How to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month With Kids—No Matter Where Your Family's From

The achievements and contributions of Latinos to the United States are endless, and Hispanic Heritage Month honors these accomplishments across not one, but two months giving you lots of time to help your kids understand its significance. Here's how.

There's no doubt about it—if your home is anything like ours, everyone is still "not talking" about Bruno. Not only did Disney's latest Hispanic film, Encanto, smash pop music records with the hit song, it also introduced a plethora of true-to-yourself animated characters the whole family can emulate. Between the Madrigal family showing us how to break generational trauma, the introduction of Marvel's first Latina comic heroine, America Chavez, and Bad Bunny making history on the Billboard 100, Latinx pop-culture influencers have our community beaming with pride. In our house, that pride is nurtured year-round so our kids, Auggie, 10, and Luca, 7, can connect to their Cuban-Puerto Rican roots. But for one whole month in the fall, it gets turned up a notch.

Whether you're Latinx like us or or a non-Latinx household, learning about Hispanic Heritage Month will benefit your entire family.

What Is Hispanic Heritage Month?

Like Black History month in February, Women's History Month in March, and LGBTQIA+ Pride throughout June, National Hispanic Heritage Month educates, celebrates, and honors the contributions of an often underrepresented and marginalized group of people. In this case, American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America: U.S. Hispanics.

When Is Hispanic Heritage Month?

Hispanic Heritage Month is unique as it doesn't start and end within the same month. Instead, it starts on September 15 to honor the independence days of several Latin American countries and ends on October 15.

On September 17, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Hispanic Heritage Week bill, stating in part that it "wishes to pay special tribute to the Hispanic tradition, and having in mind the fact that our five Central American neighbors celebrate their Independence Day on the fifteenth of September and the Republic of Mexico on the sixteenth." Twenty years later, in 1988 President Ronald Reagan passed a law expanding the week to an entire month.

Why It's Important

By now, you've likely seen #representationmatters across your social media feeds—and there's no way around it: representation does matter. One in four kids in the United States is of Hispanic origin, which means that your kids are very likely to be surrounded by children with rich cultures and diverse origins that have been frequently overlooked in the past. For Latinx kids, a month devoted to the contributions their ancestors have made to American society can reap enormous benefits. After all, research shows that a lack of representation in media, for example, can lead to negative psychological results for individuals whose identities are under or misrepresented.

But the benefits of celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month don't stop with Hispanic children. Exposing children of any background to other cultures and heritages has enormous benefits for them, too, turning them into mini global citizens. Not only does raising your children to be globally aware build essential tools like critical thinking and problem solving, it also helps them foster a deep understanding of the challenges of our world, promotes empathy, and builds communication skills. And being exposed to another language like Spanish is a huge plus, too. Research shows that those who learn another language understand math and problem solving better than kids who speak just one language.

How To Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month With Kids

Forget about having a formal conversation around the family dinner table about the impact of Hispanics on American society. Instead, use casual, everyday moments and activities this month to celebrate our heritage. Story time and iPad hour both provide the perfect atmosphere to immerse your family in our history, culture, and language! Here are some easy ideas to get your started:

Read books together

One of the go-to learning resources in our home is the Who Was book series. This is a perfect start for readers in grades 3 and up, as engaging and informative biographies on famous Hispanics like artist Frida Kahlo, baseball legend Roberto Clemente, activist Cesar Chavez, Tejano music star Selena, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor will help kids understand the power of Hispanic trailblazers. For younger readers, Lil' Libros board books offer fun and colorful details on the lives of other Hispanic idols like Salsa queen Celia Cruz and the iconic comedian Cantinflas.

Engage in Spanish language lessons

Learning or brushing up on Spanish is another fun and easy way to appreciate our culture throughout the month. The app, Endless Spanish, features adorable characters and vibrant graphics that help kids pick up common phrases. Kids ages 4 will love the interactive puzzles that help bring Spanish words to life while Endless monsters demonstrate meaning and context! (Available for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play).

Watch movies

If family movie nights are your thing, commit to choosing one or two movies this month that center around Hispanic culture. The Book of Life and Coco offer a gorgeous introduction to time-honored cultural traditions and are a great lead-up to Dia de los Muertos, which follows Hispanic Heritage Month at the beginning of November.

Try traditional foods

Food is another great way to foster an appreciation and understanding during this time. This month, switch up your dinner menu so Taco Tuesday isn't the only night connecting you to Hispanic Heritage. I love Allrecipes' World Cuisine section for quick and easy recipes from Mexico and Spain like flan, tortillas Españolas (Spanish omelette), and carnitas. You can also mix it up by experimenting with meals from other Latin American countries with a cookbook like A Taste of Latin American: Culinary Traditions and Classic Recipes from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico & Venezuela.

Play some games

Finally, turn up game night with a new twist on lotería, the traditional Mexican bingo game. From the creative geniuses who brought us Lil'Libros comes Lil'Lotería, a modified, kid-friendly version of the classic pastime that includes vibrant images with their corresponding words in English and Spanish.

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