Piñatas

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We’ve had piñatas at a couple of parties now. The first one we made was a textbook-shaped piñata—super easy! Our students had just finished the TEM-8, a big Test for English Majors that students take during their senior year here. So we had a celebration party with a mock-test—the TEM-8000 with ridiculously hard and hilarious questions… and a piñata. This was their first time to do anything like this and these girls were so excited!

A year or two later, I made another one for Austin’s birthday. I knew that I’d be giving him a party with a bunch of his soccer friends, so I wanted to make a giant soccer ball piñata.

While kind of messy and slightly time-consuming, this project was pretty fun and easy. Here’s a quick summary of how to do it if you want to give it a go!

  • Buy a bunch of newsprint-type paper from a local stationary store. Newspapers also work if you have access to them.
  • Make a simple paste out of all-purpose flour and water. Aim for the consistency of pancake batter.
  • Make the form that you want your piñata to look like. For the textbook piñata, we started with a big, hard, rectangular-shaped shopping bag (a thin cardboard box, etc.) For the soccer ball piñata, I bought one of those giant kids’ balls with the two ears that stick up for kids to grab onto as they sit on the ball and bounce up and down.
  • If you’re using something like a cardboard box, you can should fill the box with candy and other treats now, before sealing it off and paper macheing over it. This is what I did for the textbook piñata. For the soccer ball piñata, however, I did not add any candy yet because I needed to paper mache around the ball and allow the form to harden before deflating the inner ball and creating a cavity for candy and treats.
  • Paper mache over the form. Apply 2-3 layers, then allow anywhere from a few hours to a few days (depending on humidity and temperature) for the layers to dry before applying more layers. If the candy is already inside, paper mache over the whole form. If you’re using a ball that needs to be later deflated so the piñata can then be filled with candy, you obviously need to leave a hole over the place where you’ll let the air out and insert the candy.
  • Make sure you apply several layers so your piñata is sturdy and will take several good hits to break it. I try to aim for 8-12 layers or more since our piñatas have been for some determined college boys. For little kids, maybe a thinner piñata would be ok.
  • During the paper macheing process, you’ll need to think ahead about how to hang your piñata. If your piñata has some natural way to be hung (eg. the soccer ball piñata that had “ears” that you can tie a string to), you can just add all of the layers and hang it that way. If, however, your piñata does not have a built-in way to hang it, you’ll want to wrap some string around it when you’re about half way through the paper mache layers. After the first 4-5 layers of paper mache have been applied and dried, wrap string around the piñata, leaving excess string for the piñata to be hung. Then paper mache several layers over the top to finish off the piñata.
  • Tip: If you’re using something like the ball I used that you’ll later want to deflate and/or remove, plastic wrap it so it can be easily separated from the layers of paper mache once they’re dry. For the soccer ball piñata, I plastic-wrapped the ball, then paper mached over it, except for the ears and the place where there’s a plug to let the air out. After several layers of paper mache had been applied and dried, I removed the plug, deflated the ball, and filled the cavity with candy, pens, small gifts, etc. (I did leave the deflated ball inside with the ears sticking out, however. The “ears” of the ball were important for hanging the piñata.) Then I paper mached several layers over the hole where the candy had gone in.
  • Another tip: Either lay down newspapers to do this project on top of, or make sure to wipe up the flour and water mixture while it’s still wet, or it’s a pain to clean.
  • After the piñata is totally dry, paint or decorate it as desired. On party day use a bandana or scarf to blindfold party goers. In our old apartment, we had a hook on our living room ceiling where we hung it. In our newer apartment, we had students stand on chairs to hold the piñata as another students swung. This was fun because they could raise and lower the piñata to make it more challenging. We use a rolling pin to smash the piñata.

Like many things in our life, the “hanging” of our piñata was make-shifty, but was totally embraced by our very gracious and enthusiastic guests.

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