Diwali, or Deepavali as it’s typically known South India, is the Indian festival of lights. It’s typically a 5-day long celebration of “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.” It’s one of the most important and celebrated Indian festivals both inside and outside of India. I know it’s one my family always celebrated growing up, and I’m excited to share some ideas on how to appreciate Diwali with kids!
While participating, it’s important to learn in a respectful way that centers those of Indian ancestry. This guide is intended to help you appreciate and avoid cultural appropriation as you learn with and teach your children about this beautiful holiday. It also directs you to resources created by those of Indian heritage, and provides ways to support Indian creators as we benefit from the gift of their beautiful traditions.
This guide to Diwali with kids contains affiliate links, but all opinions are 100% my own. That means I earn a small commission if you purchase through my link, but doesn’t change your price.
Diwali with Kids: Activities and Ideas for Learning and Celebrating
Featured Diwali Book
Let’s Celebrate 5 Days of Diwali! by Ajanta Chakraborty and Vivek Kumar
Let’s Celebrate 5 Days of Diwali! Picture Book Discussion Questions
- What are some of the foods that you might eat for Diwali?
- What is the purpose of the 5 days? Have you ever celebrated for five days in a row?
- Do you eat any sweets in your family’s celebrations? Are they similar to or different from Diwali sweets?
- What kinds of decorations did you notice in the book? Did the colors look familiar to your celebrations?
- What kind of clothing did you notice in the book?
Other Diwali Books for Kids
Find other amazing children’s books about India here!
Books About India for Kids
Diwali Activity Books for Kids
- The festival of Diwali typically takes place during the harvest season and celebrates light winning over darkness.
- The Diwali (or Deepavali in South India) celebration usually lasts 5 days in North India, and 1-2 days in South India.
- Families usually clean their homes thoroughly before the festival.
- Then they decorate the front of their homes with rangoli, or beautiful designs made out of colored powder.
- Finally, families prepare their homes and the exteriors with small clay lamps called diyas (or deepas). It’s also very common to wear new clothes for Diwali.
- To celebrate, families gather together and celebrate with music and food (especially sweets).
- Prayer ceremonies, or pujas, are an important part of Diwali celebrations.
- Fireworks are very popular for Diwali, and some families may exchange gifts.
Color in India on this map of Asia!
India with Kids: Flag Activity
Flag from HERE
HERE is a fun printable India flag coloring sheet!
Featured Indian Art Form: Rangoli
Featured Diwali Food: Barfi
Sweets are very common during Diwali to celebrate the sweetness of life. Barfi (or burfi) is a very common sweet that is similar to a white fudge. It is traditionally made out of milk solids and ghee (clarified butter), but some simple recipes allow you to make it from sweetened condensed milk!
Halwa is another popular sweet that can be made from different vegetables or fruits (carrot is popular) mixed with ghee and spices.
Authentic Barfi Recipe
You can make your own barfi with some basic pantry staples like shredded coconut and sweetened condensed milk!
Diwali Activities for Kids
There are a number of wonderful ways to celebrate Diwali with kids:
- Learn about the Diwali (Deepavali) stories in a children’s Ramayana. Did you know different parts of India celebrate different mythological stories?
- Northern India celebrates King Rama’s return to Ayodhya after he defeated Ravana by lighting rows of clay lamps.
- Southern India the day that Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura.
- Western India acknowledges Lord Vishnu, the Preserver, sending the demon King Bali to rule the nether world.
- Learn how to wear a sari or dhoti with an old sheet. You can even design your own with fabric markers!
- Here are lots of fun Diwali crafts for kids
- Create a rangoli design with sidewalk chalk
- Learn about the deities in the Hindu Trinity
- Hindu deities coloring pages
- Rangoli coloring page
- Digital Diwali art coloring book from Google Arts & Culture
- Draw a thali plate (stainless steel plate with several compartments) and draw pictures of the types of Diwali food you might find on your plate
- This Common Core-aligned Diwali packet has several worksheets and coloring sheets that touch on grammar, handwriting, and numbers
How to Celebrate 5 Days of Diwali
- You can celebrate each of the 5 days of Diwali with a different activity:
- Day 1: Clean your home
- Day 2: Purchase some authentic deepas (clay lamps) to place inside and outside your home. Purchase rangoli powder from an authentic distributor or from your local Indian grocery store and decorate in rangoli patterns in front of your home. You can also use sidewalk chalk to make rangoli designs.
- The one-day South Indian Deepavali usually falls on this day.
