Doing crafts in Spanish class is a fun way to mix language and culture. Kids get lots of input (colors, shapes, simple commands) while learning about folk art, handicrafts, and art from Latin America. Teachers can talk about the Latin American crafts, showing an example. Then, they can give simple instructions, while showing students the steps.
Becky Morales is an ESL and Spanish teacher. She started KidWorldCitizen.org and and co-authored the Global Education Toolkit for Elementary Learners to give parents and teachers activities to teach kids about world cultures. She recently began the Language Latte Podcast, where she shares research and best practices for world language teachers. Becky is living in Mexico with her 5 kids, and loves connecting to parents and teachers around the world @kidworldcitizen on Facebook and Twitter.
Many thank to Becky for writing this article with ideas for using Latin American crafts in Spanish class!
I love to accompany the art project with real pictures and videos of the art being made in Latin America by real artists. When the students are finished, they can share their Latin American crafts and describe it with the vocabulary they know. Here are 17+ Latin American-inspired crafts for kids to do. Click on the pictures for a list of supplies and instructions!
Folk Art for Kids from Latin America
Make a mola: a fantastic example of folk-art from Panamá! One of Panama’s best-known handicrafts is the mola, intricate reverse-applique handwork made by the Kuna, and now an important symbol of their culture. The layers of brightly-colored fabric form animals or geometric shapes. Kuna women, who live in the San Blas Islands north of Panama, use them to decorate their blouses.
Guatemalan weaving: I like to pair this simple weaving craft with Abuela’s Weave by Omar Castaneda. The story takes place in Guatemala and features an intergenerational, Mayan family, who weave elaborate and colorful designs to sell at the market. Guatemalan weavers are legendary for their intricate textiles, and have been weaving their clothing, blankets, and other pieces since pre-Columbian times.
Mexican Amate: first study where amate comes from, and what it is made with. The real examples are intricate and gorgeous!! Then use a brown paper bag and fluorescent paint to paint your own, following the flower and animal motifs you say in the real examples.
Learn about Real Latin American Artists
Frida Kahlo: Read this Mexican artist’s biography, and then create a self-portrait after you learn all about Frida Kahlo!
Diego Rivera: Have you heard of Diego Rivera, the famous Mexican muralist? This multicultural art lesson on Diego Rivera for kids includes a beautiful, collaborative art project perfect for classrooms and large groups! Teaching kids about famous artists can not only be fun, but can result in beautiful artwork.
Taíno Indian Petroglyphs: The Taínos left behind petroglyphs that are images created by incising, picking, carving, or abrading on the surface of the rock to create a form of rock art. With these images archaeologist have been able to understand their way of living, and the customs and beliefs of the Taínos. Observe the petroglyphs, learn about the symbols, and make your own rock art.
Latin American Crafts about Geography and Flags
Shrinky-dink Flag Bracelets: Kids love this colorful craft, and it’s perfect for an international camp or after-school club!
Learn the Story of the Mexican Flag: Flags in their basic form are pieces of fabric flown from poles, that identify countries or groups of people. But the colors, symbols, and designs of the flags hold much more information about the people and cultures they represent. Read the fascinating legend behind the Mexican flag.
Make Latin America, or one of its countries! We made these fabulous Salt-Dough Maps to show kids the landforms of certain countries and continents for our International Night.
Multicultural Paper Dolls: It would also be fun to research what people wear in a certain region. Mexico, for example, has SO many different folkloric dresses that kids could research. This display was from our International Night, so it includes many different countries!
Latin American Crafts to Learn about Nature
Morpho butterflies: Kids love crafts, love glitter, and love butterflies! This butterfly craft is an easy activity that helps kids learn about an amazing creature from the rain forests of Latin America. In the post you’ll find geographical information about rain forests, where the morpho butterflies live. The craft also uses minimal supplies.
Nature collages: Kids can learn about famous land forms and natural wonders of the world, such as Angel Falls, Venezuela. Using a computer (to view the images), paper, glue, and some magazines we created our colorful masterpieces. Other ideas: the Andes Mountains, the Amazon River, the Galapagos, any of the numerous volcanoes, Copper Canyon, etc.
Monarch butterflies: I love learning about the monarch migration to and from Mexico every year! Pair it with the book Isabel’s House of Butterflies, by Tony Johnston, which tells a story about 8 year old Isabel, who lives in Michoacán, who wants to protect their habitat.
Sea Turtles visit the shores of Mexico and Central America to lay their eggs every year. Check out photos of sea turtles on-line. Notice how sea turtles have large front flippers (unlike land tortoises) for swimming, and have smaller back flippers. They use their smaller flippers for digging their nests in the sand. They have streamlined shells that can be anywhere from olive-green to yellow to browns, reds, or even black. We did these with oil pastels, and painted over them with blue water color paint.
Desert landscapes: After reading books in Spanish about the desert by Pat Mora, kids get to mix sand in brown & green paint to make their own desert landscapes. We had the kids bring in pictures of animals found in the desert. Then we glued them on the landscapes and labelled them in Spanish when our paintings were dry.
Latin American Crafts to Celebrate Holidays
What is the biggest holiday Spanish teachers love? Day of the Dead! But we also love Las Posadas, and many others. Here are a couple of fun collections of crafts for these commonly celebrated holidays. They work great at the end of a unit about the cultural aspects of the festive days.
Day of the Dead decorations for your class: making, dressing up, and decorating skeletons and skulls is the perfect way not only to learn about this holiday, but also to create a festive atmosphere in your classroom! There are lots of easy crafts for all ages to enjoy.
Las Posadas Stained Glass Windows: these pretty decorations are available in many different designs, and are absolutely stunning when you put them up on display!
Again, many thanks to Becky Morales of Kid World Citizen for these wonderful ideas for Latin American crafts for Spanish class!