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South American Poncho


A small child’s poncho, with a colourful striped pattern and fringed edging.

Cultural notes

The poncho is a sleeveless garment with unsewn sides and a space for the head to pass through. This colorful cloth is widely considered an iconic symbol of Mexico.

Ponchos have been used by the Native American peoples of the Andes since pre-Hispanic times, from places now under the territory of Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Ecuador and are now considered typical South American garments.

The poncho was previously a traditional clothing item born out of the necessity to keep warm and protect the body from harsh weather conditions while still having the freedom of movement to continue working comfortably, however it is now more frequently worn as a fashion accessory and can be found in the majority of style outlets.

Suggested activities

Group/ Circle Time:

  • Read through ‘The Clothes we Wear’, borrowing items of clothing to reflect those discussed in the book. Discuss the differences in the clothing, touching on the climate in each country, materials, cultural beliefs etc. Discuss children’s favourite items of clothing and why this is their favourite.


  • Day of The Dead (Dia de Los Muertos) “Day of the Dead”, celebrated on 1st & 2nd November, is a celebration of life. Graves are decorated with flowers and an altar, with food and drink laid out to encourage the souls of the departed to join in the fun. Living family members also gather for a reunion and make the event a proper party. They believe that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31, and the spirits of all deceased children (angelitos) are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, the spirits of the adults come down to enjoy the festivities that are prepared for them.
  • Sugar Skulls: Mexico, abundant in sugar production and too poor to buy imported European church decorations, learned quickly from the friars how to make sugar art for their religious festivals. Sugar skulls represented a departed soul, had the name written on the forehead and was placed on the home ofrenda or gravestone to honor the return of a particular spirit.
  • Many Western children have been introduced to the Day of the Dead celebration through the Pixar film ‘Coco’. This film took many years to create, as the filmmakers wanted to ensure it was reflective of traditional Mexican culture. Every voice in the animated film is Latino, and a range of cultural consultants were involved with every stage of the movies production.

  • Cinco De Mayo is an annual celebration held on May 5. The date commemorates the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over the French Empire. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has taken on a significance beyond that in Mexico. More popularly celebrated in the United States than Mexico, the date has become associated with the celebration of Mexican-American culture.

Dramatic Play:

  • Borrow some traditional Mexican clothing
  • Borrow the range of Children Around The World puzzles and match them with clothing

Art and Craft 

  • Create your own maracas by decorating empty water bottles with coloured tape and ribbon, before filling the maracas with rice, beans, beads or small rocks. Hot glue can be used by educators to seal the lid if required.
  • Share with the children some images of traditional Mexican pottery. Create your own simple plates using air dry clay and painting with bright colours

External Links

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The research for this resource was made possible through a grant from the Central Coast Council.