This is a simple tutorial to try with your kids – how to decorate a matchbox to make a memory box to store their tiny sentimental treasures, or to hold the names of dead loved ones. If this sounds a little odd, read my thoughts about why we should talk to our kids about dealing with death, and find out more about Day of the Dead and the November Dead List in my post about Dia de Los Muertos traditions.

Of course you can decorate your matchbox any way you like. We made ours based on this post I found online when we were looking for Day of the Dead crafts a couple of years ago.

Caroline was fascinated by all things Mexican after we took part in a Dia De Los Muertos parade in Lincoln in 2016.

Image of blue and orange matchbox hand painted with red roses, a white skull and white words Dia de los Muertos

Remember Loved Ones

It might sound maudlin and weird but Caroline’s memory box contains the names of all our relatives, friends and pets who have died. It helps us think about them with happiness and talk about them when we feel the need. We can keep them in our prayers that way too.

I firmly believe we should make our children aware of the cycles of life, including death, from an early age. This is a great way to do it and far from being sad it was a real ice breaker in terms of talking to Caroline about life, death and grief.

Image of blue hand painted matchbox with white skull and the words Dia de Los Muertos painted on

It you’re a family that prays you can use the box to name all those loved ones you are praying for, and if not you can take out the cards with their names on to jog memories of time spent together.

Here’s how to make a hand painted matchbox memory box: –

You will need:

  • 1 large empty matchbox
  • Paints and brushes
  • Paper fastener
  • Scissors
  • Photo or picture
  • Glue

Image of painted matchbox and bottle of orange and bottle of blue paint with two white paint pallets with brushes

What to do

1.Choose paint colours and protect the work surface with newspaper or oilcloth. We went for the bright orange of Day of the Dead marigolds and a contrasting blue

2. Paint all external sides of the matchbox and the inside of the base

3. Allow to dry before adding other paint colours and patterns

4. Once all painting is finished allow to dry completely

Painting the inside of a matchbox memory box with hearts and dots

4. On one side of the matchbox lid stick on a paper decoration or photo. We printed off the Mexican icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Caroline painted patterns around it

5. Once dry, paint a white sugar skull and the words Dia de Los Muertos on the other side of the matchbox lid

Image of hand painted matchbox in orange and blue with red roses and hearts and picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe

6. When completely dry push a brass paper fastener through one end of the box base to make it easier to open.

7. Fill it with whatever your kiddies feel like! If you are using yours as a dead list like we did, write each name on an individual piece of coloured paper or card. We included year of birth and death and Caroline drew angels and hearts one each.

Why not pop a picture on our Facebook page if you make one?

For more craft ideas, especially outdoor and nature suggestions check out Kids of the Wild’s things to make section.