Sugar Skulls Activity

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Updated on Oct 27, 2015

In Mexico, it is customary to honor relatives that have passed away by constructing an altar for them on Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. These altars, or ofrendas, are usually large tables covered in colorful cloths, where relatives place pictures of their loved ones, light candles for them, and leave offerings of favorite foods. They also decorate these altars with flowers and uniquely-decorated sugar skulls. Get started on your own ofrenda with this easy sugar skull project.

What You Need (per sugar skull):

  • 2 tsp. meringue powder
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-1.5 tbs. water
  • Sugar skull mold (optional)
  • Toothpick
  • Acrylic paint (optional)
  • Paintbrushes (optional)
  • Food coloring (optional)

What You Do:

  1. Whisk the meringue powder and granulated sugar together in a large bowl.
  2. Sprinkle water into the dry mixture, adding water slowly. Have your child knead the mixture with his hands until it has a soft, malleable texture, similar to sand.
  3. Help your child form the mixture into the shape of a skull, or pack the mixture into a sugar skull mold (which can be bought online). Your child can roll the mixture into a ball to make a head, then press a fingertip firmly into the front of the skull to make eyes. He can also use a toothpick to draw teeth or make “nostrils” in the center. Make sure the mixture is packed tightly; any air bubbles could cause your skull to crumble.
  4. Gently lay the skulls out on a wire rack and let them dry overnight.
  5. The next day (or whenever your skulls have completely dried), use acrylic paint and brushes to decorate your skull.
  6. Let the decoration dry for a few hours.
  7. Once the skull has dried, your child can place it around the house for decoration, or use it to create an altar to honor loved ones in your family.

To create sugar skulls that are different colors, simply add food coloring to your water in step 2. Check out our printable Sugar Skull Recipe for more Day of the Dead art inspiration.

Jody Amable is an Assistant Editor at She has previously worked as a camp counselor, and spent her college years hosting birthday parties for kids at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. She has a degree in Journalism from San Francisco State University and writes for local blogs, magazines and weeklies in her spare time.

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