Want to make an easy DIY piñata for your child’s birthday party? Here’s how to do it without spending a lot of time or money.
I don’t know about you, but I enjoy making the decorations for my kids’ birthday parties. Knowing that I made their special day even more special, gives me a sense of accomplishment. Adding in that I saved a boat load of money only adds more good feelings. I’m one of those people who loves to flaunt saving money. Anyone can spend money, but it takes a particularly skilled mom to make something out of nothing, or so I like to think.
The homemade piñata is the perfect example of this. Not only is it super cheap to make, but it can be used as a centerpiece on the dining table or gifts table until time to hang it up and beat the mess out of it. The piñata I’ll be making today is probably one of the simplest and least time-consuming of all the piñatas I’ve made. Other than the dry time on the paper-mache, it doesn’t take long to throw together, and one thing I like about hand making piñatas is that I can make them as strong as I’d like depending on how many children are going to be there and their ages.
For my oldest daughter’s sixteenth birthday my husband got a devious grin on his face when she said she wanted Lady Rainicorn for her piñata. Two days later he brought home a three-foot piece of three-inch PVC pipe he’d bent into an arch while at work. I incorporated the pipe into the piñata and had the first coat of paper-mache on it before she got home from school. Her friends and her beat on that thing for close to a half-hour before they finally knocked enough of the paper-mache off to realize the plastic bat they were using wasn’t going to cut. My husband passed them the steel bat, and it took another half hour to break it open and even then it was only the duct tape I’d placed on both ends to hold the candy inside that had finally given way.
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The piñata today will be nowhere near as hard to beat open, but given a few extra coats of paper-mache, it could be quite difficult if you have several older children who would like to take a whack at it. There is nothing worse than having a line full of children waiting for their turn to take out their aggression on a piñata only to have it break after the third kid. I’ve never had a piñata break that easily on me. Usually, they’re in line for the third time at bat when I get asked what is holding my piñata together so well. I simply reply that my secret weapon is love.
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So let’s get to it. Here’s the list of materials you’ll need to make this piñata.
- Mylar balloon depicting whatever theme your piñata is going with. This one was a Skylanders party obviously.
- Two pieces of cardboard cut into circles a few inches wider than your mylar balloon. (These measure 15 inches in diameter.)
- Several large straws cut three inches long. (Regular straws will work, but I had some of the larger smoothie straws that I use for the bottom tiers in cakes, so that’s what I used.)
- Masking tape
- Paper-mache paste (recipe follows)
- Paper or newspaper (I used the brown paper that comes inside shipped packages. It’s sturdier than newspaper, but the good ol’ Sunday paper will do fine.)
- A glue gun
- 1-2 glue sticks
- Sturdy nylon string or thin wire for hanging the piñata.
- Streamer in coordinating colors
Make The Paste
Okay, you want to start by making a batch of paper-mache paste. Now, there are enough paper-mache paste recipes on the internet to choke a horse, and I’ve tried making quite a few. For me, thicker is better, and my recipe is super easy to follow. It’s simply one part flour to three parts water. You mix it together in a saucepan over medium heat until it reached the consistency of thin gravy. Then pull it off the stove and let it cool to room temp. Tada. Ready to use paper-mache paste.
With most piñatas, you’ll put on at least two or three coats, and you don’t have to make a new batch of paste for each one. You can make one large batch, say one cup flour to three cups water, and use what you need right then. The rest can be put in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I will usually pull it out ten to fifteen minutes before I’m ready to use it to get some of the chill off it.
As it cools, the paste will thicken to a thick, gelatinous goo. So if yours looks like goop (or whatever other word you’d use for a cold gravy consistency), it’s right. My thing is that I want my piñata to be as sturdy as possible without having to put six coats of paper-mache on it. The thicker paste makes this possible. If you’ve ever used the thin paste before, give this paste a try. You will be able to see the difference in the stiffness of just one coat of paper-mache.
Now, on to building this bad boy.
