Three Pinterest Day of the Dead Lessons I Tried

This year my students have completed or are in the process of completing three lessons I found on Pinterest for Day of the Dead. Two of these lessons I’ve never done before and one I’ve tried before and I learned a lot the first time around. I have linked the pins to the bottom of this article.

The skeleton cursive collage that I did with my fourth and fifth grade students is a bit challenging. This is my second time doing it, and I’ve learned a lot in the process. First of all, this lesson includes the kids writing their name in cursive on a sheet of paper, folded in half, cutting it out, and using that for the skeletons body. The first time I did this lesson about six years ago, I realized students didn’t know how to write their name in cursive. Unfortunately, I realized this way too late because we are already starting the lesson. This time around I asked my students if they knew how to write their name in cursive and then I let their teachers know as a homework assignment that they need to work on writing their names in cursive. Most of my students were able to write their names in cursive, however those who couldn’t get it I wrote their names on the board for them to copy. This prevented me from having to write everybody’s name in cursive for them. I also drew on the board an example of a skull for the kids to copy because I learned the kids don’t know how to draw skulls.

This lesson took five weeks to complete. The first week we traced our hands and drew skulls. I also showed them a PowerPoint on the Mexican artist Jose Posada. The second week the students drew their names in cursive and cut out the skeleton. The third week we glued everything down and begin adding color with collage materials and markers. Fourth and fifth weeks students used scrap paper and other collage materials to have 3-D components that pop out.

Overall the skeletons were a positive experience for the students. Most of them had a successful skeleton. I graded most of the collages with high scores. I also had students assess their own work using the rubric. I find that offering them the rubric close towards the end of their project gives them an opportunity to see where they are and how they can improve on their project.

First second and third grade created Day of the Dead booklets that I found on Pinterest. I had the students review a PowerPoint about Day of the Dead and then they had to complete a writing prompt of their choosing inside the booklet.

After they completed the writing prompt students decorated the skull. Then they had to draw a picture that illustrated their writing. This is a pretty simple project however it did take three weeks. Some students got the writing over with very quickly and some students struggled. I found students who struggled with the writing took longer with the project and those who knew what they wanted to write about immediately after beginning the project.

Lastly, I did a marigold still life with my kindergartners and first graders. This project taught them about symmetry, folding and cutting out a symmetrical shape, drawing flowers realistically, and of course Day of the Dead. This was a pretty simple assignment: the most that the student struggled with were the vases and cutting them out symmetrically. We used large sheets of construction paper for the background, and oil pastels to decorate. I taught them how to blend with the oil pastels to create the marigolds. These came out so pretty and I was very pleased with them overall. Several of the marigold still lives were hung up in our local opera house as part of an exhibit with the school district.

Day of the Dead Cursive Collages: https://pin.it/lvty5idyrw2ncl

Skull Booklets: https://pin.it/obi3qffbod2ou6

Marigold Still Life: https://pin.it/2y64t3tf44ohkr

Ethiopian Baskets

This year for Black History Month I wanted to represent our school community with our art project. I have a large Ethiopian student population at my school. I investigated what types of crafts and art they have in their culture. I found several examples of incredibly bright and beautiful baskets in photographs online. I had done basket weaving before with students during a Native American unit. So I tweaked my project to include more bright colors, geometric patterns, and raffia.

We used a Styrofoam bowl from the grocery store as our loom. The students cut nine slits into the styrofoam bowl and then tied on yarn. You have to have an odd number of slits so when students are weaving in and out they don’t need to skip any slits. Students would just tie on a new color and continue going around and around the bowl until they reached the top. When they reached the top then they would begin experimenting with raffia.

I told the students to try tying knots, making bows, creating bundles and tying those on, even incorporating some of the yarn and raffia into pom-poms.

Some things to keep in mind with this project is that Ethiopian baskets are extremely bright and colorful. Many of them incorporate both tan and bright colors. So I had pulled out my brightest colors of yarn along with some tan yarns for the students to create patterns with as they wove.

Also, most Ethiopian baskets have a geometric pattern inside. I had the students use colored Sharpie markers to draw a radial design in the bottom of the bowl. When we hung them up I would just staple the bottoms of the bowls to the bulletin boards.

during this project some of my students who are Ethiopian volunteered to share with the class some aspects of their culture in a written report. The students presented the written report to the class -highlighting the different types of food, holidays, and languages they have in Ethiopia. I learned a lot through this part of the project as I am not familiar with Ethiopian culture. The children taught me how the baskets are used in every day life in Ethiopia. They explained that the larger baskets with lids are used to hold bread and keep it warm, while the flatter baskets have different dishes of food set out.

