Day of the Dead (7-8yr) Skull Cookies
Laura in Burlington, Ontario, Canada
Day of the Dead Children's Party Several children in our group recently lost loved ones, so a regular Halloween party seemed a bit out of form this year. Instead we chose this for our celebration. Our party was low-key, so we only used a few of these ideas and may use the rest at future parties. We needed to explain a fair bit about the holiday as few people around here have heard of it, so be prepared to explain if you do not happen to live in or close to Mexico! Invitations Since the skull is the main symbol of this holiday, we cut out skull shaped from white cardstock, coloured in the eye, nose and mouth in black, glued a tiny craft flower beside an eye hole, and filled in the party details on the back. We asked each guest to bring a photo of a deceased friend, family member, pet or celebrity that they would like to honour.
Crafts Picture Frames Materials: coloured corrugated sheets boxboard (cereal boxes etc.) children's white glue stickers, foam shapes, small artificial or dried flowers, etc. to decorate scissors for each child Use corrugated coloured paper to cut out a frame shape that will fit the photo. Do this by tracing the photo on the back of the sheet, then cut it out about 1/2 cm inside the lines. Trace the photo onto the boxboard and cut 1/2 cm outside the lines. On the back of the corrugated frame, draw a thin line of glue just outside the lines on three sides, leaving the top without glue (so you can slide your picture in and out). Be careful not to touch the lines. Glue your piece or boxboard onto the back. Now decorate the front of your frame as desired. When all the glue is dry, cut out a triangle from your boxboard as shown below. Cut out the flap and bend outwards. Glue the outer triangle part to the back of the frame and let dry. Slide photo inside and display.
Decorate skull-shaped sugar cookies by applying a glaze icing and letting it dry. Give the children diluted food colouring and sterile cotton swabs and let them go to town. Fimo necklaces we used glow-in-the-dark polymer clay (look for sales as this is a bit pricey otherwise!) to make bone and skull shaped beads (be sure to make the holes large enough and all the way through before baking). These were strung along with wooden beads on black hemp cording. Watch the baking times, and check early as this easily overbakes. Even the 4 year-old made some very effective beads, although it was generally better suited to the 7 and 8 year olds. A couple of the kids also made shark and people teeth as well.
Games Zombie bluff: like blind man's bluff, but with a zombie theme. Pass the skull: fill a skull shaped container (see below) with treats of your choice; the person caught with it when the music stops takes a treat and is out until everyone has a treat. Pin the skull on the skeleton: a variation on the donkey game. Fill the head with good thoughts: Use a skull shaped container (you can make one from paper mache, a white milk or detergent bottle with the lid on and the bottom cut out to become the top--tape over any sharp edges, or purchase one). Each person writes out something they like about each person at the party (or for younger kids, have them draw names randomly and write about that person). You may need to remind the kids to think hard about the good qualities of that person ("they live far from me" won't cut it!). Keep these and send them after the party to each person so they can read and keep them for those "down" times. We also talked about the people and pets we'd lost, each sharing a funny or happy story about them.
Additional Entertainment (especially for science buffs): Tell a story about the evil magician who tied his enemies into knots. Use a tied-up chicken bone to demonstrate. Make one by letting a chicken bone soak in vinegar overnight. It will become flexible as the acid dissolves the calcium from the bone. You can then easily tie it into a knot. You may choose to share the secret, or keep it a mystery for the guests. Skeleton assembly: this can be played in teams, or as a single group. Use a $ store plastic or cardboard skeleton (or an enlarged cut-out of the Ben and Jerry's skeleton) A build-your-own skeleton can be found at the Ben and Jerry's website here. You will need as many of these as there are teams. Take apart each section and hide around the room. Adding extra random parts can make it challenging for older kids (especially if you add in an animal or dino skeleton). They must find and reassemble the skeleton first or within a specified time. You can also just have them assemble their own skeletons. Use white card stock to print, and lots of brass fasteners to help the limbs move. A single-hole punch makes the limb joints a piece of cake. Embellish with construction paper cutouts.
A simple candle activity is to decorate small taper candles. You can melt crayons for this (melt them in muffin tins double or triple lined with paper cups and use a small hotplate to keep them liquid, and paint on with cotton swabs--this is best suited for the 6 and older crowd). Alternatively, purchase small sheets of coloured beeswax (available wherever Waldorf school supplies are sold) to press on the candles. Plastic knives are useful for cutting out shapes, or guests can mould shapes with their hands.
Food: Serve traditional Mexican food. Nachos, layered dip with corn chips, or similar easily served "quick" choices work well. Using various vegetables and a white dip, you can assemble a skeleton. Use cauliflower for the skull/brains, celery sticks for ribs, carrot sticks for limbs, etc. Along similar lines, individual skulls can be made by using a pear half for the skull with raisin eyes, currant nose-holes and sunflower seed teeth. You can add celery stalks stuffed with creamed cheese for crossbones. For dessert, use a skull-shaped pan to bake a skull cake, or make skull cupcakes. Make these by baking regular white or golden cupcakes in paper or latex liners. Let cool. Cut large marshmallows in half width-wise (dip scissors into icing sugar to keep them from sticking). Peel back liner slightly and slip in marshmallow to form the skull's jaw. Ice with white butter cream frosting, then use Junior Mints or similar candy for the eyes, a chocolate chip for the nose and slivered almond chopped in half for the teeth. Guests can eat their skull cookie creations or take them home with them.
Decor: Around the party area were lots of skull and skeleton decorations (Halloween sales are great for this stuff), candles (some in skull candle holders), and lots of fresh and artificial flowers. Music can be Mexican, or some classical funeral dirges. We played Halloween music. Encourage the guests to dress up as skeletons and such, and be sure to do the same yourself. You may wish to march in a neighbourhood parade in costume if the