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Papel Picado Tutorial For Kids

Papel Picado Banners

Papel Picado Banners

This last past week got my internal history and craft geek going. Many people confuse Cinco De Mayo with being Mexico's day of Independence, which is not true. It is actually the marking of a very important battle called the Battle of the Puebla.

Quick Summary - May 5th 1862 The French Army invaded. The Mexican citizens of Puebla (despite being heavily out numbered) defeated this threat. Tactically and strategically the French were far ahead of warfare during this period of history. The plan as rumored through various French correspondence, was to take Mexico and go up through the south to support the Confederate Army. The goal there being of course to defeat the North in the Civil War.

Having lived in the Southwest and following celebrations like Cinco De Mayo closely, I was always terribly impressed by many folk art customs and creations. One in particular is called Papel Picado. Strung on twine under a twilight desert sky, they are absolutely vibrant reflections of the hands that created them. Its super easy to recreate these beautiful banners with children of all ages. A few of the links provided offer some input on history should you choose to turn this into a home school lesson plan. I believe this could cover History - Art - and potential Math for older kids who would do more complex designs and need to use graph paper to count out design and spacing.

Papel Picado is a very time-honored craft of cutting tissue paper into intricate lace like designs.

Fold your paper

Fold your paper

Scroll to Continue
Cut your design

Cut your design

Hang and celebrate!

Hang and celebrate!


Safety Scissors (for younger children)
Tissue Paper
Glue Stick
Yarn String Twine

  1. First, decide what colors of tissue paper you want to include in your banner.
    In Mexico, different colors are used for different holidays. Sky blue or pink and white are commonly chosen for celebrations in honor of the Virgin Mary, yellow and white forPatron Saints, vibrant pink, orange, and purple are the key tones employed for "ofrendas" (offerings) associated with the Day of the Dead (ElDiadelosMuertos). Shades of purple are also widely used at Easter. The colors of the Mexican flag--red white and green-- are set aside for venerating the nation's patroness, LaVirgende Guadalupe, as well as for commemorating Independence Day, Sept. 16th. Rainbow hues are appropriate for Christmas and non religious festivities.
  2. Now, cut your tissue paper into squares. A good size is 12 x 12 inches, most craft stores have tissue sheets available in various sizes now.
  3. Fold one piece of tissue paper in half. Fold it in half again, and then in half again.
  4. To make your design, cut shapes into all four sides of the tissue paper. Make sure to leave a small space between each of your designs.You can also draw lines for your design before you start cutting. It's important to experiment withyour designs because you don't know what they'll look like until you unfold your paper. In Mexico, people use all different kinds of symbols that are important to them in theirPapelPicado.
  5. When you're done cutting out your shapes, open the piece of tissue paper to see what you've created.
  6. Once you have four or five panels, you can attach them to the string to make your banner. To do so, put some glue on the top of the first panel, and then fold it over the piece of string. Leave about an inch of space on the string between the panels. Also, make sure you leave at least six inches of string at each end so you can hang your banner up when you're done.
  7. When yourPapelPicadobanner is finished, you're ready for the party to begin!

There are some printables located here.


charity on May 03, 2014:

I am so excited for you to try it! Since writing this I've done other Papel Picado tutorials with kids as well. I will be posting more ideas soon. Thanks!

thefedorows from the Midwest on May 02, 2014:

Pinned to my Cinco de Mayo board! I will be trying out your directions! You included useful tips and background! I didn't realize different colors were used for different holidays. I was wondering what colors are traditionally appropriate for Cinco de Mayo? Would it be the colors of the Mexican flag as is appropriate for Independence Day in September?

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