Mardi Gras literally translated from French means “Fat Tuesday.” It is the day before Ash Wednesday and the kickoff of the Easter season. Mardi Gras is best known in the US for the carnivals and parades taking place in the French Quarter of New Orleans, but there is no reason why you can’t bring a little bit of the fun and carnival atmosphere to your classroom. Young students will love learning about the history and traditions of Mardi Gras and with these crafts they will have fun doing it.
Masks and Mardi Gras carnivals go together very well and there are several different ways to allow your students to make masks of their own. For a simple mask, fold pieces of construction paper in half, place the student’s hand on the folded edge of the paper and trace it, then draw a circle in the middle of the hand. Have the students cut the prints out along the lines, including the circle. When unfolded, the hands will fan out into the mask. If you want to let the kids decorate the mask further, you can, but it isn’t necessary. Have the student attach a stick to one side of the mask so they can hold it up to their face.
A more extravagant mask can be made by cutting a paper plate in half and then cutting eye holes slightly up from the bottom. Allow the students to decorate their masks with glitter, stickers, mosaics and feathers. Then you can either allow the students to either attach sticks to hold the mask up to their face or attach an elastic band to each side, where they can just slide it over their head.
Mardi Gras is a time for royalty, so why not let your students make a crown to wear for the day. There are again several ways to make the crowns, but the easiest way is to measure each child’s head and cut out a length of paper that long. Allow the students to decorate the crown anyway they want it. They can cut triangles out of construction paper and attach pom-pons to the ends or just simply go crazy with glitter and mosaics.
Beaded necklaces are a big part of Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans. Let your students make their own beaded necklaces. Start with a length of sturdy string or yarn, but make sure it isn’t so thick the beads won’t thread onto it. Depending on the age of the students you can either cut the string for them or do it yourself, usually between 24 and 36 inches. Next, have an assortment of beads for the students to choose from to thread on. Make sure to tell the students to leave enough room for you to tie a knot at the end of the strings!
So get creative – and laissez les bons temps rouler!