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Four Fun Activities for Kids to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

Sep 16, 2008
National Hispanic Heritage Month has been celebrated for 39 years on September 17, 2007. Enacted into law on that day in 1968, this Public Law set aside a week to honor our Spanish-speaking citizens. When the 100th Congress enacted a new Public Law, the celebration period increased to 31 days, from September 15, 2008 to October 15.

The initiative for National Hispanic Heritage Month is an acknowledgement of the over 45 million Americans of Hispanic origin. The 31 day observation period honors the Independence Day for many Latin American countries including El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras which celebrate September 15 as their Independence Day. September 16th is the Independence Day for Mexico, September 18th for Chile, September 21st for Belize and El Dia de la Raza (Columbus Day) is October 12th.

Celebrating and bringing to life this special time for children who have parents of Hispanic decent is important along with exposing our Anglo children to how other cultures celebrate various occasions.

Cooking is a social time in Latin American families, and making these quesadillas is a fun way to get the party started. Quesadillas are Spanish and Southwest in origin. The ones we experience in restaurants here in the United States are fine but are not true depictions of how the real Mexican quesadillas are made. Quesadillas in Mexico can be found outside movie theaters, stadiums, and special events with the most popular quesadilla being made with potatoes, cheese, chorizo, beans, green peppers (rajas) and other ingredients.

Following is a simple recipe for quesadillas that allows you to easily involve your children in their preparation. Cooking is a social time in most Latin American countries, and you can make it a social time with your family too!

Quesadillas Ingredients:
3 six-inch flour tortillas
Vegetable cooking oil
2 cups shredded Colby/Jack mixed cheese
One half cup finely chopped tomato
Cilantro

Directions:
Lightly fry each tortilla in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil until crisp and golden, turning once. Sprinkle with combined cheeses and top with tomato. Put lid on pan and turn heat to low. When cheese is melted, fold tortilla in half. Cut each tortilla into quarters. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve warm with salsa if desired.

We read the statistics on obesity among our young children here in the United States. We realize the many benefits derived from learning a second language during our early years. For this next activity we suggest using a song that is from Latin America or a bilingual song that features both Spanish and English during its play.

This activity appeals to kinesthetic, auditory and visual learners as it encourages following the leader, very similar to Simon Says. Use an older child to be the leader, and have him direct the children on what to do to match the song. Depending upon the song you choose, it could be body part wiggling or chicken movements! Watch the young ones delight in their grasp of a new culture with new music and perhaps a new language.

This next activity is a Language activity, and it comes to life as the children create their own bilingual number book. The children will make a book/un libro that helps them learn the Spanish words for the numbers one/uno to ten/diez. Reinforcement is the key to all learning so find a cool bilingual song for kids that introduces these numbers in both languages if you can.

Depending upon the ages of the children you might offer pre-made blank books out of brightly colored construction paper that measure a finished book size of five by seven(a total of six pages stapled or bound together is needed for this activity). If the children are old enough they can participate in the making of the blank book first. You will also need markers, crayons, magazine pictures or newspaper food ad pictures, age appropriate scissors, and glue sticks.

Procedure:
Guide the child in making a cute front and back cover for this bilingual number book. Use examples from books from the library or ones you have purchased over the years. Each page should have the numeral (1), the English word (one), and the Spanish word (uno) for the number you are working on. Assist the child in finding a picture that depicts the number of a
certain item (one banana, two dogs, three pencils and so on). Glue the picture onto the page that corresponds to that number.

The English-language number words in sequence order are one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and ten while the Spanish language number words in order are uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve, and diez.

And this last activity is about appreciating the culture of Spanish speaking countries. Children learn about maracas, an instrument from our Hispanic friends. In this activity the children make their own maracas and celebrate to music.

Maracas help celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and the culture and music of Spanish-speaking countries. Using old cardboard tubes, jelly jars, plastic soda bottles (anything that you can put a lid on and shake!) makes this project inexpensive and fun. Find different materials and different sized containers to create a wide range of musical sounds that will allow the
children to create their own band.

This activity is suitable for toddlers, preschoolers and elementary aged children (with adult supervision). As you make these together put on some upbeat bilingual music or Latin American tunes and party!

Materials needed:
Containers with tops/lids to hold dried beans or rice in. (jelly jars, plastic soda bottles, cardboard tubes with paper glued on as lid)
Dried beans, rice, small shell pasta
Construction paper or white computer paper
Paints, markers, glitter, glue, Spanish/Mexican theme stickers

Procedure:
Allow each child to choose their own maraca container and filler. For soda bottles you can insert a cardboard tube that has been cut and wound tightly to fit into the top of the bottle in order to create a handle. Secure the top to the handle with quality masking tape. Pour approximately twenty dried beans, grains of rice or pasta shells into the container (amount based on size of container and filler chosen). Secure the lid back onto the container. If no lid is available, make one with paper and secure tightly with quality masking tape or transparent packing tape. Wrap paper around the container as desired for decorating purposes.

Some children may simply want to decorate the container with stickers. Encourage the children to customize their maraca with markers, glitter, stickers and imagination. Once complete, have fun singing, dancing and playing with the children to various songs that represent the Hispanic culture and bilingual songs that will introduce the Spanish and English languages to these young children.

Being bilingual is no longer an option, it is a necessity. Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with your family or your class allows you to show the children in your life that you value other languages and cultures. Set a good example for an open mind and open heart as we bridge children together from all walks of life.
About the Author
Beth Butler is the founder of The Boca Beth ProgramScoop your child up onto your lap and Order online or call toll free 1.877.825.2622 today!
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