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Mexican Unit: Sombrero & Poncho Art Project

My third grade classes are a creative and energetic bunch. They have a hard time sitting still. Instead of trying to reign them in, I take a different approach: offer a lesson as energetic as they are.

For my Mexican Art Unit, I selected the sassy sombrero and colorful tunics. The kids loved it and the art room was an explosion of color and style


Here’s what you’ll need for the sombrero:

  • 18″ x 24″ sheets of bright colored paper (I used red, orange and yellow)
  • Black oil pastel for drawing sombrero
  • Scissors
  • White glue
  • Tubs of bright tempera paints
  • Lots of brushes
  • Pans of sequins or other embellishments like pom-poms
  • Black paint
  • Tissue paper and paper scraps.

What to do:

The students followed a simple directed line instruction for drawing the sombrero. Afterwards I brought out paints and placed six tubs of paint per table. My solution for keeping things relatively under control is to provide one brush per paint color. If that color is being used, a child must use another color. I rarely have more than 5 students at one table, so it seems to work.

At this point, we set the sombreros on a rack (barely fit!) and allowed them to dry.

The next class, children add more paint details and then outline all of their patterns with black paint.

Set a tray of sequins or embellishments, yarn and some paper scraps on a table and allow the children to decorate according to their tastes. This was a fun project. I didn’t work too hard trying to enforce standards, although we did look at the color wheel.

Third Grade Sombreros

Painted Sombrero Art Project

Poncho Art

I began a unit on Mexico this week, celebrating the vibrancy of the Mexican Culture. Like the sombreros, the ponchos were a huge hit with first and second grade students. This is a magical age in which kids love to stand up and move around, finding the perfect embellishment or color of yarn to add to their art.

Starting with a 12″ x 18″ piece of colored paper, first grade students cut a 5″ slit down the center of the paper. Then, they cut a triangle from both sides of the slit. This creates the neck opening. Next, cut another skinny triangle from each corner of the paper to form shoulders. The fringe was next.

The students snipped the paper to create a fringe. If you have more time and want to elaborate on this project, a fringe made from snipped yarn would also be cool.

Using oil pastels, kids drew lines across the poncho, making some plain and others decorative. Then they cut strips of old painted “placemats” and glued them to the collars.

Time for  the paints. I keep pre-mixed tempera paint in pint sized plastic containers (with lids). I set 4-5 various colors on the table. For many kids, painting the poncho with the actual poncho in mind was rare. Most kids experimented with mixing, spreading and reveled in the joys of painting.

For first grade, this is exactly what is expected. Older kids can be more refined. Although some kids indeed painted stripes and decorations with serious consideration. For the kids who finished the painting, we stapled yarn at the neckline for a tie.

When I see these kids next week, I might have them outline the stripes with a black oil pastel and give them an opportunity to add a string closure. But if we don’t have time, I won’t worry about it. The process was so much fun and the art room was awash in color.

This lesson took forty minutes.


  1. The sombreros turned out GREAT!! I’m putting them on the list for art projects in my classroom. Thanks! 🙂

    Andrea @ Addicted2Tutes

    February 11, 2011

    • thanks!! i am a student in sixth grade, and in spanish class, and we have to teach something to the class. i used this, and they loved it!


      December 10, 2015

      • Awesome! And you taught it? Great!

        Patty Palmer

        December 10, 2015

  2. WOW! These are terrific. I love the varied line motifs, the color, the detail AND the FRINGE!!!


    February 11, 2011

  3. Love it! I think I’ll use this for Cinqo de Mayo.

    Janie B

    February 11, 2011

  4. Very colorful! What kind of glue did you use for sequins? I love ’em , but always have trouble keeping them stuck.


    February 11, 2011

    • I also like sequins and have found that tacky glue works best. Hope that helps/


      February 18, 2011

  5. The colors are wonderful! Did you use fluorescent tempera?


    February 12, 2011

    • A few fluorescent colors got in there …. some pink and orange. I added white to them so they could stand up to the colored paper.


      February 12, 2011

      • Just white school glue.


        February 12, 2011

  6. These are wonderful!! What a great project. You might see this from my classroom in the future. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Nic Hahn

    February 12, 2011

  7. I love this!! Diego Rivera has quite a few paintings of people wearing sombreros. However, his hats are nowhere near as colorful and interesting as the ones made by your kiddos.


    June 30, 2011

  8. We LOVED making these! The kids were all holding them up to their heads so we took a 2″ strip of paper and made a headband then stapled the hats to it! They all wore their sombreros and had a BLAST!


    May 17, 2012

  9. A good story to use with this project would be Big Bushy Mustache. Beautiful project!


    December 27, 2012

  10. Love the sombreros, it goes perfectly with a HM story called Anthony Reynosos 🙂


    November 4, 2013

  11. Uncle Nachos Hat is a good sombrero book for kids


    March 19, 2015

  12. I just read El Perro con Sombrero and did a modified version with my kinders for Cinco de Mayo. So much fun! Thanks!


    May 5, 2016

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