General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 8 May 2021/9 Flower
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Day of the Dead craft activities

Ideas for DAY OF THE DEAD activities...

Thanks to US-based teacher Heather Kaderabek and UK-based staff at the old Museum of Mankind, here are some simple craft activities designed to help you bring the Mexican Day of the Dead festival to life...

FIRST, Heather shows how to make quick, fun and easy felt masks - ‘a great little project if you do not want to spend the whole class period on art.’

THEN, we reproduce instructions for making paper flowers, bunting, masks and a dancing figure, all ideas first offered to visitors to the preview of the pioneering exhibition ‘Skeleton At The Feast’ at the Museum of Mankind (London, 1991-3).

Felt Masks. NOTE: these work best with ample teacher preparation time prior to class.

• White felt
• Felt squares
• Arty adornments (yarn, sequins, glitter, pipe cleaners, scrap material...)
• Paper or cardboard (recycled cereal boxes are ideal)
• White or wood glue

 (Click on image to enlarge)

Felt is cut and glued to give the basic shape of a skull and will need a lot of time to dry. Regular white glue or wood glue works best. In order for the pieces to adhere, glue white felt onto a regular piece of blank computer paper or cardboard first. Try not to put too much glue as it will seep through the fabric and cause unsightly spots on the felt. Then cut out the design that can be photocopied in mirrored image so that the lines from the edges remain on the underside (on the paper). When the glue dries, cut out all faces and glue them to random and brightly colored felt rectangles. These can then be set aside another day or two to dry.

 (Click on image to enlarge)

On the day of the class, bring in the pre-made swatches of felt skulls along with sequins, glitter, google eyes, feathers, brightly colored yarn, felt scraps, plastic gems or beads... or any other kind of adornment you might have.

Tip 1: Glue paper behind the coloured felt rectangles too and you will have more sturdy felt to work with and a thin paper barrier between the masks — so that glitter... does not stick to the felt of someone else’s mask.
Tip 2: White felt fabric is cheaper by the yard and often comes in varieties with glittery surfaces for added effect.
Tip 3: Make a huge batch at the same time and you will have masks ready for next year. They store well in clear plastic containers. You will enjoy this more if you do it with your kids over the summer, than if you stay up all night a week before the festivities.
Tip 4: Get kids to write a skit or a character sketch on their mask and give a mini-presentation introducing him or her.
Tip 5: Kids can also use these materials to mimic sugar skull traditions of Mexico by using foil and glitter gel to write their names on their mask.
Tip 6: Fabric pieces can be joined together to make either a whole class skull quilt or a streamer of skull flags that can adorn the classroom.

 (Click on image to enlarge)

Paper Flowers. NB, see Hot Tip above!

• Cut strips of crepe paper 3 ft long and 2” wide.
• Snip along one edge with scissors.
• Holding tightly onto the straight edge, gather the strip round and round.
• Fasten securely with string or thread.

There are many different ways of making paper flowers. Why not experiment and find your own method?

 (Click on image to enlarge)

Paper Bunting. These look very pretty hung in front of a light or window. Use a square of brightly-coloured tissue paper or foil.

• Fold down the top 1” of the square. You will use this to hang your cut-out.
• Fold the square in half, in half again, and in half once more. You could ‘zig-zag’ the bottom of the square.
• Cut shapes out of the folded edge. Keep folding and cutting out shapes until you are pleased with your design. Then simply unfold the square and hang it over some string. You could even try to make skull cut-outs.

 (Click on image to enlarge)

Paper Masks.

• Use some thick paper or card, enough to cover your face.
• Cut 2 holes for your eyes.
• Make 2 small holes at the sides and thread through some elastic to fasten.
• Paint the mask with bright colours and patterns. Or decorate with a collage of foil, material and coloured papers.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE to enlarge the stencil figure!
CLICK ON THE IMAGE to enlarge the stencil figure! (Click on image to enlarge)

Dancing Figure.

• Copy or cut out this stencil. Lay the pieces on some card and draw around them. Now cut out the shapes from the card.
• Decorate your figure with bright colours, patterns, stars etc.
• Attach the arms and the legs to the body as shown. You could use thread or paper clips.
• A stick taped to the back of your figure will make it easier to hold.
• To make the figure ‘dance’: attach a piece of string to both arms and to both legs with a long piece of string running down the middle (as shown).
• Pull on the string and watch him move!

‘How to make your own Day of the Dead altar’ (Mexico Retold)
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