There is no better way to get children excited about a subject than to break out the art supplies and let them jump into a craft project. Providing them with a tactile, manipulative activity engages not only their hands, but their imaginations, as well. With Hispanic Heritage Month in full swing, the web is full of wonderful ideas for making crafts that reflect the beauty and diversity of Latin America. Here are a few of my favorites:
From the San Blas Islands of Panama comes the inspiration for this beautiful project. The Kuna are the indigenous people of Panama and Colombia. They are perhaps best known for their vibrant and colorful molas, which are intricately sewn textiles using appliqué and reverse-appliqué techniques. Children can create a simpler, paper mola from construction paper or colorful cardstock. You can find directions here and here.
One of the world’s most beautiful birds, the resplendent quetzal is found in the cloud forests of the Americas and once played an important role in Mesoamerican mythology. In fact, the quetzal has played such an important role in Guatemala’s history that it has been named the national bird, an image of it appears on the country’s flag, and the local currency is named the quetzal. A sacred bird to the Mayan civilization, its fame is most closely tied to the story of the prince Tecún Umán, Guatemala’s Mayan hero who was said to have fought against the conquistador Don Pedro de Alvaredo, even though he didn’t stand a chance. You can read more about the fascinating tale, here.
One of the most popular crafts in Puerto Rico is the making of the caretas, or papier-maché masks frequently worn by vejigantes (costumed characters) in Puerto Rican festivals. The masks are usually brightly colored and sport one or more horns. Hands on Crafts for Kids has good instructions for a careta craft. And to supplement the craft, check out Lulu Delacre’s beautiful children’s book, Vejigante Masquerader.
Believed to have been created in Chile or Peru, the rainstick was an instrument played to bring rain to the land. Dried cactus was typically used, and the spines were hammered back into the stalk like nails. Before sealing it on both ends, small pebbles and such were inserted into the hollow core. Crayola has great instructions for creating your own rainstick using household items.
Best known for its fantastic wildlife, Costa Rican crafts often reflect the country’s biodiversity. Local artists draw inspiration from the tropical forests and their non-human inhabitants. From tarantulas to toucans, let your children’s imagination take over.
Venezuela is home to Angel Falls, the tallest waterfall in the world. The waterfall is named after U.S. Aviator, Jimmie Angel, who was the first to fly a plane over it. Angel attempted to land his plane on top of the mountain near the falls, but it was damaged upon landing. Angel, his wife, and two other companions had to make their way back to civilization on foot (it took 11 days!), and as a result of their adventure, the falls were named after Angel. However, there has been a bit of controversy over the name; some believe the country’s most famous landmark should have an indigenous name.
Busy Bee Kids Crafts has an excellent craft that allows your children to create their own waterfall. And the best part is that they include directions so that you can modify the craft for older or younger children.
Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of a two-part series on Multicultural Crafts to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.