7 Fun and Easy Ways to Teach Kids Indigenous Latino History

The many contributions of people native to Latin America aren't often taught in school. Luckily, there are fun ways to teach your children all about Mesoamerican history right at home.

From Aztecs to Taínos, the contributions of people native to Latin America are many, including astronomy, mathematics, textiles, and towering pyramids. Yet most schools never teach any of this. Luckily, there's a lot you can do at home to spark kids' interest in Mesoamerican history. Best part: the pride children will feel knowing that they come from a long line of people still thriving today.

parent and child reading a book together
Cheyenne Ellis

Watch And Learn

Entertain the whole family with these animated shows.

Courtesy of Netflix


Pachamama follows the adventures of Tepulpai as he sets out to retrieve a seized sacred statue and bring his Andean village good fortune. Ages 5+; stream on Netflix.

Maya and the Three
Coming Soon In 2021!. Courtesy of Netflix

Maya and the Three

Set in ancient Mesoamerica, Maya and the Three is a much-anticipated series centers on a half-god, half-human warrior princess. Ages 8+; stream on Netflix.

Incas by Kids Discover app
Courtesy of Kids Discover

Travel Back To Incan Times

Using interactive 3-D models, the Incas by Kids Discover app transports kids to ancient Peru, where they can explore Incan traditions, daily life, and government, and take a 360-degree tour of Machu Picchu. Ages 4+, $4; available on iPad.

Tales That Teach

Encourage curiosity about native folklore and culture with these reads.

Cuauhtémoc: Shapes
Courtesy of Lil' Libros

Cuauhtémoc: Shapes by Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein

Cuauhtémoc: Shapes is a colorful, bilingual board book that gets kids learning about shapes with a little help from the Aztecs' legendary last emperor. Ages 0 to 4.

Feathered Serpent and the Five Suns: A Mesoamerican Creation Myth by Duncan Tonatiuh

When the gods of Mesoamerica give up their many attempts to create human beings, the deity Quetzalcóatl vows to get the job done in Feathered Serpent and the Five Suns: A Mesoamerican Creation Myth. Ages 5 to 9.

Zonia's Rain Forest by Juana Martinez-Neal

Set deep in the Peruvian Amazon, Zonia's Rain Forest tells the tale of an Asháninka girl is called to protect the rainforest she calls home. Ages 4 to 8.

Kusikiy: A Child From Taquile, Peru by Mercedes Cecilia

After a constellation disappears from the sky in Kusikiy: A Child From Taquile, Peru, a Quechua boy living on an island in the center of Lake Titicaca embarks on a journey to bring it back. Ages 5 to 9.

Taíno Tales: The Secret of the Hummingbird by Vicky Weber

Big kids will get wrapped up in Taíno Tales: The Secret of the Hummingbird, based on the Taíno legend of how hummingbirds came to be, about a girl and a boy from rival tribes who fall in love. Ages 7 to 11.

Sonia De Los Santos
José M. De Los Santos

Feel The Beats

"Music is a great way to introduce native cultures since many Latin songs fuse indigenous, African, and Spanish musical elements that came together during colonization," says Sonia De Los Santos, a Mexican-Latin Grammy-nominated children's recording artist. Take a listen.

"Caminito Del Indio" by Suni Paz

In Caminito Del Indio kids can follow the magical sound of the Quechua quena Indian flute, as it guides them through the path taken by native people following the stars, mountains, and rivers.

"La Golondrina" by Sonia De Los Santos

La Golondrina is in the son jarocho style is about the afternoons I'd spend on my grandma's porch, watching little migrant birds make their nests."

"Carnavalito (Humahuaqueño)" by Sukay

Just try not to dance to Carnavalito (Humahuaqueño), a festival song! Its Quechua instruments are still played at carnivals across Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile."

"La Hormiga 'Tras Tras'" by Totó La Momposina

La Hormiga 'Tras Tras' is about a crazy, biting ant and features gaita flutes: indigenous Colombian instruments made of cactus wood, beeswax, charcoal powder, and duck quills."

parent and child eating snacks together
Comida: the ultimate history teacher!. David Tsay

Go On A Food Tour

Turn mealtime into a fun history lesson by pointing out the indigenous backgrounds of these common ingredients.

Avocado: Believe it or not, guac is not a wonder of the modern-day world. In 500 b.c., the Aztecs ground up āhuacatl (that's "avocado" in Nahuatl) into āhuacamolli, which literally translates to "avocado sauce."

Chia: The superfood can be traced back to the Aztecs and is still relied on today by the Tarahumara people in Chihuahua, Mexico, as a source of energy for arduous foot journeys.

Cocoa: You can thank the Olmecs for everyone's favorite cold-weather treat! Historians believe they cultivated, roasted, and ground cocoa beans for drinking xocolātl around 1500 B.C.

Corn: Maize—or a derivative of it—can be found in hundreds of items, from tortilla chips and mayo to toothpaste! But it was farmed by Mayans around 6,500 years ago.

Quinoa: The Incas of Peru, Bolivia, and Chile were the first farmers to gather this protein-rich "mother grain," which they offered to gods during religious ceremonies.

ancient Aztec paper-plate craft
Courtesy of Crayola

Get Crafty

Explore the importance of the sun to the ancient Aztecs with this colorful Crayola paper-plate craft. Easy-to-follow instructions from Crayola help you craft a bright Aztec sun.

Take A Museum Field Trip

The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian has tons of virtual exhibits and online resources. Search by indigenous nation, region, and grade level to learn about Incan engineering, Mayan astronomy, the Taíno language, and more. americanindian.si.edu/nk360/resources.

This article originally appeared in Parents Latina's February/March 2021 issue as "From Aztecs to Taínos."

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