Cinco de Mayo, or the 5th of May, commemorates the Mexican army defeating French forces during the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Today, Mexican-Americans, as well as the Puebla region in Mexico, celebrate Cinco de Mayo with traditional Mexican music, dancing and other activities that promote Mexican culture. You can get your child excited about Cinco de Mayo with kid-friendly, Mexican-themed activities.
Read About Cinco de Mayo
Read books with your child that will help her understand what the Cinco de Mayo holiday is all about. For kids 4 and older, check out "Cinco de Mayo," by Mary Dodson Wade, which provides a basic understand of the history behind the holiday and outlines the types of festivities that take place. Also for that age group, "Cinco de Mouse-O!" by Judy Cox, tells the fictional story of a little boy mouse trying to celebrate the holiday while avoiding a hungry cat. For kids 8 and older, "Cinco de Mayo: Celebrating the Traditions of Mexico," by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith follows a Mexican-American girl and her family through the holiday festivities, providing a more in-depth look at the history of the holiday.
Help your child create crafts related to Mexico in honor of Cinco de Mayo. To make paper bag maracas, have your child decorate a brown paper bag using the colors of the Mexican flag -- red, white and green. When the paint dries, open up the paper bag and put another bag inside to give it more strength. Have your child pour a handful of uncooked rice or dried beans into the bag. Stick a wooden paper towel dowel about halfway into the bag, then gather the open end of the bag around it, securing it tightly with yarn.
Another craft you can do with a young child is to make a mini sombrero hat. Have your child paint a foam cup and a small, dessert-size paper plate a golden yellow. Once dry, glue the rim of the cup to the middle of the plate. Give your child tiny, colorful pom-pom craft balls to glue around the rim of the plate, using a child-safe, non-toxic glue. You can use the mini sombrero as a festive centerpiece, or display it wherever your child chooses.
Make Mexican Dishes
Bring your child into the kitchen with you to prepare simple Mexican dishes. To make cheese quesadillas, place a flour tortilla in a small non-stick pan on the stove. Allow your child to sprinkle cheeses such as queso blanco, Monterey Jack and cheddar on top of the tortilla -- and top it with another tortilla. You can also add beans, or cooked chicken or steak. Cook the tortilla on medium heat on both sides, until the cheese is melting on the inside and the outside is lightly browned. If your child is old enough, allow to him to flip the quesadilla in the pan. You could also have a taco night and have your child help you prepare a taco station, shredding up lettuce and cheese, and dicing up tomatoes and cilantro, if she's old enough to use a plastic or real knife.
Cinco de Mayo Games
Invite your child's friends over to play games and participate in activities related to Cinco de Mayo. You could teach the kids how to do a simplified, kid-friendly version of the Mexican Hat Dace. To play, turn on traditional Mexican music and tell the kids to form a circle. Place a hat in the middle. Have the kids move around the circle, clapping to the music. When a child's name is called out, that person must go in the middle and dance around the hat until someone else is called. Repeat until all the kids have had a chance to dance around the hat.
For another activity, have the kids play a version of Simon Says, replacing "Simon," with General Ignacio Zaragoza, who led the Mexican troops in defeating the French in the Battle de Puebla. Have the person calling say, "General Ignacio says..." before giving a command. If you know Spanish, be the leader and call out commands in Spanish. The kids may not understand, but they can follow your actions to help them learn a few Spanish words. Be sure to have a candy-filled pinata for the kids to try to break open as well.