Spanish is a great language for your kids to learn since it’s one of the most spoken languages globally. And the number of speakers keeps growing. But with learning languages also comes learning about new cultures. Mexican culture is as rich as the Spanish language. It has a great history, traditions, places, and games.
Even if your children go to Spanish classes, they still need to keep learning after school to be truly fluent and gain cultural awareness. Games and toys are a great way for your kids to learn this. In fact, they might not even notice that they’re learning because they will be having tons of fun.
Kids are creative and energetic, so games will keep them entertained and busy; it’ll be easier to catch their attention. You can even play with them. That way you’ll also be connecting and creating new memories together.
Games are also a great advantage for you because you’ll also have a good time. You won’t have to spend long afternoons helping them study grammar from a textbook, you’ll be playing too. And, who knows? You might even learn something along the way.
To help you out, here’s a list of great Mexican games and toys to play with your kids. They will learn about Mexican culture while practicing their Spanish!
Mexican Games and Toys
This is a Mexican toy with a lot of history. It’s believed that Mayans, a Mesoamerican civilization, used to play with it. But what is it about?
The balero is a small wooden barrel with a small hole in it. It’s connected by a cordon to a wooden stick. The barrel is very colorful.
You’re supposed to throw the barrel in the air while you’re grabbing the wooden stick. Then you try to catch the barrel with the stick by nailing the stick in the barrel’s hole. Once you’ve finally done that, you pull off the cord so the barrel flies again. And you try to catch it again.
If you play this with your kid, you could try to see who catches the barrel more times. Whoever does that is the winner.
It’s not as easy as it might sound! It’s quite complicated to catch the barrel; you need a lot of abilities. You also have to be careful, as sometimes the barrel could hit you.
It’s not only played in Mexico, there are many other countries that play with it – even in Europe. It has different names too. For example: in France it’s bilboquet; in Venezuela it’s perinola; in El Salvador it’s capirucho; and in Japan it’s kendama. And there are more names for it around the world. The form of the barrel also looks different depending on the country, but the game is the same.
Just like with the balero, it’s believed that the trompo toy has centuries of history. Though it’s not quite clear where it was born, there are old paintings and books that talk about it. There are even poems from Ovid, a Roman poet from 43 BC, that talk about the trompo.
Nowadays it’s made of many materials, like plastic. But the classic trompo is made of wood, and it has a lots of colors. Mexican artisans work hard to create beautiful paintings on them. So trompos become more than a toy, they become art.
It has the form of a cone and the tip is made of metal. It brings a cord with it. To play it you have to tangle the cord from the tip to half of the trompo. Then you throw the toy to the floor and pull out the cord. This has to be as fast as possible so the trompo spins and doesn’t fall. It’s complicated to make it spin; it might take a little while to dominate it. And when you do it, you can try to improve the amount of time that it stays spinning.
That’s the classic game. Nowadays, kids also spin the trompos together so they hit each other, trying to make the other trompos fall. The winner is the one that stays spinning or spins the longest time.
There are also some skilled people that do all kinds of tricks with this toy. So, hey, if your kid masters the classic game, he/she could try to level up his/her game. Your kid could even present his/her tricks with the trompo for the school’s talent show. It’s something really unique. There are many YouTube videos that can teach them different tricks.
In English it’s known as a “spinning top”. Since it has traveled the world through the years, there are other names for it. In Spain it’s peonza; in Japan it’s koma, and in Portugal it’s pião.
Muñeca de trapo mexicana
The muñecas de trapo mexicanas (Mexican rag dolls) are also known as muñecas mazahuas (Mazahua dolls) because they are based on the Mazahua women. These dolls are originally from Michoacán and Estado de México.
Their dresses are based on traditional Mexican dresses, like the ones Mazahua women wear. And their hairs are braided with colorful ribbons. There are some differences in the details from doll to doll, but all are full of colors. They are made by Mazahua artisans.
It’s believed that they were made not as a toy, but to protect children during their burial rites. Though nowadays children can play with them, a lot of people buy them as decoration or as a reminder of Mexican culture.
Canicas are small balls that kids play with. They are usually made of glass. But there are other materials too, such as ceramic, metal, and marble.
You can play in many different ways. The most popular game is to throw a canica so it falls into a hole. You don’t throw the canica as a normal ball. You have to make it roll all the way to the hole. It’s not easy to make them fall in there. The person that achieves that, stays with the canicas that are closer to the hole. The winner is the person that has more canicas.
It’s a popular game in Mexican fairs. In there they have wooden surfaces with tons of holes, not just one. And you have to make the canicas roll, one by one, into the holes. You can play it by yourself or against an opponent. The winner is the person that has the most canicas in the holes. At the fair, you play to win a gift, usually a toy, like a stuffed animal or a piggy bank.
Another popular game in Mexico is the cocol or rombo (rhombus). Someone draws a rhombus on the floor, and everybody puts their canicas on the sides. Then, players throw canicas at them, in order to eliminate the canicas that are in the rhombus. The winner is the one that keeps at least one canica in the rhombus. That means nobody could eliminate his/her canicas. When you eliminate a player, you scream “chiras pelas”, a popular Mexican phrase until this day.
There are many different types of canicas, with different names. They are classified by color, sizes, and material. Some of the most popular ones are:
– Trébol: they are transparent with brush strokes of color inside.
– Chinas: they are white with brush strokes of color.
