How to Make a Piñata (Games Included)

This is a set of instructions to make a simple piñata.

Step 1: Estimated Time

Total Active time: ~5 hours, allowing ample time for drying in between steps.

Construction: ~1 hour Drying: Between 5 to 24 hours depending on method (see Instructions: Step 6 for note)

Decorating: Bumblebee method ~3–4 hours / regular painting method ~1 hour

Filling/Hanging/Game Play: ~30 minutes to 1 hour

Note: We don’t recommend planning to make and use the piñata on the same day.

Step 2: Materials Needed

Construction

Balloon (Use whatever shape and size will work best with your design. We used a standard 12 in. balloon.)

Flour—½ c

Water—1 c

Paper (At least 2 newspapers or ⅔ notebook’s worth for best results. You might need more or less, so it is best to keep some handy and not cut it all up at once)

Scissors

Hair dryer or fan (optional)

Decoration

Decoration supplies to fit your needs.

For Bumblebee design:

  • Black crepe paper (AKA streamers)
  • Yellow tissue paper
  • White tissue paper
  • Paint (yellow and white)
  • Cardboard cereal box (or regular cardboard for wings)
  • Glue—standard Elmer’s liquid glue or hot glue. (Glue sticks will not be strong enough.)
  • Duct tape or masking tape

Gameplay/Use

Loop to hang the piñata such as:

  • 1 large 3 in. metal shower ring/binder ring
  • OR 8 in. strip of cloth/twine/rope

A long rope (at least 6 ft. for easy/intermediate play, 10+ ft. for advanced play)

Piñata filling of choice (confetti, candy, money, etc.)

Baseball bat or large pole for breaking open piñata

Blindfold

Step 3: INSTRUCTIONS:

Before you start, be sure to cover your workspace with something you don’t mind getting dirty. We used a plastic shower curtain liner, but a trash bag or an old sheet would work just as well.

Step 4: Cut Paper Strips

To start, cut or rip your newspaper into short strips (about 1 x 3–4 in. or longer). You will need enough paper to cover your balloon 3 to 4 times. (The size and number of paper strips do not need to be exact.)

Step 5: Mix Paper Maché

Mix the flour and water. It should be about an eggnog consistency (not too thick nor too watery).

Step 6: Prepare Base

Blow up your balloon as full as you’d like and tie it off. We used a standard 12 in. balloon.

Step 7: Cover Balloon

Submerge paper strips one at a time in your flour/water mixture. Wipe off any excess liquid so that the strips are not dripping. Place strips on balloon. (No particular pattern—just cover almost completely. Leave a small section of balloon showing near where you tied it off to make it easier to pop later. This hole will also be used for filling your piñata.

Step 8: Repeat

Repeat until balloon is covered with 3 to 4 layers. (You want a sturdy enough base so it holds its shape with the filling inside, but not so thick that it won’t break open.) You do not need to wait for the layers to dry in between adding more strips.

Step 9: Drying

Let dry. You can either hang the tied end of the balloon from a clothesline or place it top-side down in a cup or bowl. You can use a hair dryer (on coldest setting) to speed up the drying process. Using the hottest setting may warp or pop the balloon.

Note: This will take at least 3–4 hours depending on how many paper layers you did and whether you speed up the process with a hair dryer or not. If completely air drying, this could take as long as 24 hours.

Testing for dryness: When the balloon is dry to the touch on the outside, you can test the inside by putting light pressure on the exposed part of the balloon to slightly pull it away from the paper; then reach your hand into the hole to check the inside of the paper maché.

Step 10: Pop the Balloon

Once the paper is completely dry inside and out, grab the knot of the balloon with one hand, and then using scissors or a pin in your other hand, pop your balloon near the knot. As long as you didn’t let go of the knot with your first hand, you should be able to easily pull out the remainder of the balloon from the inside of your piñata.

WARNING: If the paper is not completely dry when you pop the balloon, your piñata may cave in.

Step 11: Decorate

Decorate your piñata however you’d like, leaving a hole big enough to fit your hand in (easiest if you just use the hole you left for popping the balloon).