What projects do you have lined up for February? Please share below in the comments.

Fall Projects

I love teaching Day of the Dead for October. Working with students from a Hispanic background, many of them are Mexican-they are already familiar with the holiday. Many of my students have actually celebrated it in Mexico! I do review a PowerPoint on the holiday and its’ traditions prior to starting the lesson.

I have a skull mask template that I make photocopies of and then the kids draw using markers their decorations. We have just started this project and I’m finding sharing actual sugar skulls with my students is very inspirational while they work.

My requirements for my 4th and 5th grade students are that they include repetitive patterns, symmetry, along with the typical bright, colorful designs that are found throughout traditional Mexican art work.

I’ll be sharing more about the finished product as the month goes on.

The other lesson I’m starting for October is a Day of the Dead tribute to the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo with my second and third graders. I read to them her biography, then they need to write a sloppy copy of a letter to her showing what they have learned about her. They can incorporate ideas like pets, art, Mexican heritage in their letter to her to find some common ground. They create the skull using Crayola Model Magic and glue it onto a 12″ x 18″ paper. My students will finish the project by drawing the rest of Frida, writing the letter in fancy handwriting around their Calavera, and creating a frame.

I will share the finished product of this lesson as well. Happy October!

Neon Trees for Tu B’Shevat Using Art Materials From Around the Home

One of my favorite art subjects to paint are trees. I love Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt and I used that curvy, linear tree he depicted to influence these three simple trees my two year old and I made this morning using materials found around the home.

For these trees I used Crayola neon tempera paint, cotton balls, white card stock, a toilet paper roll, a Sharpie marker, and a household sponge.

To start I drew simple curvy, linear trees using Sharpie marker on 9″ x 11″ card stock. I copied the tree 3 times. Permanent marker is a must as it won’t smear when paint is applied on top.

For the first tree I used a cardboard toilet paper roll and cut slits all the way around using scissors, folding the ends outward to create a brush. Then my son dipped his brush into the paint which I laid out on a plastic lid. Then he stamped the tree with it.

For the next painting he used cotton balls to “dot” paint onto the trees and for the third a piece I cut from household sponge. It’s important to dampen the sponge before painting with it.

We did these paintings in conjunction with the Jewish birthday of the trees-Tu B’Shevat. The boys have been learning about this holiday in school. I like to support their learning with books and crafts at home.

Tu B’Shevat is January 30th this year, and it’s the first of several Jewish springtime holidays. In Israel it is celebrated as also a day of ecological awareness.

Going along with that theme of caring for our planet, incorporating the concept of recycling in art, we used simple household materials for these projects. Whether you’re a mom on a budget or an art teacher trying to create an art program on limited funds-art can be an affordable, meaningful activity. You don’t need expensive materials to have fun and be creative!

Hanukkah Collage with Melissa and Doug Dot-A-Dot Markers


As Hanukkah approaches I am trying to think of fun activities that my boys can try this year and we haven’t done before. We have never made a Hanukkah menorah with removable flames. The idea behind this is that each night of Hanukkah the boys can safely “light” their menorah.  My boys can do this in conjunction with us actually lighting our home menorah and feel an active part of the tradition rather than just an observer.

If you are not familiar with the menorah lighting, there are eight candles that are lit during the holiday of Hanukkah. One candle is lit each night for a total of eight nights. There is a helper candle that is often located in the middle of the menorah called a shemash. The shemash is the first candle lit and it is used to like the other candles each night.  During the lighting there is a blessing set of the candles to celebrate specifically the holiday of Hanukkah and the tradition of lighting a candle each night.  Along with the blessing, our family sings many traditional songs in Hebrew or English each night. It’s really a special part of the day that separates regular day today life and the holiday for us. As we continue on going to school, running errands, and working during this holiday we come home each night to light the candles which gives us a feeling of celebration.

To start creating our menorah poster with removable flames I use painter’s tape and taped out the shape of the menorah on white card stock. It’s really important with painter’s tape to use a thick and study paper, so I highly recommend card stock for this project.  Then I had my boys use their Melissa and Doug Dot-A-Dot Markers to add color.  When they were finished I remove the painter’s tape and the shape of the menorah came out white.