- Day 3: This is the main festive day of Deepavali! There are lots of wonderful ways to celebrate:
- Learn how to honor the goddess Lakshmi through pooja at home (prayer ceremony to the goddess Lakshmi)
- Wear new clothes
- Make a flower necklace or decorate with flowers
- Eat Indian sweets such as barfi or halwa
- Set off firework sparklers or light candles.
- The one-day South Indian Deepavali occasionally falls on this day (it does in 2020).
- Day 4: Visit friends with gifts, make lots of food, and make a new year’s resolution. Traditionally, families would take it to a temple to celebrate the start of a new year.
- Day 5: Do something nice for a sibling! This is a day when traditionally brothers visit married sisters, who make them a fancy meal.
Celebrating South Indian Deepavali
Since my family is from South India, I wanted to learn more about celebrating the South Indian Deepavali and some of the religious rituals specific to that area.
Traditionally, family members are anointed with sesame oil before sunrise and washed to symbolize a fresh beginning. A traditional greeting is, “Ganga Snanam Aacha?” or “Have you had a holy bath?” This page has more information on how the sacred oil is made.
How to Avoid Cultural Appropriation with Diwali: Supporting Indian Heritage
An important part of avoiding cultural appropriation is to financially support the cultures from which we learn and borrow. It’s important compensate those from those cultures so that the culture can continue to thrive.
Here are some ways you can support those of Indian ancestry:
Buy Barfi or Halwa from a Local Grocer
Instead of searching a big supermarket or even making it yourself, consider support a Indian grocer. You may want to purchase other things while there, as well. Or perhaps buy some for yourself, and take some to a friend!
Buy Authentic Rangoli Powder and Diyas
You should absolutely purchase rangoli powder and Diwali diyas from someone of Indian heritage. Profiting off another culture is one of the most egregious forms of appropriation. We should avoid purchasing traditional items with deep significance, like these things, from big corporations or those appropriating Indian culture and religious heritage. These big wooden rangoli floor stencils come straight from creators in India and can be used year after year!
The best way to purchase rangoli powder and diyas is from someone native to the culture. Shops like this one sell authentic rangoli powder, or this creator hand makes clay diyas. Supporting shops like this is one of the best ways to avoid perpetuating power imbalances that stem from cultural appropriation in celebrating Diwali.
Here are some beautiful floor decorations that you can also purchase!
Learn about the Hindu mythology stories that are the basis for Diwali or Deepavali
While it’s fun to celebrate, it’s really important to understand the religious significance behind the festival, or habba as it is called in South India. As I noted above, different regions of the country celebrate different mythological stories, so read up the different ones.
This stunning children’s Ramayana book is a wonderful way to learn even for adults. I highly recommend purchasing a copy of this one to learn about all these Hindu stories throughout the year!
Study Indian history and culture
Diwali is a perfect time to learn more about India with kids. It’s a wonderful opportunity to study this diverse and beautiful country and its people, and also participate in some traditional activities. Here’s a virtual tour of India with kids to jump start your learning!
Purchase an authentic Indian cookbook
It’s easy to Google recipes, but it’s also wonderful to support Indian (or Indian-American) cookbook authors! Madhur Jaffrey is a queen of Indian cooking and translates recipes to cookbook form so well. Her Quick & Easy Indian Cooking book is one of my favorites, but they’re all great!
Sign up for an online Indian cooking class
Diwali Writing Assignment: India for Kids Language Arts Activity
Read a book about Diwali and learn about the different ways to celebrate each of the 5 days. Make a timeline to visualize what happens on each day, and draw a picture for the importance of each day.
Read the different Diwali stories. Which is your favorite, and why?
It’s so fun to move your body and enjoy some Diwali music. You can even learn about the different days of Diwali with this dance!
Kid Movies About Diwali
Diwali with Kids Discussion Questions
- Which story of Diwali do you like the best?
- Do you ever decorate for major celebrations? How? What colors do you use?
- What is a major holiday in your family? How do you celebrate?
- Are there any foods that make you think of certain holidays? Are there any foods you wish you could have at holidays?
- Does your family exchange gifts for holidays? Who chooses the gifts?
Childhood Deepavali Experiences
Thanks for learning about Diwali with kids with us!
We’ve loved putting together this resource with Diwali activities for kids. We’d love to hear if you do any of these activities!
We hope to inspire curiosity and connection through exploring and learning, and we hope this guide helps you and your families. Please share any activities you do with us over on our Instagram. And we’d be delighted if you passed this Diwali with kids resource along to others, as well!
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