Honoring Our Ancestors with Sugar Skulls


Sugar skulls have a rich history originating in South America for the holiday El Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

The History Channel has some great reading about sugar skulls, the Day of the Dead, and Halloween.


  • paper
  • scissors
  • glue
  • markers, paint pens, or colored pencils – anything you want to make bright happy skulls
  • skull template

Getting Started

I always encourage the kids to draw what they can on their own. Some felt more comfortable with having a skull template they could cut out and paste into their sketchbooks while others just needed a reference they could see to act as a guide. You can find the template above.

After getting the skull pasted or drawn, we had a quick discussion on patterns and what sugar skulls often had drawn on them. Most commonly, you’ll find flowers, petals, and swirls, but I told my students that anything they could dream up would be just as fun.

To color, I encouraged lots of saturated and fun colors. Paint pens work especially well….we used Poscas.

Our Project in Progress in the Outdoor Classroom

Our Sugar Skulls After Day One

Sugar Skulls: Day Two

We decided to add a layer of puffy paint for some extra pop! Several students also had fun with the glow-in-the-dark paint.