– Agüita: they are made with transparent glass with one color.
It’s a popular game with a lot of history in different countries. There have been discoveries of canicas from Ancient Egypt. It was also played in Ancient Rome. In Mexico there’s a mural in Teotihuacán with an image of people playing with this toy. Canicas used to be made from clay and rocks.
In English they’re known as marbles. But the names vary depending on the country or place. For example: in El Salvador they are called chibolas; in Venezuela they’re metras; in Argentina they’re bolitas. In Colombia the game is known as bolitas de uñita, and in Chile it is polquitas.
This is a musical instrument. It consists of a small wooden pole connected to a long wooden board. You grab it by the pole and make the matraca spin; this way it’ll produce a loud and festive sound.
The origin of this instrument is unknown, though it’s believed to come from the Far East because they used to have similar instruments. And gradually they spread through the world. Whatever the origin, Mexico adopted them as an important traditional toy and instrument.
The Mexican matraca, just like many other toys, has a lot of colors. Some have more elaborate paintings, like flowers. And there are some that even have the Mexican flag painted on the wooden board.
Not only children play with them, but also adults. Thanks to their festive sound, a lot of people around Latin America use matracas at national parties and celebrations. You can also see many of them in football games. The fans will spin the matraca to celebrate a goal or a win.
Your kids will have a lot of fun with this instrument. They might even get obsessed with it. And you might have to keep them away from it for a little bit since the sound can get very noisy. Curious fact: there’s a phrase that says “dar la matraca”. It’s used to express that someone is being annoying by insisting a lot on something. Kind of like the irritating effect of listning to a matraca for hours.
You can even use it at their birthday parties! Apart from applauding them you can spin the matraca. Or you can use it as a background instrument for when you are singing happy birthday. The sound and movement of it will interest the youngest ones.
This looks like a trompo made of plastic, but smaller. There are also some that are made of wood. It has six faces, and on each face it has different writing. The messages it has are things like: “toma todo” (take everything), “pon 1” (put 1), or “todos ponen” (everyone puts). Therefore, it’s used to gamble.
Everybody has to bet something. Then, you spin the pirinola, and when it stops you have to do what it says. For example: if it stops on the side that says “pon 1”, you have to put one of the things that you’re betting. The winner is the one that wins everything. People can be eliminated progressively, as they start losing all the items they have to gamble.
You don’t have to bet money. It can be played with anything. Kids would love to bet candies.
This is a traditional board game. It’s believed that it was born in Italy, where they played it slightly differently. It gradually spread to Spain and then Mexico, where people made it one of the most popular games.
It consists of 54 or 56 small cards, each with one image, number, and the name of the image. Lotería also has small boards, each with 16 squares with different images from the cards. This means that not one board has all the same images as the other boards. Each one is a different template.
To play lotería you’ll need raw beans. Or you could use any other type of token, though beans are the most common ones around Mexican players.
There’s going to be one person assigned to distribute the boards among the participants. And he/she is also going to be responsible for reading the cards out loud and showing them, one by one. He/she will be known as “el gritón” (a person that screams).
Every time a card is presented, players have to look for the image of that card on their board. If they have it, they put a bean on it. If they don’t, they wait until there’s a card with an image that is also on their board.
The game continues this way until a player has completed all of his/her board. This is until he/she has put a bean on each square/image of their boards.
When someone has completed his/her board, they have to scream “¡Lotería!” to announce that they’ve won. If they forget to scream, nobody will know they’ve won, and they’ll end up losing. In this case, the game would continue until someone else completes the board and actually screams.
You can bet something or not. It’s up to the players.
How Mexican Games and Culture Will Help Your Child
As you’ve seen, some games require you to say certain Spanish phrases or words. That will help you and your child learn Spanish while playing.
These Mexican games will also enhance your children’s creativity, as they’re full of colors, images, and art. They’ll also help your child gain new skills and patience, and improve their focus. Like the trompo, with which you can learn many tricks. Or the lotería, to which you need to pay attention to Spanish numbers and words.
Plus, these games and toys will enrich your kid’s Mexican culture knowledge. And the more cultures your children know, the more empathetic they’ll become.
Spanish language and cultural sensitivity will also help them have personal and professional opportunities. They could make new friends or get a good job when they grow up.
More Ways to Improve in Spanish While Having Fun
Another way to improve your and your kids’ Spanish language through games is trying to speak everything in Spanish. If you don’t know a lot of Spanish, you could at least implement some words and phrases.
- You could say “vamos a jugar” (let’s play) when it’s playtime.
- Or you could ask your kid “¿qué juego quieres jugar?” (What game do you want to play?). This way you’ll give him/her the chance to pick something he/she’s interested in.
- You could also say “gané” (I won) when you win.
- Or “intentemos de nuevo” (let’s try again) when you find difficulties playing with a toy, like the balero.
If your children hear you speak in Spanish, they will start absorbing those words and expressions. And they will try to imitate what you say. Soon, they might be speaking Spanish without even noticing.
Another way for your kids to improve their Spanish and gain cultural knowledge is with our TruFluency Kids Spanish immersion classes. We have native teachers that will guide your kids through their language acquisition path.
TruFluency Kids’ classes are tons of fun. We have many activities in Spanish, like storytelling, singing, and even cooking! They won’t be bored and they’ll keep learning. We believe the best way to teach children is through funny and energetic ways. That’s why our teachers were required to pass an energy test.
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!