Start with one of the cardboard rounds and the straws. Use your glue gun to glue these on perpendicular to the cardboard. Once the glue cools, add the other cardboard round and glue it to the other end of the straws. This makes up the form for your piñata. At this point, you can add your first layer of paper-mache. Just put your paper strips across the gap between the cardboard rounds. (see the pic below) You don’t need to put paper-mache over the cardboard, which saves tons of time. Just cover the gap between the two cardboard pieces. Leave a four-inch section open for now. You’ll use this opening to remove the straws once this first layer of paper-mache is dry. Now, let your piñata dry for at least a day or until it is fully dry.
Remove The Straws Before Adding More Coats
Once your piñata is dry, check its durability to make sure it will be stable once you remove the straws. You can check this by pushing on the paper-mache. If it has only a little give, then it should be fine to remove your straws. Simply reach your hand through the gap and pop the glue loose. If you don’t think your paper-mache will hold without the straws, you can apply a second layer of paper-mache, making sure to leave the same gap as before.
When your piñata is dry and the straws have been removed, wrap your string around it both around the perimeter of the circle and across the flat sides of the piñata. Bring the ends together at what will be the top of your piñata and make a small loop. I can’t stress enough how important it is to use very sturdy string, or several lengths of floral wire twisted together will work as well. Since the piñata will be receiving a pounding, you want to make sure the string or wire holding it doesn’t break. It’s a real pain to have your piñata bite the dust before it’s been broken open. Use the masking tape to hold the string in place so it doesn’t slip off either.
Don’t Forget To Leave Space To Insert The Candy
Pay attention to where the string comes together at the top. You will need to cut a small hole once you are completely through with all layers of paper-mache. Because of this, you will need to pull the string close to one side and tape it in place. Then mark which side the string was pulled toward. Once you’ve paper-mached over it, you won’t be able to tell where the string is exactly. The hole will be what you’ll use to put the candy in the piñata, and you don’t want to add the candy while you’re doing the paper-mache because the inside will get damp and possibly ruin the candy.
Once your string is in place, it’s time to put on another coat of paper-mache. Be sure to let each layer dry before you place the next layer on, but at this point, you can put on as many layers as you think you’ll need. If your piñata is for younger children, two to three coats would probably be enough. My next piñata will be for my daughter who’s turning nine, and I’m going to put on at least four coats because most of her guests will be around her age.
Cut An Opening At The Top
After finishing up your paper-mache and giving it ample time to dry, it’s time to start decorating your piñata. The first thing to do is cut the small hole for your candy to be inserted through. It only needs to be a couple of inches, but the size really depends on what size candy you’re using.
Some people prefer to use tissue paper for decorated their piñatas, but I’m all about saving time. Streamer is so easy to find, super cheap, and in one long strip. While tissue paper comes in sheets and has to be cut into strips before being used. What I do is pour a nice glass of my favorite wine, sit in my comfy chair, and start unrolling the streamer using the tips of my scissors to cut about a quarter inch slit in the side of the streamer every quarter inch, forming a fringe on the side of the streamer. It doesn’t matter if a few of the cuts are crooked. That’s the beauty of these piñatas. They are very forgiving of small mistakes, making them an easy DIY project.
Cut The Crepe Paper And Glue It On
I’ll go ahead and cut this fringe on about half of the roll so that I’ll have it ready to go when I’m ready to glue it onto my piñata. Be sure to cut a fringe on each color you’re going to use on the piñata. When you have ample fringed streamer, you can begin gluing it in place using the glue stick. Start at the bottom on the thin side of the piñata and glue a non-fringed piece of streamer across there. Glue that piece down fully. That will prevent a gap from being made. I work from there up one side alternating the colors. Glue only the side of the streamer without the fringe so that the fringe hangs free. When I get to the top, I go back to the bottom and work my way up the other side. Once the outside edge is finished, cover the front and back the same way. I chose to use one color for each side instead of continuing with the stripes.
Separate Your Balloon
You will have to cut the outer edge off the mylar balloon so you can separate the sides. Take your time and try to get it as clean a cut as possible. When you have the balloon separated, glue one piece to each side of the piñata with the glue stick. Now you are ready to fill it with candy, hang it in the air, and release the kids.
Most piñatas this size would cost a minimum of twenty dollars. Between the mylar balloon and the streamer (everything else I already had), I spent about five dollars on this one. That’s a considerable savings. If you make one of these, I would love to see the pictures. I hope you have as much fun making one of these piñatas as I did, and I really hope your little one enjoys it too.