Games are a great way for kids to practice their Spanish. They can have an opportunity to speak the language in a fun way. It’s even better if the game is traditional from a Spanish-speaking country because then they will gain cultural awareness and appreciation.
Games can also be a good language practice tool for adults. So you can play with your kids, and learn together. The Mexican lottery (like BINGO) – lotería as it’s called in Spanish – is a great example of a game that entertains children and families. And it will immerse you all in Mexican culture. That’s why we created a tutorial on how to make your own lotería to play and learn with your kids.
History of the Mexican Lottery
Did you know that this popular Mexican game actually has its roots in Italy? It’s true! Around the year 1400, there was an Italian game named lotto. It was about guessing five numbers out of 90, every number had an image to accompany it. The person that guessed those five numbers correctly became the winner. We still use this word for the lotto in American culture.
Then, Charles III, king of Naples, Italy, brought the lotto to Spain when he became the king there. He even brought José Peya, an Italian lotto specialist, to Spain. They made this game a very popular one across Spain, where it was called lotería de Madrid.
The game crossed borders until it arrived in Mexico, where it became very famous among high-class people. The game changed many times. It passed from many different images until Clemente Jacques created the lottery that Mexicans play to this day. Clemente Jacques was a French businessman that sold many different products in Mexico, including some popular canned food. In fact, the first image of his lottery was a rooster, which is also Clemente Jacques’ company image.
During the Mexican War of Independence, soldiers used to play it. When the war ended, they taught the game to everyone else.
In the game, there’s a person (el gritón) that says out loud the name of the cards and shows them to the players. In the past, this person used to recite something related to each card, kind of like poetry for the lottery. The verses could change; every person could recite something different. Nowadays, this person simply says the name of the card.
How to Play Lotería Mexicana
The current Mexican lottery has 54 cards with one image, one number, and the name of the image. For example, the rooster card has the drawing of the animal, the number one printed on it, and the name gallo (rooster). Other images are la sirena (the mermaid), el diablito (the little devil), el nopal (the cactus), la muerte (the death), and more.
Then, there are also small boards with 16 squares each; in every square, there’s an image from the small card. Some images can be repeated on the different small boards, but the boards will never be the same. They will all have a different mix of the small cards’ images.
Before playing, a lot of people bet money, and the winner takes it all. But that’s up to you. Since you’ll be playing with your kids, you can bet candies or a toy.
Every player will have one of the small boards. And another person, which will have the nickname of el gritón (the screamer), will have the small cards. El gritón will have to go through/draw the cards one by one and say out loud the name of the card. For example: if the image of the card is the mermaid, he/she will say, “la sirena!”. And will also show the card, so the players can see it.
If you and the kids have an advanced level of Spanish, instead of just saying the card name, el gritón can recite the card verses. For example: before saying “él árbol” (the tree), you could recite this common verse:
“El árbol de la esperanza
que de venir no se cansa”
And then say the name of the card. Like in the old times.
Players will have to look on their boards for the image that is being shown. But it will have to be fast because el gritón can’t wait for long before showing another image. If some players see the image of the card on their boards, they put a bean on it. You can put something else, but beans are popular, maybe because they’re easy to find; everyone has beans. If your board doesn’t have the image, wait until a card with one of the images on your board appears.
The game finishes when someone has his/her board full of beans. This is, until all of his/her board images have been shown by el gritón. When a person completes his/her board, they will have to scream “¡lotería!”. If you don’t scream it, people won’t know you’ve won, and you’ll lose by default. The winner will be the next one that completes the board and screams.
Be careful! If all the cards have been shown, and you still didn’t complete your board, it means that you missed a card. If nobody has won, it would also mean that everybody missed a card. And el gritón will have to show the cards again until someone wins.
As you see, the game helps your kids to pay attention.
If you play more than once, the participants can take turns to be el gritón. This way, the players will practice their listening and will learn vocabulary in Spanish. Meanwhile, el gritón will practice his/her Spanish speaking skills.
DIY Lotería Mexicana
1. You’ll need cardboard, so you can cut it to make the cards – a cereal box works great for this. The small cards should be 7 x 10 cm; there has to be 54, as that is how many cards the lottery has. The boards should be 18 x 25 cm. There’s not an exact number of boards; just make enough for how many people are playing. You can cut around 10 boards or as many as the number of players.
2. Print the classic lottery card images and the boards. Just make sure that they have the same length as the squares you made on the cardboard that you already cut.
3. Glue the individual images to the cards that you made from the cardboard. And then glue the boards that you print to the boards that you cut.
4. Optional – You can laminate the cards and boards to keep them safe.
If you think your kids can handle scissors, you can let them cut the printed images. If not, they can at least help you glue them to the cardboard.
If you want, you can personalize your lotería you can create it yourself based on a theme. For example, if your kid loves animals, you can make an animal lottery. Print 54 images with your kids’ favorite animals; then write the Spanish name of each animal on the cards. You can create the boards online, on sites like Canva, and then print them. Check out our Animals in Spanish blog for the Spanish translation of the names. You can also make a Parts of the Body lottery. Or even cooler, make a Christmas in Spanish theme Mexican lottery.
Have Fun While Learning Spanish
In our experience, having a good time is the key to effective Spanish learning. If you want your kids to have fun while learning Spanish, you should check out TruFluency Kids online Spanish classes. We teach through activities and games, like singing, cooking, and picture games. So your kids will acquire the language in a similar way to the way they learned English.
We also make the kids speak the language because we aim for fluency – if not for speaking, why would you be in class? These are also the ways they learned their native language, by playing with their friends, making connections, and speaking.
We’ll make sure that your children not only learn the Spanish language but also about the new cultures that come with it. Your kids will win a lot with our Spanish immersion classes. Get started now!
Our classes are completely online with flexible hours. If your kids missed a class, they can just jump into another one. So, no matter your time zone or schedule, your kids will always have the opportunity to keep learning. Schedule your classes now!