A holiday and cultural phenomenon dating back thousands of years, Mardi Gras is celebrated in countries around the world on the day before the Lent season begins. Otherwise known as Fat Tuesday (the literal French translation), Mardi Gras is traditionally recognized as a day that merrymakers would binge on rich, fatty foods in preparation for various kinds of fasting during the 40 days of Lent. The first American Mardi Gras took place on March 3, 1699 when French explorers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Sieur de Bienville landed near present-day New Orleans. They held a small celebration and named their landing spot Point du Mardi Gras. In the decades that followed, Mardi Gras was celebrated in New Orleans and other French settlements with lavish parties, masked balls, and great feasts. In 1857, the first procession with marching bands and rolling floats made its way through the streets of New Orleans, paving the way for the celebrations we still see today. Mardi Gras isn’t just for adults. Kids can join in on the fun too. Check out some (screen-free!) ways to celebrate Mardi Gras with your kiddos below.
Make a Mardi Gras Mask - kids of all ages can create, color, and decorate their own mask with a free printable (you know we love free printables!). Vibrant colors, glitter, sequents, and some colorful feathers will make this a project kids are sure to love, whether at home, at school, or at a Fat Tuesday party (adults, we won’t judge if you want to make your own too!).
Build a Paper Plate Tambourine - New Orleans is known for its music and now kids can channel their inner musician with this fun and easy craft. A paper plate and some beads create the foundation for this festive addition to any Mardi Gras celebration.
Bake a King Cake together - also known as a Three Kings Cake, this festive treat is a cross between coffee cake and a cinnamon roll. Traditionally decorated with purple, yellow, and green adornments, this cake also has a special surprise inside. A plastic figurine, usually in the shape of a baby, is hidden in the cake. If you find the baby, you get to be King for the day (and bring the next King Cake to the party!).
Create a Mardi Gras themed calming jar - calming jars are sensory activities geared towards our preschool kiddos. Filled with some basic ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen, children can then fill their jars with beads, glitter, and more to create a themed calming jar that is not only fun to make, but also brings a zen-like aura to your afternoon (maybe adults need calming jars too!).
Play the Forbidden Word Bead Game - as your party guests arrive, hand them a couple of strands of beads and let them know the forbidden word(s). If another person hears them say the word(s), they can take one of their strands. The person with the most strands of beads at the end of the party is the winner! This game is fun for kids and adults alike.
Mardi Gras is a holiday for everyone to enjoy, including kids. Encourage your children to embrace the culture and history behind this holiday while having fun and making memories that will last a lifetime. Happy Mardi Gras!