Mexico is a rich and storied culture that offers many opportunities to expand one’s world beyond the parameters of their own worldview. This is especially important for children to do, because tolerance and understanding begins at a young age, and in fact, it is easy to teach kids these valuable lessons because kids learn best by playing. Truly, nothing could be easier. If you are dreaming of taking a family trip abroad-particularly to Mexico-then teaching your children some of these simple and traditional Mexican games can be a simple and fun way to teach children about other cultures. This comes with an additional bonus lesson too; you will find as we discuss these Mexican games that they are very similar to the games you will find children playing all around the world. It is an easy way to relate the understanding that we are all very similar to one another–in work and in play!
The Hat Dance
There is nothing quite like the Mexican Hat Dance to immediately invoke the images of Mexico; when it is performed by adults, the dancers beautiful and colorful patriotic costumes: for women the china poblano, a heavily decorated petticoat and blouse combination, and for men the uniform of the charro or Mexican horseman. In fact the dance, which is also sometimes called the Jarabe Tapatia, is quite complicated and was originally banned by colonialists for its “provocative” movements, which were meant to illustrate the courtship between a man and a woman. Of course, by today’s standards, there is little that one could find objectionable about it. Still, to adapt the song for children’s play, you can gather your students or children in a playdate in a circle, and then play the Jarabe song while the children move in a clockwise circle, raising and lowering their clasped hands in time. One by one, you can call each child’s name and invite them to dance in the middle. It is a great way to get kids up and moving through dance and introduce them to some of the sights and sounds of Mexican culture.
La Gallinita Ciega
La Gallinita Ciega, or “the blind hen” is a very popular Mexican game among children in Mexico and closely resembles a game you might already be familiar with: blind man’s bluff. To play this game, you need 2-3 children, but the more the merrier. You begin by choosing the child who will be “la gallinita ciega” and blindfold them so that they can not see the other children. Then, you’ll give the little hen a few turns to make the game a little more challenging-the person who is “it” must find and tag each player while blindfolded. The other players may move around and use their voices to hint at their location, perhaps squawking like a chicken? If the hen tags another child, that child is out and the game continues until all of the children have been found.
Escondidas is exactly like hide-and-seek, but there are a few twists that you can put on this traditional favorite that make it a uniquely Mexican game. A quick refresher on hide-and-seek: one player is “it” and that player counts to a pretermined number (depending on the age of the children, this could be 20, 50, or even 100) while the other children hide. Once they reach that number, they shout out a warning that they are coming to “seek” and go to find the hidden children.
One variation on escondidas is bote pateado, where the person who is “it” has to run back to the starting place after they find each child, giving the other kids a chance to hide somewhere new if they want to. Sometimes the starting place, or “home” is marked by a can. In burro castigado, the seeker has just 10 minutes or so to find the other children. If he or she can not, then they become burro castigado, or “punished donkey” and are subject to some good-natured ribbing.
This is a chance game that is somewhat similar to the dreidel game that Jewish children play during the holiday of Hanukkah. La pirinola is traditionally played during the Festival of Dia de los Muertos, or The Day of The Dead. In this game, you need a pirinola, which is a six sided die-like top with instructions printed or painted on each face. The children have a collection of nuts, coins, candies, or other trinket that they must either add to or give away based on what they get when they spin the pirinola. The sides say things like pon 1, (take 1), pon 2 (take two), todo 1 (take 1) and toma todo (take it all!) whoever has the most booty at the end of the game is declared the winner of la pirinola.
El Patio De Mi Casa
This is a singing game, very similar to ringa-ringa-rosie, and it begins with all of the children (4-6 children work great for Mexican games like these) holding hands in a circle. They begin to move counter-clockwise as they continue to hold hands, all the while singing,
“El patio de mi casa es muy particular.
Se moja y se seca como los demás.
Agáchense y vuélvanse agachar.
Las niñas bonitas se vuelven agachar.”
When the song is over, all of the children have to sit down. The last one to end up on their rump is out!
Balero is a popular mexican game that you play with a very simple toy. Made of either a handled cup with a ball attached to the inside of the cup with a string or of a rod with a ring attached by string, the entire object of balero is to get the ball in the cup or the rod to land on the ring with as few tries as possible. This is a great game for just one child to play, or you can make it into a friendly competition with a group of children. The great thing about Mexican games like balero is that they are a fantastic way to help your children develop fine motor skills and coordination, which you can explore further with a comprehensive course of the same subject.
Everyone loves a piñata, right? You probably already have the gist. In this game, children take turns wearing a blindfold and whacking a piñata full of toys, treats, and candies with a stick until it bursts, showering the players with a special treat! Piñatas have become more and more intricate over the years, and are enjoyed by children all around the world! It is perfect for a special celebration like a birthday party or other one-of-a-kind event!
Now that you know some of the traditional Mexican games that children play in the rich and beautiful country of Mexico, there’s a lot that you can do with this information. On the one hand, you could integrate this information into a lesson plan on Mexican culture, if you are a teacher. On the other, you may wish to simply teach these simple games to your own children to give them an understanding of other cultures or just because-well, let’s face it-they are lots of fun! Either way, if you are interested in adding another element of creative play into your classroom or home, teaching these enjoyable Mexican games can be a great way to do it. And of course, there are a number of benefits that learning Spanish provides–adding them to these games is just one!