Make your own art, games, and instruments using recycled paper and cardboard!
Use these fun, hands-on kids craft ideas to highlight the diversity and beauty of Hispanic culture around the world and celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month and Latino Conservation Week.
- National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15) celebrates Hispanic Americans with roots in Spanish-speaking countries for their impact on U.S. history, culture, and accomplishments, including leadership and contributions to outdoor education and natural resources conservation.
- Latino Conservation Week is an initiative of the Hispanic Access Foundation that was created to support communities with roots in Latin America to get outdoors and conserve our natural resources.
It’s important to remember:
- Hispanic: refers to a person from a Spanish-speaking culture or origin, regardless of race
- Latino/a, Latinx, Latine: refers to a person from Latin America, whether a Spanish speaker or not
While the conservation culture and sustainability leadership and contributions of Hispanic and Latino communities should be celebrated year-round, these events are an opportunity to dedicate ourselves to learning more about and supporting the efforts of partner organizations and individuals.
Whether you are a parent, classroom teacher, paper products professional, or museum activity leader – we’ve assembled a list of fun paper and cardboard activities that celebrate the culture of Hispanic and Latino communities and present an opportunity for a conversation about the importance of making better decisions for people and the planet. Sourcing products that came from sustainably managed forests and recycling paper products (including through fun projects and activities!) is a great start.
Our actions and leadership can make a positive and lasting difference toward creating a more equitable and inclusive future for all. We each have a part to play in creating space for all communities to enjoy the benefits of healthy forests and to take action towards a more sustainable future.
Learn more about the Hispanic and Latino organizations demonstrating leadership in outdoor education and conservation, including:
- Corazón Latino
- Latino Outdoors
- Hispanic Access Foundation
- Green Latinos
- Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO)
- Mujeres de la Tierra
Colorful Papel Picado
Papel picado (pa-PEL pee-KAH-do) means “perforated paper” and is a traditional cut-paper folk art throughout Mexico. Colored paper is cut into intricate designs and strung into banners to create decorations for holidays, birthdays, and other celebrations.
You can make your own papel picado with colored tissue paper and scissors, folding each sheet of paper several times, then cutting out shapes at the folds.
Molas (MOH-lahs) are cloth panels made by the Guna women of Panama to decorate their clothing. The panels, made from layers of colored fabric, are stitched together and cut using appliqué techniques to form animals, geometric shapes, or other patterns or figures.
To create a beautiful mola-inspired design, you will need three or four colors of construction paper, scissors, and glue. Start by drawing and cutting out a shape—such as a mammal or bird—on one color of paper. Following the outline of this original shape, cut increasingly larger shapes in different colors and then glue them on top of each other on a background so that all the layers show.
See Paper Molas – Full Length Tutorial for detailed instructions.
Amate Bark Art
For over 1000 years, people in what is now Puebla, Mexico, have been making paper from the bark of fig trees. Called amate (ah-MAH-tay), this special paper is traditionally used as the background for intricate paintings of birds, plants, and other whimsical and colorful creatures.
You can create an amate-inspired painting using a brown paper grocery bag that has been softened by crumpling and then flattened to resemble amate. Draw an outline of a bird or plant on the paper, and then fill in the outline using colorful tempera paints.
For more information, see Mexican Folk Art: Amate Paintings.
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A traditional game similar to Bingo, Lotería (lo-tay-REE-yah) is popular in Mexican and Latinx communities. Each player has a game board or tabla with 16 images, and one player draws cards from a 54-card deck that is made up of images on the players’ tablas. The drawn card is called out, and if they have it on their tabla, the other players mark the image with a bean or other marker. Before the game starts, you will have decided what arrangement of images will be the “winner,” such as 4 in a row or column.
Make your own Lotería deck by having each group member create one or more cards. You may encourage everyone to draw whatever they want (making sure there are no duplicates) or stick to a specific theme or topic. The bilingual picture book,Playing Lotería/El juego de la lotería by Rene Colato Lainez is a great way to introduce the game.
For more ideas, see Designing a Lotería Deck with Your Class.
A piñata (pee-NYAH-tuh) is a papier-mâché or clay container that is decorated, filled with candy or other objects, and then broken open as part of a celebration.
You can make your own piñata by dipping strips of newspaper into a paste of flour and water, then wrapping the strips around a balloon or cardboard form. After the piñata dries, you can paint it or decorate it with colorful fringed tissue paper.
For detailed directions, see DIY Pinata from PBS Kids.
Bamboo and Tissue Barriletes
People in the Guatemalan towns of Santiago Sacatepequez and Sumpango gather each year to honor those who have passed by flying large, colorful kites called barriletes (bah-ree-LEH-tehs). The tradition dates back over 300 years. These kites are sometimes as large as 40 feet in diameter and can take up to 6 months to build!
You can make a barrilete with bamboo skewers, thread, tissue paper, glue, and string, or design your own with reused paper and plastic bags. First, make a “star” out of three bamboo skewers and thread to create a frame. Then, glue on pieces of tissue paper to make the kite.
For more information, see Barrilete Kites from Guatemala.
Tissue Box Guitar
The classical guitar is also known as the Spanish guitar because it was created in Spain from earlier stringed instruments. It is the heart of most modern-day Spanish and Latin American music and is often a symbol—and the musical spirit—of Hispanic culture.
You can make a simple guitar using an empty tissue box, an empty paper towel roll, and rubber bands. Remove the plastic opening of the box, and make a hole on one end for the paper towel roll to be the neck. Then, wrap several rubber bands around the box, using different sizes and styles of rubber bands to make different sounds.
For step-by-step instructions, see Make a Tissue Box Guitar.
— Ms. Parker (@TheGivingTeach) April 8, 2022
Maracas (ma-RAH-kas) are rattle instruments common in Caribbean, Latin American, and South American music. Traditional maracas are made of dried gourds or turtle shells filled with beans, beads, or pebbles.
You can make maracas with empty paper towel rolls cut in half (rather than toilet paper rolls). Fill the tubes with dried rice or beans, and cover the ends with duct tape.
See DIY Cardboard Maracas from PBS Kids for Parents for details.
Castanets (kah-stah-NETS), or “clackers,” are percussion instruments used in Spanish and Portuguese music and common in flamenco dance. They consist of two concave, shell-shaped pieces of hardwood, which the player holds in one hand and hits together to produce rhythmic clicks.
To make castanets out of recycled cardboard and bottle caps, fold a small piece of cardboard in half and then glue bottle caps on the inside—making sure they line up and clack together when the cardboard is folded.
See Bottle Cap Castanets for details.
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