Making a set of calavera-inspired wooden spoons for Día De Los Muertos or Halloween decor is a fun afternoon project with kids 7 and up. Plus it’s an opportunity to discuss a cultural tradition that may not be your own.
Growing up in Southern California, it was hard not to notice decorated sugar skulls and people with eerily painted, floral faces on November 1, or Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). You certainly don’t need to live in a border town to appreciate vibrantly colored skeletons this time of year.
Although we love the traditional look of the decorated skulls and skeletons, we decided to give some of the iconic Halloween symbols (a jack-o’-lantern, Dracula and Frankenstein) a Día De Los Muertos makeover as well.
Things You’ll Need
- Wooden kitchen spoons
- Paint in white, black, red, yellow, purple, orange, green, blue, pink and purple
- Paper plates
- Cup of water
- Paper towels
- Empty mason jar
- Tacky glue (optional)
- Sequins (optional)
- Silk flowers (optional)
- Black Sharpie marker (optional)
With your pencil, draw a basic face onto a wooden spoon back. Use an upside-down heart to make an easy skeleton nose and flower eyes to give your spoon an almost immediate skeleton transformation.
Paint the entire spoon white. Don’t worry if you completely cover your pencil marks. Sometimes drawing the face out first will just help you decide what goes where. Chances are, you will see a hint of the face through your paint and you can use that as a guide as you move on to the next steps.
When the white paint has dried a little, use black paint to make the dotted eyes, nose and mouth that you originally drew with a pencil. Encourage the kiddos to wash their brushes between colors and dab away excess water onto the paper towels.
Squeeze out a few different paint colors onto a paper plate, and dot brightly colored flower petals around each black eye with the handle of a paintbrush. Wash the back of the brush as you would the bristles, when you’re done using one color.
Skeleton mouths can be painted to look like a set of teeth within a jaw.
Or be made simply by painting a curved line with little dashes through it. Both mouth options work well when making skeleton faces on spoons.
The next step is by far the most fun for kids because there is no wrong way to decorate a sugar skull. Keep it bright, colorful and fun! Use flowers, hearts on fire, swirls and dots, and if you get stuck for inspiration, there are literally thousands of images online that will dazzle and delight!
If you decide to follow our lead and paint spoons that represent Halloween icons in the same style, follow the same steps as for the skeleton skull. Here are a few photos of how the pumpkin skull came together starting with a coat of orange paint.
Moving on with a standard Jack-o-Lantern face,
adding a few flowers at the top of the head,
and then going crazy with details and colors until there is almost no more room to paint.
As you paint each wooden spoon, use an empty mason jar to keep your creations upright as they dry.
Tip: If you don’t feel confident with your painting skills on fine details, use a black Sharpie marker to get crisp, clean lines.
For a little added flair, grab some sequins (or small silk flowers) and quick-drying glue.
Dot the glue in the center of the painted flowers, in the eyes, nose, mouth or anywhere you will want to add some sparkle, and then carefully place sequins into the glue.
Let the spoon skulls dry, flat on their “backs.”
When dry, place the calavera-inspired spoon handles into potted plants, candy bowls or vases of cut flowers in your window this week.
All photos by: Megan Andersen