If your local stores are anything like my local stores, they’re gearing up for Mardi Gras. This means king cake, Cafe du Monde beignets, and jambalaya. If you’re lucky there are children’s books about New Orleans.
I love this time of year.
I haven’t visited New Orleans with my kids yet. But, I have been to the city three times. Twice for Mardi Gras. It was always a fun, if not extremely claustrophobically crowded, time.
I like to tell my husband stories of the Bourbon Street crowd that lifted me off the ground just by force. I can’t explain it, but I’m sure physics can. To keep things weirder, this crowd suddenly disbursed when a horse appeared. I noticed the horse, standing on it’s hind legs and wondered what kind of dream world I was in. Then I saw the officer sitting on the horse a few seconds later and it still made little sense to me. Where did all those people go? How did this horse get in the crowd? Where am I? This, to me, is part of the charm of Mardi Gras and New Orleans.
My non-Mardi Gras trips to New Orleans were filled with just as many “what is this place about” wonderings.
- How does it feel so modern and so historical at the same time?
- Why is it so culturally diverse, yet also have such a specific “New Orleans” identity?
- How is it possible to look at the water higher than ground level?
- Why does this not feel like I’m in the U.S. anymore?
- Is this the best city in the world?
Ten years ago I watched in horror as Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city. And, just like everyone else, I wondered about the future of New Orleans. I haven’t been there since, but hope to make it there soon now that I’m living in the U.S. again.
In the meantime, you guessed it, books!
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Teaching kids about New Orleans and Mardi GrasActivities to teach kids about New Orleans and Mardi Gras. #mardigras Click To Tweet
This time of year is a natural time to learn about the city. Chances are kids are going to be curious about this Mardi Gras tradition. Here are some things you can do to bring the Mardi Gras celebration to your kids:
Decorate & Dress Up
- Decorate! The colors of this season are green (for faith), purple (justice), and gold (power). Get some balloons, print out this cute (free!) printable, and break out the crayons and color these pages.
- Dress up! Pick up some beads at the local party store and make a cool mask to wear. Here’s a great printable.
Eat and Eat
- Eat! My favorite New Orleans treat is definitely Cafe du Monde’s beignets. Your grocery store might have a mix, or you can find one here. The key is the powder sugar. Use lots. Here’s a great write up about the famous cafe and the famous beignet. Warning: your mouth will water.
- Eat more! Kids will love this because cake. But they’ll also love this because – fun! Inside the cake is a trinket (usually a little baby figurine). The person who gets the trinket wins. What they win is up to you, but usually it’s a year of luck and prosperity. You can order a king cake directly from Randazzo King Cake in New Orleans to be delivered to your house.
Use more senses
- Listen to music! Here’s a list of the top 40 mardi gras songs. Or maybe you can just listen to hometown singer, Harry Connick, Jr.
- Go to a parade! Many cities have a smaller scale Mardi Gras celebration the weekend before Fat Tuesday. (I’ve been to Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Orlando – lots of fun.) Check your paper. If you’re near New Orleans you can always go to FamilyGras a weekend leading up to Mardi Gras (for 2016 that’s the weekend of January 29-30). There are afternoon parades in New Orleans as well. I remember seeing kids at many of these. Find out more about the parades here.
Read kid’s books about New Orleans
- Read some children’s books. You’ll find my full listing of children’s books set in Louisiana here. This also includes kid’s books about Mardi Gras. Below is a small sampling of the books in the listing.
Children’s books set in New Orleans or about Mardi Gras
P is for Pelican written by Anita C. Prieto, illustrated by Laura Knorr
While New Orleans is the state’s most well-known city, there are many other things about Louisiana tourists would enjoy. P is for Pelican uses the alphabet to share 26 interesting facts about the state.
Hello, New Orleans by Martha Day Zschock
This book introduces the littlest traveler to the city via colorful illustrations. Learn about the unique sites and interesting tour options that make New Orleans a destination for all ages. Aimed for ages 2-5.
Jenny Giraffe’s Mardi Gras Ride written by Cecilia Dartez, illustrated by Andy Green
Mardi Gras is not a simple holiday. It is more than just good food and parades. This book provides a lot of background information about the history of the holiday, activities during carnival season, and the terminology used for the actual Mardi Gras celebration.
Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans written by Phil Bildner, illustrated by John Parra
There’s often a lot said about the spirit of New Orleans. That spirit is definitely in the city’s people. This story tells about the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and the story of Cornelius Washington. In the aftermath of Katrina he organized volunteers to help clean the city.
Need more books? Don’t forget to check the KidsTravelBooks Lousiana bookshelf. Also, the subscription service Epic! offers several books about New Orleans and Mardi Gras for kids. It’s free for the first month and $5 each additional month.
Please note: This post has affiliate links.