Just the painter’s tape menorah was a beautiful project on its own, but to take it another step further I decided to create removable flames.  We cut out from orange and red card stock flame shapes. The red flame was used for the shemash candle, and was a little bit larger in size than the other eight flames. Then I used a Velcro dots on each claim as I attached them to the paper with the boys.  I would recommend if you have a laminating machine available to you to laminate the poster before adding the Velcro flames. You could also use contact paper. This would make the poster reusable for years to come.  I however, do not have these items available to me right now so I did not do that.  I will just have to be careful to remove the flames gently each night and have the boys attach them only.


If you follow me on Instagram, make sure to look out for the boys lighting their menorah posters each night.  Happy Hanukkah!

Fall Leaf Deer Crown Craft

For our fall themed play date my friend and I created our Cinnamon Salt Dough Turkeys and these fall leaf deer crowns with our littles.

To create these crowns you’ll need:

faux or real fall leaves

hot glue gun w/ glue sticks

2″ inch wide 8″ inch long construction paper strips

scissors

pink and black construction paper

a pencil

To make the headband I hot glue gunned two strips of construction paper together. I waited for it to cool and then wrapped it around my kid’s head to measure. Then I glued the headband closed.

Next I folded my black and pink construction paper into sixths. I drew a shape like a deer’s ear on the paper and cut it out. A similar, but smaller shape for the inner ear. My boys helped me glue the ears together (pink on top of black) with Elmer’s, but you can hot glue gun them on your own.

Then I glue gunned on the leaves, layering different colors and shapes. Voila! My boys were fall time deer in no time and they loved wearing their crowns!

Cinnamon Salt Dough Turkey Sculptures

This past weekend my friend and her daughter came over for a play date. I wanted to do a project that would be Fall or Thanksgiving themed. I decided to whip up a batch of cinnamon salt dough. If you’re not familiar with salt dough-it’s a simple homemade dough that dries over night. By adding cinnamon you get a wonderful smell and a tan color to the dough.

Cinnamon Salt Dough Recipe

2 c. salt

2 c. flour

1.5 c. water

2 tbs. cinnamon

1 tbs. cooking oil

Combine the dry ingredients first using a wooden spoon in a large bowl. Add water and mix until a play dough consistency is formed. Add oil to create elasticity.

Once our cinnamon salt dough was formed we tried pressing leaves we gathered in our yard to create imprints. While the kids liked this-it wasn’t enough of a project we felt. So we decided on making simple turkeys using our cinnamon salt dough, small pebbles, twigs, and leaves from my yard.

To build the turkeys we simply rolled a large ball and a small ball. Small ball for the head, large ball underneath for the body. To make your turkey fat and jolly smush the large ball onto a hard surface so the bottom flattens out and expands.

For tail feathers we used the leaves from my backyard and for the eyes/beak we added pebbles. The twigs created his legs and clawed feet.

We had so much fun building our turkeys. My turkey will be proudly displayed in my buffet spread for Thanksgiving. However, he will be the only actual turkey in the buffet as we are vegetarian! I’ll be sharing in my next, bonus, post my pinned recipes for our vegetarian Thanksgiving meal. I can’t wait to gobble it up!

Process Art Masks for Toddlers


With Halloween coming up there so many cute Halloween craps out there. I wanted to do something with these Do a Dot markers that we received in the mail recently from Melissa and Doug. I also want it to be a process art activity where the boys would have total freedom and creativity.

I settled on the idea of making masks. It could combine collage, paper crafts, wearable art, and the markers.  


I have to say I was really excited about these Do a Dot markers because not only are they easy, non-toxic, and come in a variety of colors -even silver! The green box has fruity smells to the markers! The boys really enjoyed that!

To make the masks I simply cut out a face shape from white card stock. Then I gave the boys the markers to choose colors from and they began making their dots.


After they finished making their dots I gave them red pom-poms and googly eyes to add details to their masks.  For this step I did most of the gluing, however I did allow them to experiment holding onto the glue bottle and trying to squeeze out some glue.


After that they added the hair I cut out of yellow card stock to the back of their mask.

Often times when making crafts and art projects with little kids adults feel the need to steer children in a direction towards a finished product. The great thing about process art is that there is no definitive look to a finished project. The child can create their project however they wish-this gives younger children a lot more self-confidence in their decision-making while creating art. This self-confidence can aide children in continuing to be creative down the road whether it’s in visual arts, music, or writing.

The next time you do a craft or art lesson with your child consider letting them take the reins. Maybe they’re making a self-portrait and their lips are painted on their foreheadand their eyes go on their chin, that’s fine. Pablo Picasso did that after all!

