Saturday, 12 February 2011

Piñatas - Smashing good fun!

For Ava's recent birthday party I decided to make a piñata for the kids (little and big) to have fun smashing up.
Now, I know that I could have just purchased one but it seemed like a fun idea to make it myself plus most of the piñatas for sale are pretty tacky looking. No Dora or Barbie thank you very much!


It ended up taking quite a bit longer to make the piñata than I expected, but it turned out really well and I enjoyed making it - even though all those hours of hard work were smashed apart in just minutes!


I thought I'd share on Little Hiccups my step by step instructions for piñata construction...


Materials
1 balloon - it's a good idea to have a spare on hand just in case of "accidents". Trust me, I know!
Lots of newspaper
PVA glue
Water
String for hanging the piñata
Paint - I used water based kids' paint
Masking tape
Crepe Paper


Step 1
Blow up your balloon to the size you would like your piñata to be. I chose to use a heart shaped balloon for this piñata but a standard round balloon would be much easier. I love to make things tricky for myself though :)
Stand the balloon in a bowl or large glass. The bowl or glass should be large enough to support the balloon once it has a bit of weight on it from the paper however it's best if only the very end of the balloon sits within the bowl or glass. The less balloon that sits in the bowl or glass, the less patching work you'll have to do at the end!


Step 2
Tear the newspaper into strips approximately 2.5cm (1") wide. Now tear these strips into pieces approximately 5cms (2") long. I used a metal ruler to help tear the newspaper into straight lines.


Step 3
Mix up your glue mixture - approximately 1 part PVA glue to 2 parts water. I must admit this ratio varied a lot throughout my piñata construction but it all seemed to work fine. I did a lot of researching online for the best type of glue to use for piñatas and most people recommend cooking up a flour and water concoction. This sounded like too much work! I remembered using PVA and water for papier maché at school so I thought I'd give it a go. The PVA and water mixture worked out well. It held quite strongly and I could easily mix up more as I needed it. I highly recommend it as a lazy alternative. Not that I was being lazy - after all, I was making a piñata from scratch, wasn't I? 


Step 4
Now you can start making the papier maché. 
Dip the newspaper strips into the glue mixture making sure that they are wet through. Wipe off any excess glue on the side of the glue bowl and apply the newspaper to the balloon. I found it easiest to apply all of the newspaper strips in the same direction. It's neat and you can alternate the direction for each layer. Cover the entire balloon (other than the end sitting in the bowl or glass) with the newspaper strips. Once covered leave to dry. I left my piñata to dry over night after each layer.


The piñata after one layer of newspaper

Step 5
Repeat Step 4 until your piñata has approximately five layers. This seemed to be about right for a group of four year olds. It was strong enough to hold the lollies and withstand a few rounds of hits with the piñata stick but it wasn't so hard that the children couldn't break it open. 
I alternated the direction of the newspaper strips with each layer so I could see where I had and hadn't done the latest layer. You could alternate between newspaper and butcher's paper or coloured paper however this requires buying more paper.
I made sure to reinforce the top of the piñata (where I planned to tie the string) with a few extra layers to make it extra strong.


Step 6
Due to the shape of the balloon I used, I ended up with the opening of the piñata at the bottom. This is not ideal as the bottom obviously needs to be quite strong. If you were using a round balloon you would simply turn the piñata upside down when finished and the opening would be at the top. This wasn't possible with the heart shape so I needed to make a little cap to go on the bottom. I was lucky enough to find a Tupperware container in my cupboard that was a perfect fit. To make the cap I simply covered the Tupperware container with Glad Wrap and covered it with five layers of papier maché. 
If the opening of you piñata is at the top you can simply cover it with decorations as it does not need to be overly strong. Alternatively you could make a few layers on the top of another balloon to be stuck on once the piñata is filled.


Step 7
A very important step that seemed to be missed from all of the instructions I looked at online... 
Pop the balloon and remove it from inside your piñata. 


Step 8
Poke holes through the top of the piñata with a metal skewer and thread the string through. This can be very fiddly so you'll need some patience. Make sure you allow enough string to hang the piñata. You can always tie more string on later however it will look neater if you don't need to do this. 
I poked two holes per side on the top of the heart (four holes in total) and threaded the string across the middle of the top on the inside. I made sure that the holes were poked through where I had reinforced the piñata with a few extra layers. 

Step 9
Another very important step that was also missing from most instructions I found...
Fill the piñata with lollies, whistles, party favours etc!


Step 10
Now the piñata can be sealed up. I used masking tape (lots of it) to tape the papier maché cap onto the end of the piñata. I made sure that there was quite a bit of overlap where the cap joined onto the main body of the piñata as this could be a weak point. 


Step 11
Now to start decorating. 
I painted a layer of red paint over the entire piñata - with Ava's help :) This didn't need to be overly neat as it was just an "undercoat" under the crepe paper.


Ava painting the piñata

Step 12
Cut strips of crepe paper approximately 2.5cm (1") wide. Cut these strips into pieces approximately 5cm (2") long. Dip the short end of the crepe paper pieces into PVA glue and apply to the piñata. Start at the bottom and work your way up so that the layers overlap nicely. I alternated with red and pink in a rough checkerboard pattern. I didn't want it to look too uniform.
Once the piñata was completely covered in crepe paper I added a "tail" of long crepe paper strips at the bottom for extra festiveness.

And voila... one completed piñata ready for smashing open!

The completed piñata

Ava practices hitting the piñata very gently.
We didn't want it smashing before the party!

Tips
I made the mistake of originally hanging the piñata outside to dry after the first layer. This was not a good idea as it was very hot and very windy. After about half an hour there was a loud bang noise and I discovered that the balloon had popped which caused my very thin piñata to rip open! It looked like a bomb had exploded inside of it! Leaving the piñata to dry inside standing in a bowl or glass is a much better idea :)

I was lazy and purchased a piñata stick from Peter Van the Party Man. It happened to be decorated in almost the same crepe paper that I used for the piñata. You could however just used a broom handle or similar.

It's best to fill the piñata with lollies that are wrapped rather than loose ones as they will be all over the ground once the piñata smashes. I avoided using chocolates in my piñata due to it being summer and I was worried that they would melt!

It's a good idea to have paper bags (or similar) available for the children to collect the piñata loot in. I recently went to a four year old's party where the kids decorated their piñata bags first which I thought was a nice idea.


And now for some pics of the piñata in action at Ava's birthday party...

Ava's friends all have a go at smashing the piñata

The birthday girl has a go.
You can see that there is already a hole in the side.


After all the little kids had a few turns we thought we'd hand it over to the big kids to smash open.
This photo was timed well!

The piñata remains make a lovely hat!







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