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Make Day of the Dead bunting

Learn all about Dia de los Muertos – Day of the Dead – and make traditional Papel picado bunting to celebrate.

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You’ll need

  • Scissors
  • String
  • Coloured tissue paper
  • Clear sticky tape

Before you begin

  • Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional help to carry out your risk assessment, including examples can be found here. Don’t forget to make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely.
  • Make sure you’ll have enough adult helpers. You may need some parents and carers to help if you’re short on helpers.

Planning this activity 

  • You may want to make an example of this activity before the session, so people know what the craft should look like. 
  • This activity does include talking about the death of family members or friends. Be especially sensitive if you know the topic of families is difficult for anyone. This activity gives everyone the chance to think about the helpful people in their lives, whoever they are.  
  • Be aware of your group’s needs and safeguarding requirements. Make sure you look out for these individuals and provide a safe and calm space for them to process their emotions. Always follow the Yellow Card. 
  • Make sure everyone knows they don’t have to share anything about themselves if they don’t want to. It’s important that everyone feels comfortable in this activity, as well as knowing how they can access support and who they can speak to in confidence. Always follow the Yellow Card. 
  • Check before and during the activity that everyone is comfortable, and make sure everyone knows that they can leave the activity at any point. It might be useful to agree a signal people can use, such as raising their hand, to stop and take a break from the activity or if they need to speak to an adult.

Dia de los Muertos – or Day of the Dead – is a celebration that takes place most frequently in Mexico. It’s a time for families to honour their ancestors, meaning the people in their family who lived before them

People believe spirits of loved ones who’ve died are allowed to return to Earth once a year, on this day. Day of the Dead is therefore seen as a family reunion, where family members that have died are honoured guests.  

Day of the Dead is a joyful time that helps people remember their loved ones and celebrate their memory. Those who mark this day  also believe that this celebration is an important step in helping support those who have died in their spiritual journey. There are then lots of food, crafts, singing, and parades for everyone to enjoy! 

Everything about Day of the Dead is bright and colourful, especially the decorations. It’s a day about remembering and celebrating their lives and the impact they had upon the people they knew, as well as keeping in mind that just because they’re no longer with us doesn’t mean that they’re entirely gone, because we keep them alive in our hearts and memories. 

Many people will make altars or “ofrendas” (offerings) in their homes to honour their loved ones who have died. Every ofrenda includes the four elements, which are water, wind, earth and fire. Water is left in a pitcher to allow spirits can quench their thirst. Earth is represented by food, especially bread. Fire is shown by candles, which are often left in the form of a cross, and are belied to help the spirits find their way. Papel picado, or traditional paper banners, represent the wind, which is what we’ll be making today.  


Make your bunting

  1. Gather everyone together and explain that you’ll be making Paper picado, a type of traditional paper banners or bunting that’s used to mark Day of the Dead. People cut patterns into each square of tissue paper and it’s considered a Mexican folk art. 
  2. Explain that the paper banners are often made of tissue paper and put up around altars as an offering. Specific patterns of papel picados are believed to hold significant meaning and worldly influence. Thus, the design that is cut into a papel picado is determined by the particular event of which it is displayed. Common themes include birds, floral designs, and skeletons.
  3. Everyone should take some tissue paper and a pair of scissors.
  4. People should think carefully about their design.  
  5. When people are ready, they should cut the tissue paper into a square
  6. From left to right, fold the paper in half
  7. Fold it in half again
  8. Cut out whatever pattern you would like on the bottom half 
  9. Open up the paper by undoing the last half fold
  10. Now from top to bottom, fold it in half.
  11. You should now have a square shape again. 
  12. Fold your square diagonally by bringing the top left corner to the bottom right corner
  13. Feel free to add and cut out more pattern at this stage, though be careful to not cut the pattern you added earlier 
  14. Unfold your tissue paper
  15. When you’re finished with the first sheet, fold the top edge over of the tissue paper and place it over a piece of string, then tape it in place to create bunting using clear sticky tape.
  16. Keep cutting out and making different coloured papel picados until your bunting is complete.


  1. Draw out the desired pattern in pencil gently onto the paper 
  2. Cut out the pattern


People celebrate and honour their ancestors in different ways all around the world. This can be based on culture, religion, or family tradition. What are some other ways people honour their ancestors? Some examples include funerals, holding events, making timelines, naming things after them or burials. Have you ever partaken in any? 

Have you ever seen or made something similar to this? If so, where? 


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.


Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using scissors. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.

Instead of cutting out the shapes, young people could draw their patterns on a piece of paper if that works better for them. 

  • An adult volunteer or young leader should offer help to anyone who needs it during the make or with specific craft items. People could also work with a partner or in a small group, so they can help each other. For example, they could help with drawing, cutting or threading and tying string.
  • Some people might struggle with using scissors. Make sure that volunteers or young leaders are there to help as much as needed. Remember to have both right and left handed scissors available.
  • People could work in pairs to help each other in this activity, such as if some people find it tricky folding or creasing the paper. This could also be pre-done by a volunteer before starting the activity.
  • Some materials could be pre-cut or pre-made for people to use in this activity. 

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

Try out some other special occasions from our seasonal events calendars.