For the last couple of years I have been doing fun birthday cakes for my 4 nephews who all happen to have their birthdays within 2 weeks of each other. With my nephews turning 19, 13, 12, and 7, I had to make something extra cool and absolutely memorable for them all. Having seen my friend, Beth do piñatas for her daughter's birthday, I thought I could try my hand on my first piñata.
What I ended up with was an almost indestructible piñata made by one of the most awesome manmade thing on earth: duct tape. I know you must think that indestructible beats the purpose of a piñata right? Well, if you ever bought a store piñata, you might have realized how frustrating it is when the 1st or 2nd kid beats the piñata down and the long line of kids behind them are disappointed to never get a chance at the piñata. That was exactly what I absolutely did not want. I wanted every kid to have a chance to break the piñata. There turned out to be 16 people (1 adult which is my oldest nephew, lots of teens, and kids) who got a chance to beat on the piñata. And in it finally broke when we brought out the metal baseball bat. It was so much fun to watch the kids and I think the topping on the cake for me was when my sister-in-law texted that my 13 year old nephew didn't want to throw away the battered Pokémon Charmander piñata when it was over.
To create this indestructible duct tape piñata allow yourself 2 weeks to build it. And I will give you tips so that you can vary just how destructible or indestructible of a piñata you want to make.
Step 1: Materials
Again, you need time to create this piñata so I highly recommend to start this about 2 weeks ahead to allow for dry time.
Materials for Skeleton:
Newspaper or magazines
Materials for Piñata Glue:
Materials for Body Parts and Décor:
Empty toilet paper rolls
Empty paper toilet rolls
Candy, toys, school supplies, etc.
Paint, paintbrush, vase, paper bag
I didn't have newspaper which is the more common material used to build piñatas. Since I did have a few magazines, I figured that would be worth trying since I actually had 3 weeks to build this. Magazine turned out to be a great option to strengthen the piñata.
Duct tape is the primary reason this piñata is almost indestructible. It comes in many colors and designs so chances are very good that you will find some in the color you need. If you don't, you can still use the typical gray duct tape because the piñata will be covered in colored tissue paper.
Salt is optional but it helps to keep the piñata glue from molding. I didn't want to chance mold even though the weather was warm so I used it.
The vase is optional but when I used it in a previous project similar to this piñata, I found it so much easier to use as a stand to allow the balloons to dry. The vase is worth using but if you don't have one, you can always use whatever you have around the house. I am always about using what's around the house. For example, you can use a 2 liter bottle with the top cut off. Just add some things to weigh and stabilize it.
Step 2: Research and Skeleton Prep
The first thing you need to do is decide what kind of character or theme you want your piñata to be. My nephews decided on a Pokémon theme. When I was researching online, Pikachu is such a popular character and many people had already made piñatas of him. So I opted to do Charmander, because he was an old-school Pokémon character (yes, I used to watch the cartoon/ Anime when it when it first came out). Plus with 4 boys, I thought the fire themed character would be perfect.
Do some research online and print out (preferably in color) at least 3 pictures that you like of the character or theme you want for the piñata. I kept the printout as models to refer to when I was building Charmander.
The main basis for the piñata is the creation of what I like to call the skeleton, kind of like how crabs have their skeletons on the outside to protect their internal body. For this you will need balloons, piñata glue, and magazine.
I tore pages out of the magazines and cut them lengthwise into 4 strips for each page.
For the piñata glue you will need to mixed well in a bowl: 2 cups of flour, 2 cups of water, and 3 tablespoons of salt. I used a whisk and mixed until there were no more clumps.
Then I blew up 2 balloons, 1 for the head and 1 for the body. Charmander has a much smaller head but I wanted to create an even friendlier character so I increased his head size. I used tape to attach the balloons together and placed it on top of the vase. You will need at least 5-9 layers of body shell so when blowing the balloons, remember to calculate this eventual increase in thickness. The more layers, the harder it will be to break the piñata.
Step 3: Days of Building the Skeleton
To start building the first outer shell, dip a single piece of paper strip all the way into the piñata glue. Use your fingers to slide down the excess glue before placing it on the balloon. Continue to drip more strips into the glue and layering it on the balloons. You want to overlap the strip just enough to cover all of the balloons. When you get to the bottom of the balloons, carefully flip the balloons so that you can cover the bottom in strips as well.
Allow the balloon sto dry at least 24-48 hours. Remember to flip it so that the bottom can also dry. You can use save the extra glue for the next day by adding a little bit of water and wrapping it with saran wrap.
Continue this process of building the skeleton layers for at least 5 layers. I did this for 6 layers since I knew I was going to use duct tape. If you want to use less duct tape, then use more layers.
Step 4: Cutting and Filling the Pinata
Once the head and body is fully dry, it's time to use the X-acto knife to cut out a part of the pinata to stuff the goodies into. I chose the back where the tail would be so that it can be covered over. I cut a U shape and pulled out the 2 attached together balloon pieces.
