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Throw a Kid-Friendly Mardi Gras Party

Throw a Kid-Friendly Mardi Gras Party

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Updated on Feb 13, 2009

Nothing might sound less kid-friendly than Mardi Gras - the Carnival celebration infamous in the U.S. for its beads, boobs, and booze. But the central theme of Mardi Gras is fun - and that's something that kids of all ages can really get behind. Costumes, dancing, food and drink mark the festivities which are celebrated all over the world, and with a few tweaks you can throw a Mardi Gras party that will thrill kids and adults alike, while still staying PG.

Mardi Gras (from the French, meaning literally "Fat Tuesday") originated as a final celebration of fun and indulgence before the commencement of Lent, the 40-day period which for many Christian denominations means prayer, penitence, and the foregoing of indulgences. The New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration is just one of many versions around the world, where it is celebrated in style in South and Central America, the Caribbean, and Europe.

You can bring this international celebration home with a day full of crafts and fun: perfect for a February birthday or just because! Send out invitations to friends and family and request that kids come in costume, or bring dress-up supplies (you may also want to opt for a pot-luck style meal). Next, just round up some craft supplies. The day of, decorate the party area with the colors of Mardi Gras - purple, green, and gold - and have your child help you bake the King Cake for the special event.

Here's how to get started on cooking and crafts for this annual celebration:

Carnival Masks

Masks and costumes are an essential part of Mardi Gras and Carnival festivities. Venetian masks especially have become an emblem of these celebrations, with their gold, white or black backgrounds embellished with incredible detail and ornamentation. Mask-wearing in Venice emerged as a method of disguise for people engaging in illicit or indiscreet activities, such as gambling, and as a provocative guise at masquerade balls and other social events. Over time, these masks came to symbolize the spirit and excess of Carnival and Mardi Gras celebrations.

Make a Mardi Gras Mask
You can pretty much use any material to make a mask, but flexible (non-corrugated) cardboard is easiest, especially for young children. Alternatives includepapier mache (which is another activity altogether!) and wire mesh.

What You Need:

  • Mask material (cardboard, papier mache, or wire mesh)
  • Scissors
  • Elastic string
  • Craft feathers in purple, green, and gold colors (yellow will also work)
  • Decorative elements - anything goes! Some suggested materials include sequins, craft jewels, lace and other fabric, pipe-cleaners, beads, and glitter. (Note: many of these materials can also be used in our miniature float activity, below)
  • Glue stick and/or hot glue gun

What You Do:

  1. Decide whether you want your mask to cover the entire face, or just the top half. Get out your cardboard piece and, with your child, estimate where the eye holes should go to fit his face. Cut out two small holes, and hold the cardboard piece up to his face. Are the eye holes in the right place? If so, enlarge them and then cut out the mask in a shape of your choosing. (Note: if you are planning on making mask-decorating a party activity, cut out enough masks for your guests to decorate beforehand.)
  2. Now comes the fun part! Let your child's imagination run wild as he decorates his mask. Some ideas include: lining the edge of the mask with feathers pointing outwards, attaching a veil to the mask, or experimenting with fun facial features such as a curly mustache. (Note: the hot glue gun will probably be needed for affixing items, such as sequins and beads, to the mask. An adult should perform this step or monitor it closely, depending on the ages of the children present.)
  3. When you child's mask is fully decorated, set it aside until the glue is dry. Next, cut or hole-punch a small hole on the left and right sides of the mask and tie a piece of elastic string through them to hold the mask in place.
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