By Maria Hawkins
Photo Credit: Loren Javier
Aside from enjoying all the changes in the weather this time of year our family has a special fondness for celebrating Halloween and El Día de los Muertos.
The kids start filling the house with decorations and preparing their costumes for Halloween. We stick to spooky more than getting into scary of Halloween at this point in our lives but I don’t feel like its impacted our fun so far. Its a time we relish having fun with the traditions and celebrations both days bring.
I am going to focus on a few activities centered around these two celebrations to introduce some more Spanish and hope you have time to add some extra bilingual fun to this month’s holiday celebrations.
If you would like to learn more about the history of Halloween and El Día de los Muertos here are a few informative links:
- This history of Halloween
- History behind the Los Dias de los Muertos celebration
- History of Halloween – wikipedia
- History of the Day of the dead – wikipedia
Activity #1: Travesura o Regalo / Trick or treat
Watch this video and go along with Caillou as he dresses up as an astronaut on Halloween, goes out trick-or-treating, collects candy with his dad, and meets his friends along the way. His mom stays home because his sister is frightened about the idea of dressing up as a clown but they welcome back Caillou and his friends at the end of the night for some more Halloween fun.
After you watch the video together collect a few treats and have your children practice going trick or treat in Spanish just like Caillou does (see the vocabulary below).
Let your children put on a costume from the dress up bin (or some of your clothes) and knock on your pretend door and ask for a treat from you -It doesn’t have to be candy, anything fun will do! ¡Que te diviertes! – Have fun!
travesura o regalo – trick or treat
disfraz – costumecaramelo – candy/sweet
pedir – to ask
llamar a la puerta – knock on the door
payaso – clown
astronauta – astronaut
Activity #2: Halloween
Halloween children’s song video (***see note below!)
In this playful cartoon three friends go out trick-or-treating and collect lots of candy. They then run into a few Halloween characters that frighten them at first but turn out to be friends. The song is a catchy one and has a nice, slow rhythm. See if you can practice singing along with the subtitles and then write down the words to see if you can do it on your own.
Once you have the song it’s time to make some Halloween stories of your own:
Have your kids draw what they would do if una momia, una bruja o un hombre lobo wanted to take away their candy on Halloween. Practice using all the new Halloween words from the song as they draw and label their pictures when they are finished.
If they really get into it, have them dictate a story of their own and use as many Spanish words as they can (feel free to peek at the list as often as necessary)
***Please make sure you watch this video alone first and make sure it will not scare your little ones as it does have a mummy, a witch, and a werewolf that start out scary and then become nice. Pretty mild in general but I’d rather be safe than scare any niños trying to help you learn more Spanish.
el fantasma – ghost
el monstruo – monster
el pirata – pirate
la bruja – witch
la momia– mummy
el hombre lobo – werewolf
truco – trick
dulce – candy
ver – to see
susto – scare/fright
asustar – to frighten
emocionarse – to get excited
Activity #3: El Día de los Muertos – The Day of the Dead
This video is be a fun way to introduce this Mexican tradition to those of you that are not already familiar with it. It is a short video which gives a simple and concise explanation of the Mexican Día de los Muertos celebration. It does a good job of visually showing many of the traditions and customs in a non-threatening way.
It is a celebration to remember those who have died as well as celebrating the cycle of life. It is a day that is happy and filled with dancing, food and remembering.
After you finish watching the video try making some calaveras of your own. I have included a simple skull template below but I find it is sometimes more fun with kids to have them just review some of the calaveras they see in the video and then make their own. You can cut them out of paper and decorate them, or if you are up for a bigger project, use white paint on black paper then add color once the white has dried. I predict amazing results!
Click Here for the skull template to use with the activity above.
nacer – to be born
vivir – to live
morir – to die
comprar – to buy
mercados – markets
calavera – skull
flores – flowers
ofrenda – offering
vela – candle
papel picado – perforated paper
comida – food
guiar – to guide
tumba – grave or tomb
bailes – dances
recordar – to remember
alegre – happy
Books to Support Your Learning:
La Calabaza Mas Grande Del Mundo, por Steven Kroll. This fun books follows two mice as they both help a pumkin grow to enormous proportions as Halloween approaches both unaware of the others efforts until the very end.
La viejecita que no le tenia miedo a nada, por Linda Williams. This book follows an old lady that isn’t afraid of anything and comes up with a creative solution to the things chasing her home one night. The repetition make this especially friendly to new learners.
Celebra El Halloween Y El Dia De Muertos Con Cristina Y Su Conejito Azul, por Campoy Isabel y Alma Flor Ada. This story follows a little girl, Christina, that does not want to trick or treat because she is sad her bunny died. Using this she learns about El Día de los Muertos and how remembering her bunny and celebrating life are part of the cycle of life. There is also lots of information in general on both celebrations.
El Dia De Los Muertos: The Day of the Dead, por Mary Dodson Wade. This bilingual book has very simple text that is a good intro to the subject. The real gem of the book is the colorful photographs that let the kids see actual Dia de los Muertos celebrations and preparations.
Calavera Abecedario Dead Alphabet Book, por Jeanette Winter This book features wonderful artwork which is the skeletons that the family has prepared that represent each letter of the alphabet (in Spanish). The illustrations are great and the book does a good job of introducing lots of new vocabulary.
Songs and Poems to Add to Your Learning:
I find that many songs centered around Halloween in Spanish (that I know) are a little too scary for my limits as a mom so I have a short list. If anyone knows more kid-friendly Spanish songs to add to the list, please share them!
Songs / las canciónes:
Los esqueletos (video of traditional Costa Rican song)
lyrics included in video
Poems / los poemas:
Cinco calabazas (one of many translations of the popular English poem)
Cinco calabazas sentadas en un banco
La primera dijo,” se esta haciendo tarde.”
La segunda dijo, “Hay brujas en el aire.”
Dijo la tercera, “No nos importa.”
La cuarta dijo, “Echemos a correr.”
La quinta dijo, “ Yo quiero divertirme.”
“oo-oo,” dijo el viento y la luz se apago.
Y las cinco calabazas comenzaron a rodar.
Calavera (traditional poem)
Ahi viene el agua
Por la ladera,
Y se me moja
La muerte calaca,
Ni gorda, ni flaca.
La muerte casera,
Pegada con cera.
Hope you enjoy this lesson. For more Spanish language fun, check out Las Hojas Estan Cambiando (The Leaves Are Changing): Part One! And stay tuned for more!
Maria Hawkins grew up in New Mexico immersed in both Spanish and English. She has her National Teacher Certification in early childhood education and has taught in both bilingual and monolingual public schools. She currently keeps busy homeschooling her three bilingual children, teaching weekly Spanish classes for kids, and leading a Spanish Playgroup to support local bilingual families.