See post for papier-mâché paste recipes here.
Piñatas are typically made of paper-mâché, and are attributed to China where paper originated. Marco Polo is believed to have seen Chinese paper figures of bulls and other animals covered with colored paper and filled with seeds. When struck with a stick, the seeds spilled out. -Google
Other sources say piñatas are actually Mexican. Whatever the country, piñatas are usually made of papier-mâché or clay and are filled with candy. They are then hung up and broken by kids wielding sticks and then there is a mad scrabble for the candies; for every kid is what he earned.
Here in Pakistan we personally have, up till now, used old cardboard boxes for pinatas, the kind that are usually filled with packs of biscuits. The glitch in them was that the usually tore from the seams, but we always had lots of fun. Last month was the first time I worked with
papier-mâché and the first time I made a papier-mâché pinata.
Please note: Throughout the rest of this article, instead of ‘papier-mâché’ I will write ‘paper mache’ and instead of ‘piñata’ I will write ‘pinata’ because the usage of the French and Mexican words require a great deal of cutting and pasting!
If you want to make a pinata with cardboard boxes then make sure to tape over all the seams or everything will pour out before you start hitting it. We’ve tried out doing pinatas with shoppers – yes, shoppers! – and not only were they greatly entertaining to watch, but they were also so hard to tear that in the end we gave up, opened the shoppers and threw them into the air!
Always remember, whichever material the pinata is made of, always use a good thick string or a thin-ish rope for hanging your pinata. Always make very tight knots and make sure the string or rope does not break or slip out of/tear the pinata.
A pinata made of paper mache is much better because it will break but not from seams. Here’s how to make one!
You will need:
- A large balloon
- Lots of newspaper
- A good thick string or a rope
- Sewing thread
- A place to hang the pinata while you’re making it, such as a doorway
- Nail and hammer (if needed)
- Large supply of paper mache paste (click here to see how to make it. The glue recipe is best.)
- Stuff to fill the pinata (suggestion post coming up soon)
- Tempera or poster paints, colors of your choice
- Crepe paper (if you want)
- Lots of time and PATIENCE!
Blow up the balloon the size that you want your pinata. Tie the neck securely.
Tie one end of the sewing thread to the balloon. Find the place you want to hang the pinata-in-making. If there is no nail to tie the thread to, hammer it in with the help of a older person. Tie the other end of the thread there. Make sure the pinata is low enough for you to reach it easily, sitting or standing up, whichever you want.
Spread at least two layers of newspaper directly beneath the pinata, so that any dripping paper mache paste does not go on the floor. Margin of a few feet around is a good idea, just in case!
Tear up some 2-inch square pieces of newspaper, about one and a half or two sheets of newspaper – enough to cover the balloon all over, plus extra. Tear up more strips, about two sheets of newspaper. Do not cut the newspaper as rough edges are better to stick on a balloon.
Pull the squares of newspaper through the paper mache paste. Stick them on the balloon, flat, and overlap the edges a little. Continue until you have covered the balloon. Leave a opening in the top so you can fill the pinata later.
Now for the strips. Pull them through the paper mache paste too and then start covering the balloon, first running in one direction, then the other. Do it diagonally, top to bottom and left to right. Put on four or more layers. The more the layers, the stronger the pinata and the harder it will be to break. Don’t put on less than four. Don’t forget to leave an opening!
Now you have to dry the pinata. Leave it hanging there without removing the newspaper from beneath for at least two days. If you want to speed up the drying, put on the fans full blast. Paper mache dries faster on hot days. You can also use a hair dryer. On the lowest warm setting, dry the pinata evenly by spinning it around slowly. Don’t forget the bottom. It takes a lot of patience and time!
When the pinata is dry, pop the balloon.
Paint the pinata however you like. You could make stripes or polka dots. I made a (rather unrealistic but bearing a faint resemblance) horse face. I painted the whole pinata blue, added a yellow bridle, two dots for the nostrils and upside-down U’s for eyes. Then I glued on strips of crepe paper for the forelock and mane.
Fill the pinata with candy or chocolates and any other small gifts you like. Cut paper (colored, decorated or plain) into small squares for confetti. Shake the pinata well.
When you finish putting stuff in the pinata, close the hole with more paper mache strips. Remember to add a string or rope! Hang the pinata up somewhere and hit it with a stick until it breaks, preferably in the company of some friends! See how many things you collect. (Warning: you’ll have to clean up the confetti).
I hope this post was helpful!