I can’t swing a family trip to some far-flung destination every day, but I can make teaching my kids about cultures around the world a daily event. My husband is from Mexico, so we have a vested interest in teaching our kids about that particular country, and one of our favourite ways of doing so is by sharing Mexico’s vibrant culinary traditions. What follows is an authentic Mexican menu that my daughter not only loved eating but also loved helping me make.
When cooking with kids, use your judgement to determine which jobs they can take on. My daughter, who is two years old, enjoyed sprinkling the cheese, turning on the blender, and stirring the pico de gallo. Kids who are a little older can take on more advanced tasks such as squeezing the lime and spreading the butter and beans on the rolls. It may be a bit messy when you bring kids into the kitchen, but it’s a lot of fun. Teach them to clean up afterwards! Scroll down for some easy and delicious recipes you can try with your kids!
Besides dinner, there are many other ways to get your kids jazzed about Mexican culture. For really little kids, I highly recommend Lil’ Libros board books with their gorgeous stylized illustrations. Each book focuses on a different aspect of Mexican culture and presents related vocabulary words in both English and Spanish. Their lucha libre book, for example, teaches body parts, while their Frida Kahlo book teaches numbers. For older kids try Living in… Mexico by Chloe Perkins.
The Book of Life, an animated film available on Netflix, is a fun way to introduce children to Mexico’s Day of the Dead traditions. After watching it, you might even decide to celebrate the Day of the Dead (November 2) as a family. You can eat sweet bread and skulls and skulls made out of chocolate, and you can build an altar in remembrance of any relatives who have passed away. Decorate the altar with items such as photos of deceased loved ones, a glass of water, flowers, candles, and food.
Children’s Day (April 30) and the Epiphany (January 6) are other festive days in Mexico that will appeal to kids. On Children’s Day, little ones receive presents and enjoy parades and piñatas. On the Epiphany (called Día de los Reyes Magos in Mexico) children again receive gifts and they’re told that they’re from the three kings. (This is Mexico’s traditional equivalent to Santa Claus.) A crown shaped sweet bread with candied fruit is also served on the Epiphany, and it’s baked with a tiny doll in it. (If you decide to make such a sweet bread, keep a careful watch so that the doll doesn’t become a choking hazard!)
Finally, consider introducing your little ones to some Mexican music. Francisco Gabilondo Soler (known as Cri-Cri: El Grillito Cantor) has long been Mexico’s most beloved children’s performer, and among his many celebrated songs is “Marcha de las letras,” which is an adorable personification of the vowels.
Molletes (Open Faced Sandwiches & Pico de Gallo with Kid-Friendly Options)
1 ½ cups diced tomatoes
½ cup diced onion (optional)
1 ½ tbsp. minced fresh green chilli (or substitute minced green pepper)
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
2 tbsp. lime juice
1 ¼ tsp. salt
2 rolls, teleras or Kaiser, halved
1 tbsp. butter, softened
1/3 cup refried beans, canned or homemade
1 1/2 cups Monterrey Jack cheese, grated
To make the pico de gallo, place the tomato in a colander mixed with a half a tsp. of the salt. Leave to drain for twenty minutes. Combine the drained tomatoes with the onion, chilli or green pepper, cilantro, lime juice, and the remaining ¾ teaspoon of salt. Set aside until ready to serve.
Butter the rolls and place them under a hot broiler until they are golden brown. Spread with the refried beans. Then sprinkle the cheese on top. Return to the broiler until the cheese has melted. Serve immediately with the pico de gallo.
Licuado de Manzana y Avena (Apple & Oatmeal Smoothies)
2 cups milk
1 small apple, cored and roughly chopped
2 tbsp. quick oats, raw
3 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 ice cubes
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth. Serve in glasses garnished with an additional slice of apple, if desired.
Paletas de Sandia (Watermelon Popsicles)
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
2 pounds watermelon, chopped and seeded
2 tbsp. lime juice
Salt, a generous pinch
In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugar. Over medium heat, bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Puree the watermelon in a blender with the sugar water, lime juice, and salt. Pour the watermelon mixture into Popsicle moulds and freeze thoroughly.