de los Muertos for kids celebration

The best way to learn about the Day of the Dead is by talking with Mexicans about their culture. You can do this by attending some Day of the Dead kids activities in your local community.

Take a look at what events the Mexican cultural organizations in your area are planning. You can also check with the Mexican embassy or consulate to see what events are going on. Local museums might also be hosting Day of the Dead kids activities for families in your local area.

Ofrendas decorated with Day of the Dead figures in Mexico

2. Buy Day of the Dead Mexico art from local Mexican artists

Alternatively, another way to respectfully take part in Day of the Dead kids activities is by purchasing Day of the Dead Mexico art from local Mexican artists. Do a search in your area for artists from Mexico and purchase one of their artwork for your home.

If there aren’t any in your area, you can support one of these Mexican artists on Etsy as part of your Day of the Dead kids activities:

Nahualcalli - Mexican art from Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico

ArtbyAnnaAlvarado - Mexican artist based in California, USA

Gilded Nopal - Mexican artist based in California, USA

Ay Mujer! - handmade paper cut banners from California, USA

Colorful sugar skulls made by artisans for sale in Mexico

3. Load up on tamales from your favorite Mexican-owned restaurant

Food is a huge part of Mexican culture. And one of the favorite Day of the Dead kids activities for Mexican families involves preparing and eating tamales.

Tamales are made from masa dough steamed in a corn husk. They are usually stuffed with a meat filling, and can sometimes be served with a sauce. Some regions in Mexico use banana leaves instead of corn husks.

Freshly made tamal with beans topped with traditional mole sauce

4. Make tamales at home

Once you’ve loaded up on your fill of tamales, you can try making them yourselves at home. To prep for this type of Day of the Dead kids activities, you can buy your masa and corn husks from a local Mexican specialty grocery store.

Or you can order your masa online here. Maseca is the masa brand most commonly found in Mexico.

Try this recipe for making tamales at home from Modern Brown Girl: My Grandmother’s Tamal Recipe. The recipe includes tools you can use to make authentic tamales at home. 

Home made tamales ready to be steamed and cooked

5. Cook your family member’s favorite meals

Day of the Dead is a time to remember your loved ones who have passed. One way you can honor your loved ones is to make their favorite meals. 

Choose a special family recipe, or find a special dish that you can prepare together as a family. That can make these types of Day of the Dead kids activities extra special and meaningful to your kids.

A sampling of food in Mexico

6. Make a Day of the Dead altar for your loved ones 

Ofrendas are essentially altars or tables where you can honor and remember your loved ones. As part of your Day of the Dead kids activities, you can make your own ofrenda for your home by setting up a small table and placing a picture of your loved one on it. 

Fill the table with items that your loved one enjoyed in life: games, pictures, types of food and drink. Also decorate it in flowers and fabrics that are the favorite colors of your loved one. Mexican families will often decorate ofrendas with paper cutouts as well.

A beautifully decorated ofrenda in San Miguel de Allende for Dia de los Muertos

7. Share stories about your loved ones

In Mexico, families spend part of the Day of the Dead at the cemetery, visiting their loved ones’ graves. They bring food to eat, sing songs, and share stories about the people whose graves they are visiting. If they have kids, they may offer some Day of the Dead kids activities to help them pass the time.

While you don’t necessarily have to go to the cemetery, you can take part in these types of Day of the Dead kids activities at home by sharing favorite memories of your loved ones with your family. Have your kids write a small story or a poem. Then share it with the rest of the family.

Mexican paper cut banners decorating a building in Valladolid

8. Make a wreath crown

Wreath crowns are popular for women to wear in Mexico during the Day of the Dead. They can be made with any kind of flower. But marigolds are often popular to use because it’s believed that their scent helps guide the souls of the dead back to the land of the living.

During Day of the Dead, flowers also symbolize the fragility of life. The wearing of flower crowns reminds wearers of the transience of life, and the importance of celebrating it.

You can make your own wreath crowns at home as part of your Day of the Dead kids activities with this tutorial:

Dia de los Muertos Flower Crown from Muy Bueno blog.

A beautiful wreath crown for Dia de los Muertos in Mexico City

9. Make designs with marigolds

In Mexican culture, flowers like marigolds help guide the spirits of the dead back to their families. That’s why they are so often used for the ofrendas and wreath crowns.

But marigolds and other flowers are also used for other designs. In the city of Guanajuato, for example, artists create rugs of flowers with beautiful designs which they lay along the road or sidewalk.

As part of the Day of the Dead kids activities you can do with your family, try making your own floral designs at home with flower petals. Lay them out on a table, or use them to decorate your ofrenda.

A marigold used for decorations in Mexico for Dia de los Muertos

10. Bake pan de muerto

One of the more delicious Day of the Dead kids activities to try is to eat pan de muerto. This is a popular food for Mexican families to eat during Día de los Muertos. It’s a sweet bread that’s commonly placed on the ofrendas. And the design of the dough often resembles criss-crossed bones.

Ask Mexican restaurants or specialty stores in your area to see if they have pan de muerto for sale. This way you’ll surely have an authentic taste!

If there aren’t any pan de muerto for sale in your city or town, you can make some yourself. Take a look at this pan de muerto recipe from Mexico in My Kitchen to try with your kids. The post also goes more into depth about the significance and meaning behind pan de muerto.

Want to learn more about Mexican culture. Brush up on some Spanish phrases here.

Loaves of pan de muerto for Dia de los Muertos

Using the Day of the Dead kids activities to honor your loved ones 

Even if you aren’t Mexican, you can still learn about Día de ols Muertos and the beautiful traditions associated with the holiday. These Day of the Dead kids activities are a great way to respectfully celebrate the holiday and support local Mexican communities in your area.

Plus, having an opportunity to honor those you love who have passed away is always a good thing!

What’s your favorite way to celebrate Día de los Muertos? Share some of your family’s traditions on our Facebook page.

10 Culturally Appropriate Day of the Dead Kids Activities | Mexico Family Travel |

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