Classroom Activity
Mardi Gras!
Art and music activities invite children to explore the wonder and excitement of Mardi Gras.

AGES 4–5


  • paper plates
  • rt materials (paint, feathers, and so on)
  • glue
  • craft sticks or elastic thread
  • yarn
  • recorded music (jazz, zydeco, and so on)
  • ingredients to make gumbo

Objective: Children will engage in a variety of activities to learn about the Mardi Gras (MAR-dee-grah) festival celebrated annually in New Orleans, Louisiana.

In Advance: Show children a map of the United States, pointing out the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. Tell children about the special carnival that is celebrated each year in New Orleans called Mardi Gras, which means "Fat Tuesday." (Mardi Gras season begins January 6th and ends the day before Ash Wednesday.) People wear costumes and beads and celebrate with a big parade, special parties, and even a ball.

Remember: Some children may already be accustomed to carnival traditions if they have family from Trinidad, Brazil, Italy or New Orleans. Encourage these children to share their knowledge of carnival celebrations.


Mardi Gras Masks

Explain to children that Mardi Gras masks are very fancy. Cut paper plates in half. Measure the eye area on each child's mask and cut out eyeholes. Give children brightly colored paints to paint their masks. After the paint has dried, children can decorate their masks with feathers, sequins, and decorative fabric trimming. Glue a craft stick to one side of the mask or attach elastic thread to each side of the mask.

Carnival Beads

It is a tradition to wear colorful beads during Mardi Gras. Children can make carnival beads from salt clay or self-drying pottery clay. Provide children with a small amount of clay. Invite all of the children to roll small pieces of clay into different shapes. Then provide children with straws, toothpicks, and pencils to use for making the holes in their beads. Place the finished beads on a tray to dry. Children can use tempera paint to decorate their beads. Give children yarn to string their beads.

Veggie Gumbo!

Cook this traditional Cajun dish to celebrate Mardi Gras.

Ingredients: 8 cups of water, 2 vegetable bullion cubes, 2 tomatoes diced, 1/2 cup corn, 1 stalk of celery diced, 1 carrot diced, 1/2 cup okra, 1 onion diced (optional), 1/2 cup converted rice. (Adults may enjoy adding hot sauce, which is a Louisiana staple.)

Directions: Place all of the ingredients in a large pot, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until all of the vegetables are done.

Remember: Never let children near a pot of boiling water.

From Blues to Zydeco!

New Orleans has a rich musical history. Collect recorded music that features the different styles of music made famous in Louisiana like zydeco, jazz, and blues. You may want to include music by Louis Armstrong, Clifton Cheneir, the Neville Brothers, and Dr. John. Children can create dances and drawings or paintings while listening to music.

Curriculum Connection

Family Involvement: Mardi Gras Family Ball.
Invite families to a class Mardi Gras Ball. Children can make invitations and gumbo for the celebration. Set up a table for stringing beads and mask making and invite parents to make Mardi Gras crafts with their children. Play zydeco music and invite everyone to parade around the classroom.

Charlie Parker Played Be Bop by Chris Raschka
(Orchard Books, 1992; $15.95)
Going to New Orleans to Visit Weezie Anna by Mary Beth Pisano
(Quail Ridge Press, 1994; $8.95)
The Jazz of Our Street by Fatima Shaik
(Dial Books for Young Readers, 1998; $15.89)