Then I drilled 2 holes with the X-acto knife into the head. I spaced the holes far enough that I could reinforce the top with lots of duct tape . The easiest reason why piñatas often fail to be exciting is when it breaks and falls from the point in which it hangs. So this area between the 2 holes should be reinforced as much as possible with lots of duct tape that run parallel and perpendicular. I didn't use as much duct tape as I should have and the rope actually broke through. This was because the sword used to hit Charmander got entwined with the rope a few times. So I'd say if you think you should, you definietely should double or triple the amount of duct tape used to reinforce it.
For the rope to go through the holes easily, I taped a pen to the end of the rope and was easily able to push the pen in one hole and out the other with ease.
I lifted the back flap and filled the piñata with tons of sweet candies, school supplies, and toys. The piñata goodies on the candy alone was a 3.5 pound bag so this piñata was not only built tough but also was able to hold more goods.
Step 5: Duct Tape Indestructible
It's time for the extra fun part of putting some major duct tape on the piñata. Depending on how much of an indestructible piñata you want, you can leave areas without duct tape. This allowed for a chance for the piñata to break. I used only 1 layer of duct tape. It's still a piñata, and I just needed it to hold long enough so that all the kids and teens had an opportunity to hit the piñata.
Step 6: Arms, Legs, and Tail
You can opt to paint the piñata and allow it to dry. This is not a necessary step but I did it because I figured that the magazine's variety of color might show through after the tissue paper was applied. I found out that all I needed to do was add more layers of tissue which was what I did with the yellow belly of Charmander.
Charmander needs 2 arms, 2 legs, and a tail. To build these, I used toilet paper and paper hand towel rolls that I saved. These worked great. The flame of the tail I used and shaped a brown bag which I later covered in flaming color duct tape. Charmander's hand was 1 roll each in which I shaped the fingers and then used brown bag to shape the thumbs. I used duct tape to seal and shape. The legs required 2 rolls each. They were easy to shape by cutting them and shaping the toes as shown in the picture. I added the candies and toys to all of these parts then used duct tape to attach them to the main piñata. Adding goodies to these body parts helped teased the kids into wanting more goodies since these parts were going to fall off first.
Step 7: Face
Charmander needed a face so I used duct tape to fashion him one. When doing details for the pieces to layer on the eyes, I used parchment paper. I cut out a piece of duct tape and put it on the parchment paper. Then I cut that shape I needed on the duct tape. When the shapes are done, I just pull off the back of the parchment papers and attach the colors to each other.
I used my printout to create the mouth with the tongue and teeth. 2 small black nostrils, and the eyes with 2 black wrinkled accent pieces. The facial features I taped on to Charmander's face and instantly the piñata had character and personality. He's so cute!
Step 8: Tissue Paper Fur
Tissue paper really helped Charmander look more like a pinata. I folded and cut a sheet of tissue paper into strips. Then I folded the strip lengthwise and cut perpendicular 1/2 length cuts along the length of the tissue paper. Then I opened the tissue strip up slightly and readjust so that it shows 2 layers of fringed tissues paper. I glued the top layer down and this helped with saving time. Then I just cut the strip as needed to cover the piñata.
I started with the yellow which covered the bottom of the tail and the belly of Charmander. Then I moved on to the orange tissue paper which covered everything else except the toes and the hands.
For the face, I layered the tissue fringe slightly under the edges of the eyes and mouth. I readjusted the eye wrinkles and nostrils so that it was on top of the tissue paper.
Now this almost indestructible piñata is done! It's time to hit the 4 boys' birthday party.
Step 9: Pinata Time!!
We didn't have a tree to hang the almost indestructible Charmander piñata but a high metal canopy structure worked just fine.
Kids lined up from youngest to oldest around the piñata.
The basic rules were that each kid had to hold on the stick (we used a Nerf sword the first round and then the metal baseball bat in the second round) and not let it go when it was his/her turn to try to hit the piñata. He or she also could not move their feet. Lastly, the kids could not run to grab candy until the kid who beat the goods out of the piñata stopped swinging the sword/ bat and actual got a chance to grab the first candy from his or her hit. These 3 rules helped to make the piñata party a bit safer.
I had a blast tying the scarf around the kids, spinning them 3 times and helping him or her touch the piñata before each kid went wild in his/ her swings. Charmander was very nibble at moving up and down and around. Some of the kids yelled directions ("up," "down") to help the blindfolded ninja strike as best as he or she could with the sword but Charmander was too strong to give much goods out. If anything, the Nerf sword got a beating as shown in one of the pictures.
It was super cute that at one point 1 of the tootsie rolls that refused to fall when his tail when fell. It stayed stuck to Charmander's butt because of duct tape. Picture 6 shows a close up. Something I didn't plan but might just do next time. The kids loved it. I overheard 1 of the kids saying, "So that's how chocolate is made." Absolutely hilarious and definitely one of my favorite moments. Oh and that chocolate held for around for a few rounds too.
Charmander wasn't a completely indestructible piñata but he came close. In the end, he let go of all his goods and I made good on creating a piñata that would give all 16 kids a chance to hit the piñata.