Papel Picado Activity

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Updated on Sep 6, 2013

In Mexico, few holidays go by that do not feature colorful tissue paper banners strung along the streets, decorating the fronts of churches or embellishing schools and classrooms. These cut tissue paper flags are called "papel picado," which literally translates to "perforated paper." This activity will help your child discover the beautiful results that can be achieved by folding tissue paper multiple times before cutting it. She will love this artsy introduction to a fun Mexican custom!

What You Need:

  • Sheets of tissue paper
  • Scissors
  • String or yarn
  • White glue

What You Do:

  1. Ask your child to pick a brightly-colored sheet of tissue paper. If your child plans to make this project with several sheets of tissue paper, she can use the same color or gather an assortment of colors.
  2. Demonstrate how to fold the tissue paper. Note that the folds do not need to be symmetrical, unless you have a formal design in mind. Encourage your child to start folding away with her paper(s)!
  3. Have your child begin with a small and simple cutout. Unfold the paper to show how one simple cutout gets multiplied across the paper. Show her how cuts in the edges can result in a scalloped trim.
  4. Encourage your child to explore with different shapes and styles of cutting. She can cut out whole squares of space and leave only a thin border of tissue paper.
  5. After she has created a few sheets of papel picado, help her make a Mexican-style banner with them. Either loop the top of the banner over a string and glue it in place, or use a couple tabs of cellophane tape to adhere the tissue paper to the string.
  6. Hang the papel picado high overhead, either near a window or outside so that the tissue paper flapping in the breeze creates a pleasing effect for those passing by.

Holidays in Mexico comes with their specific color themes of papel picado. To get more specific, consider using purple and white for Easter; pink and orange for Day of the Dead; and green, red, and white for Mexican Independence Day!

Serena Makofsky has a multiple subjects teaching credential with an emphasis in cross-cultural instruction. She taught in inner city classrooms for many years. She also writes curriculum for English language learners.