You can paint it with a fun design or cover it with crepe or tissue paper. Crepe paper will have a more crinkly look, while tissue paper looks more smooth.

Using paper: Attach your paper of choice using standard white glue or hot glue. See Decoration Instructions below for how we did it.

Note: If at any time during your decorating process your balloon caves in or tears, you can easily fix these things.

For cave-ins: Use a long-handled cooking spoon/utensil to reach in and pop the shape of the balloon back out.

For tears/rips: Patch it up with duct tape or masking tape; then paint or glue tissue paper over it to disguise the breakage.

For specific instructions on how to decorate your piñata like a bumblebee (as we did), see “Decoration Instructions” below.

Step 12: Fill the Piñata

After decorating, using the hole you left open, fill your piñata with whatever you’d like. You can make it as full as you desire.

Note: The more things you put in, the easier it will be to break the piñata open.

Step 13: Seal the Hole

Once you’ve filled the piñata to your desired amount, close up the hole by using duct tape or by gluing on more paper. See usage instructions for attachment and hanging directions.

Step 14: Bumblebee Design Decorating

To create a bumblebee design as we did, first paint the base piñata yellow.

Step 15: Decorating: Prepare Tissue

Using yellow tissue paper, cut the tissue paper into small 4–6 in. squares.

Step 16: Decorating: Add Glue

Add a thin line of glue along one edge of your tissue or crepe paper before attaching to the balloon.

Step 17: Decorating: Attach the Paper

Starting at the narrow base of the piñata (where you popped the balloon), attach pieces of tissue paper one by one. Add a small amount of glue on just one edge off your paper square; then glue it on so the loose side flutters out on the narrow end. We skewed ours so the corners pointed slightly up rather than having them all in a straight row.

Step 18: Decorating: Repeat Layers

Keep layering by overlapping the squares of tissue paper, placing them so the glued ends are covered by the new row. Repeat until you reach the top of the balloon.

Step 19: Decorating: Finish Yellow Layers

Once you’ve layered up to the top of the balloon, add glue to the center of a tissue square and place it directly on top of the last layer of fringed papers. Repeat this with about 3–4 squares, layering them with their corners pointed at different angles to increase coverage and add more of a fringed look.

Step 20: Decorating: Add Stripes

Stripes: Cut strips of black streamers about 6 in. long, and follow a similar process with the tissue paper, spacing your stripes out as desired. Glue down your black strips underneath the yellow layer above it so the yellow fringe can cover up the glued black parts. We had 5 stripes total spaced out about 1 in.

For tail edge: Beginning at the open base of the piñata, glue your first black stripe right around that opening, puckering the paper about every ½ in. so that the puckering stripe conceals the uneven opening.

Step 21: Decorating: Head

Using longer (8 in.) strips of black streamers, glue down the center of each strip. Then glue these on the top of the balloon in a criss-cross pattern until you have a filled-in circle.

Step 22: Decorating: Dry

Set your balloon aside to let all the tissue/crepe layers dry while you start working on the wings and eyes.

Step 23: Decorating: Making the Wings

Cut your cereal box in half lengthwise (going around through the short sides of the box).

  1. On the inside of one of the box halves, draw one large oval and one smaller oval.
  2. When you are satisfied with your wing shapes, cut them out, leaving the lip of the box attached at the base of each wing.
  3. For more even wings, trace the wings you just cut out onto the other half of the box; cut out the second set of wings, again leaving the lip of the box attached at the base of each wing.
  4. You should now have 4 separate wings—each with a folded lip at the base: 2 larger, 2 smaller.
  5. Using your white paint, paint each of these wings—front and back—doing your best to cover the cereal design. Let dry (skip to Eye Instructions while the paint dries).
  6. After the paint is dry on your wings, glue each set of wings together at the base: small to small, and large to large. Don’t glue the 2 sets together yet.
    • Note: If you drew your wings angled at all, double check that they are mirroring each other before gluing; otherwise you’ll end up with figure eight wings.
  7. After glue has set, take one sheet of white tissue paper and place one set of wings in the center of the paper. Fold the short edges of the tissue paper in to cover the tips of each wing and glue in place.
  8. For the small set of wings: Fold the long edges of tissue paper in—only reaching the center of your wings (you should have extra space on the outsides of your wings still). Glue in place. When glue is dry, pinch the tissue paper together at the center of the wings and glue together. This should gather the rest of the excess paper and cause the wings to stay in an upright position.
    For large set of wings: Fold tissue paper edges in all around and glue to the wings, puckering the tissue paper in the center of wings.

