Cinco de Mayo for Kids: 9 activities for celebrating and learning

These Cinco de Mayo ideas will help kids learn about the holiday and Mexican culture through crafts, games and more.

What is Cinco de Mayo and why is it celebrated? 

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is a day of remembrance commemorating Mexico’s victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla (La Batalla de Puebla), which happened on May 5, 1862. Mexican forces, led by Ignacio Zaragoza, defeated the French in the small town of Puebla de Los Angeles during the Franco-Mexico War. The victory showed the world that Mexico could defend itself against powerful foreign nations. This year, 2023, marks the 161th anniversary of the Battle of Puebla. 

While Cinco de Mayo is obviously rooted in Mexican history, it is more widely celebrated in the United States than in Mexico. The first Cinco de Mayo celebrations took place during the Civil War in Los Angeles. When news of Mexico’s victory over the Confederate-supporting nation of France reached California, it gave Mexicans living in American newfound strength to fight against the South.   

Why Cinco de Mayo is important 

Cinco de Mayo is so much more than margaritas and tacos. In fact, most people celebrate but have no idea what the day is all about. So, it’s the perfect opportunity to introduce kids to the real meaning behind the holiday. 

“My family is of Mexican descent, so I know that Cinco de Mayo isn’t celebrated in Mexico as much as it is celebrated here in the states,” says Lizzie Olivas, a Mexican American mom of three from Los Angeles. “Even so, it’s a great chance to talk to my kids about the history behind the day and celebrate our culture.” 

Fun ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo

From crafts, games and homemade decorations to kid-friendly recipes, movies and books, here are nine Cinco de Mayo ideas that help kids learn about and honor the holiday and Mexican culture

1. Imitate a famous form of Mexican art 

Try imitating one of Mexico’s most recognizable forms of art, tin work. Also known as hojalata, it is created by hammering tin into different shapes and overlaying it with bright colors. For the at-home version, all you need is some tinfoil, cardboard and paints.

2. Map it out 

Map of Mexico showing Puebla


Mexico is bordered by four states: California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Where is Mexico in relation to where you live? Break out the globe or hop online to take a look. Sites like and World Atlas do a great job of showing the size and shape of the country in comparison to the United States. You can also use interactive tools from Google Earth to virtually visit Puebla, one of 32 states in the country of Mexico. 

3. Get cooking 

“Making foods from the region of Puebla is a great way to introduce kids to the cultural aspect of Cinco de Mayo. I will be making chalupas for dinner with my boys,” says Andrea Clawson of Stay at Home Circus, who creates original recipes for her family of four. “Chalupas are easy enough to make with young ones and the toppings are versatile for my picky eaters.” She adds, “It will also be fun to make white-chocolate-covered strawberries dipped in green sprinkles to represent the colors of the Mexican flag.”

Believe it or not, tacos were never part of the original Cinco de Mayo menu in Mexico. In Puebla, the most popular regional food was (and still is) mole, a thick sauce made with chocolate, chiles, nuts and other spices, that is served over chicken or turkey. While every Mexican household has their own recipe, it is reserved for special occasions and is seen as a celebratory meal. Other regional favorites include chalupas, carnitas, homemade corn tortillas and fresh salsa.

4. Play a game

Switch up game night to include the Mexican version of bingo, Loteria. Each player gets a playing card featuring 16 random pictures. When you hear your picture called out by the moderator, mark your card. The first player to mark a row of pictures wins. Free Kids’ Crafts offers a downloadable template that you can print at home. The best part about playing Loteria is that you’ll get a mini Spanish lesson in every game. All the pictures are captioned with the corresponding Spanish word. 

5. Watch a movie 

There’s nothing better than snuggling up on the couch to watch a movie with the kids. This time, pick a movie that celebrates Mexican culture and achievements in honor of Cinco de Mayo. Some examples include: 

6. Pick up a book

Cinco de Mayo children’s books


Change up your reading list with a few books that celebrate Cinco de Mayo from a kid’s point of view. Some favorites include: 

  • Chicks and Salsa” by Aaron Reynolds. When the chickens at Nuthatch Farms get sick of the same old feed, they hatch a plan to throw a fiesta complete with chips and salsa. Ages 2 and up. 
  • Cinco de Mouse-o” by Judy Cox. A little mouse follows his ears to the mariachi music, his nose to the food and his eyes to the biggest party he’s ever seen. Ages 2 and up.
  • Marco’s Cinco de Mayo” by Lisa Bullard. Marco has always loved the food and parties that come with celebrating Cinco de Mayo but, this year, he’s a dancer in the parade. He can’t wait to be a part of the big day. For ages 3 and up. 
  • Celebrating Cinco de Mayo: Fiesta Time!” by Sandi Hill. Learn about the special traditions and festivities surrounding Cinco de Mayo in this beautifully illustrated children’s book. For ages 4 and up.

7. Decorate for a party 

Yes, Cinco de Mayo is a great time for a fiesta, and every good fiesta has decorations. Making your own DIY decor is a fun hands-on, learning activity for kids of all ages.

“I love teaching my kids about culture through arts and crafts,” says Sheila Bernard, a Mexican American mom of four, from Denver. “Last year, we did a few Cinco de Mayo crafts and pinned them up in our dining room as a backdrop for our Mexican-inspired dinner.” 

If you’re thinking of kicking things up a notch with some decorations, just make sure that they accurately represent Mexican culture.

8. Visit a museum 

No matter where you live, you can visit the Dolores Olmedo Museum in Mexico City. 

The museum offers a virtual tour where you can explore dozens of online exhibits featuring some of Mexico’s most iconic artists.  

You can also virtually visit the former home of famed Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, as it is now a museum open to the public. See where she worked, lived and painted some of her most famous pieces. 

9. Listen to music 

Mariachi, also known as música ranchera or ranchero, is the most popular genre of music in Puebla. Typically, mariachis, or musicians who play mariachi music, play at events like birthday parties, weddings, religious ceremonies and other special events. It consists of vocals, trumpets, violins and guitars. The lyrics are often about love, loss, life, death and are passionate and emotional. 

The Smithsonian’s website provides a great featurette about the origins of mariachi music. You can also listen to Spotify’s Mariachis of Mexico playlist for an authentic taste of this lively music that will be the perfect backdrop to your Cinco de Mayo celebrations.


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