Four Fall Sensory Bags 

It’s definitely not fall here!  It’s been over 100° F for the last few weeks! Frankly, we don’t really get much of a fall in Las Vegas. My kids sure don’t experience the fall that I had growing up in Buffalo, New York!

As a child I remember picking apples, raking colorful leaves from the ground and jumping into the pile, and drinking homemade apple cider!  In Las Vegas we try to have fall by going to a pumpkin patch and farms.  With the excessive heat it makes it difficult to really enjoy the day. So I came up with these four easy sensory bags with the theme of fall in mind to allow my boys to experience fall with all of their senses. The best part is they do not require any special supplies, most likely these are items you have laying around the house!

For sight we had the colors of fall through out all of my bags. We had the sound of fall through my tissue paper leaf bag, it sounds like leaves crunching when you squish it in your hand! With every sensory bag project there’s always the sense of touch being included with different textures the children will feel from our squishier to our crunchier bags. Smell could and taste from the walnut sensory bag that we ate the contents of as we made it!

Shaving Cream Sensory Bag

For this bag I focused on the color red, however you can try a different color such as gold or orange to focus on. I filled the bag halfway with shaving cream then added red food coloring.   I squished the bag around to mix the food coloring and shaving cream together until it was evenly mixed. Then I added red glitter. This bag felt like a stress ball. My oldest child loves squishing it. He would not stop squishing it in fact this was his favorite!


Tissue Paper Fall Leaves Bag


For this bag I used half a bottle of orange hair gel that I got at the Dollar Tree. Then I added in brown, green, yellow, orange, and red tissue paper squares. You can also pick these up at the Dollar Tree. They are a huge time saver! Then I added gold glitter and strings of brown yarn. The brown yarn stuck together creating sort a viney-tree trunk effect. Once I closed up the bag and squished it and made the crunchy sound that leaves make in the fall as you walk across your yard.

Cotton Ball Bag

For this bag I again chose red as the main color. I think if I was going to do this project again I would do an orange or gold bag for the shaving cream and keep this one as my red bag. Red is so synonymous with fall. For this bag I added a full bottle of clear hair gel and I filled up the bag halfway with cotton balls. Then I added in some red Pom Poms and strands of red yarn.  Lastly,  a few drops of red food coloring to swirl as the children played with it.

Walnut and Burlap Bag 

This bag is made of used pieces of burlap that I cut into basic shapes like triangles and rectangles. Then I added in walnut halves from my pantry.  The main ingredient is steel cut oats. They look almost like sand. I gave it a nice grainy texture. With this one the children could see different shades of the same color: brown. My oldest son could tell me the different names of the shapes. My youngest son could feel the different textures from the more flimsy burlap to the very hard, curvy walnut halves.

My three-year-old and I put all of these and three bags together in about an hour one afternoon while my 20 month old slept. Both boys had a great time playing with them. In fact they’re still playing with them! One thing I like to do is use clear tape on the top of all of my sensory bags to make sure they stay shut. Another idea is taping them to a sliding glass door or a big window so the kids can look inside of them better and see all the different variations of colors.
I hope you and your children have as much fun as we did with this project. It’s a great project for kids three years old and younger.  Older kids can even make it for their younger siblings!

My Favorite Fall Pins

Fall LeavesYes fall is here, at least in my heart.  Why the rush?  We’re going to Israel for the High Holidays so I miss a chunk of my favorite season and it’s American traditions: apple picking, pumpkin spice everything, and Halloween for a month.  This year we’ll be coming back two weeks before Halloween so I’ll get to feel the holiday a little more.  It is my favorite holiday and the memories of my children these past few years celebrating with me are so precious.

With my early fall celebrations I’ve started pinning crafts, decorations, DIY projects, and recipes to enjoy when we get back.  Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Popsicle stick monster craft.

Craft Stick Monsters - Kid Craft More

2. Metallic foiled pumpkins

Painted Metallic Foiled Pumpkins. It makes your pumpkins stand out and brings a new decoration to the home!

3. Acorn Donut Holes

This acorn donut hole recipe is a fun way to celebrate the end of summer and the beginning of fall!

4.  Speaking of donuts, Maple Glazed Donuts!

Baked Maple Donuts Recipe with Maple Glaze

5. Bronze Pumpkin Stack

You won't waste your $1 buckets on candy when you see her porch trick

6.  For the High Holidays there are so many edible Torahs and Sukkahs!

Design Megillah: Edible Torahs for Children

I have linked all of the images back to the pin so you can explore these ideas.  Please be sure to follow My Petite Picassos on Pinterest for more autumnal awesomeness!