Step 24: Decorating: Attaching the Wings

Cut through a few layers of your tissue paper in a straight line about 6 in. long in the center of your bumblebee’s top side. Add hot glue down the spine of your large wings, making sure the wings are pointing up, and attach to the bee where you cut the tissue paper. Add hot glue to the small wings in the same manner and glue them on top of the large wings, placing the smaller ones so the spines align at the edge closer to the tail. Hot glue the tissue paper so that it overlaps the wings.

Step 25: Decorating: Eyes

Using your leftover cardboard from the wings, draw circles for your cut-out eyes however big you’d like, but no smaller than about a half-dollar. Using white paint or markers, decorate your eyes as desired.

Step 26: Decorating: Stinger

Take a sheet of thick black paper (construction paper or cardstock) and shape it into a cone. Use Elmer’s glue to hold it in place, and then glue the outermost edge down with hot glue for added security. Cut the wide end of the cone so the edges are even all the way around. Hot glue the wide end of the cone to the tail end of your bumblebee after filling with candy and covering the hole. Let dry.

Step 27: Attach a Loop for Hanging

Now that you have finished decorating and filling your piñata, it’s time to string it up and break it open! There are multiple ways to go about this. Choose whichever style fits your group.

  1. Establish the “top” of your design, and find a good place to attach your hanging loop.
  2. Using the edges of your shower ring, or scissors, puncture two small holes about 1 in. apart from where you want your piñata to hang.
    • Using a shower ring: Poke one end of the ring in one side and have it come up through the other hole. Close the shower ring, and duct tape the clasp shut so it doesn’t come apart in gameplay
    • Using cloth/twine/rope: Make the holes large enough to thread your material through both holes, then fasten a secure knot at the top.
  3. Duct tape the part between the holes so that the loop doesn’t tear through your piñata while in use. Then you may choose to cover the duct tape with tissue paper or paint to disguise it.
  4. Thread a long rope through the loop you just added.

Step 28: GAMEPLAY

You will want to do this in an open area with ample room for your piñata to swing when hit (at least a 6 ft. clear radius). Tree branches and basketball hoops are the ideal hanging places.

Easy version (for small children aged ~4–6):

  1. Hang the rope on a tree branch or basketball hoop high enough for the piñata to be over the heads of your users but low enough so that they can still reach it easily with the bat.
  2. Hand all participating users a plastic bat.
  3. Let them all attack the piñata at once until the contents are released.

Intermediate version (for ages ~7+):

  1. Hang the rope on a tree branch or basketball hoop high enough for the piñata to be over the heads of your users but low enough so that they can still reach it easily with the bat.
  2. Choose your first participant; blindfold them and spin them in a circle several times.
  3. Hand them the bat, and let them try to find the piñata.
  4. After a certain number of hits (you decide), switch participants.
  5. Repeat steps 2–4 until piñata releases its contents.

Advanced (for ALL ages):

  1. Rather than hanging the rope at a fixed point (as in the easy and intermediate versions), keep the rope long enough to drape over a high fixed point (creating a simple pulley system), and give the end of the rope to a designated piñata operator.
  2. Choose your first participant; blindfold them and spin them in a circle several times.
  3. Hand them the bat, and have them try to find the piñata.
  4. While the user is attempting to hit the piñata, the piñata operator you assigned in step 1 can move the piñata up and down as much as they like for desired difficulty.
  5. After a certain number of hits (you decide), switch participants.
  6. Repeat steps 2–5 until piñata releases its contents.

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