Most children enjoy wearing masks. They like to use them to play games, to wear them with costumes at Halloween and wear them in parades and other celebrations. You can also use masks as a way to educate children about other cultures and their celebrations. Buy or make masks that represent other cultures, then create a mini-celebration to help your children understand the reasons behind certain celebrations.
Mardi Gras Masks
Mardi Gras, literally "fat Tuesday" in French, was originally a celebration in France. French Catholic families would eat the last of their pastries, butter, eggs and other rich foods in preparation for the fasting time of Lent. Today, Americans have taken this tradition to new levels by holding days-long parades filled with fantastic costumes and raucous parties. Hold your own mini-Mardi Gras at home. You can buy Mardi Gras masks, available at most party or speciality stores, or help your children make them. Many craft stores sell white plastic masks ready for decoration. Paint them with glitter paints and glue sequins and feathers onto them. Encourage your children to create swirls, spirals and geometric designs. You can also glue plastic rhinestones onto the masks. Have a mini-parade that ends with sugar cookies or doughnuts.
Many children love animals and carnivals. You can bring these two concepts together by creating an animal carnival at home or suggesting it as a theme for a school carnival. Have each of your children choose a different animal and either buy or help them make masks representing their animals. Many children may prefer to make their own masks; the hands-on activity stimulates their creativity and gives them something to do while you talk about their animals. You can use paper plates as a base for the masks or get full-face masks made of white plastic from a craft store. These masks are produced to be decorated. Felt, fun foam and pipe cleaners make sturdy ears, noses and whiskers. When finished, have the kids march in a small parade while they act like their animals.
Venetian Carnival Masks
Teach your children about other countries by learning about the annual Carnival in Venice, Italy. Each February, Venetians throw a huge and elaborate celebration, similar to Mardi Gras. They have parades with revellers dressed in bright, colourful costumes, painted masks and headdresses.
Talk to your children about what they think of when they hear the word "carnival." Look at some pictures at the Hello Kids website to get some mask ideas. Create masks from papier mache or buy full- or half-face masks from a craft store. Get feathers, paints, rhinestones and fabric remnants. Help your children paint and create masks similar to those from the pictures.
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