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Thursday 6 May 2021

Beehive Piñata DIY

For Mathilde's recent bee themed birthday party I made a beehive piñata. If you've been here a while you'll know that making piñatas is one of my favorite things. I find the repetitive work very relaxing and I love that it gives me a creative outlet. 

Most piñatas that I make for the girls are made from cardboard. This type of piñata is super easy to make and I can usually get one made in just a few hours - which is great because I'm totally a last minute crafter! For Mathilde's beehive piñata, however, I went with a good old balloon and papier-mâché style. These are also easy to make but are much more time consuming. The crafting itself doesn't take all that long, but the drying time between each layer means that I need to allow at least three days for the whole project.

I've shared a simple papier-mâché piñata DIY here in the past (you can see it here) but it was a decade ago so I figured it was time for an updated DIY with better photos!

Here's how to make your own papier-mâché piñata...

What you'll need:
For the piñata base
Balloon (make sure to have spares, just in case)
Various types of paper - newsprint, packing paper, kraft paper etc
White school glue
Crepe paper streamers
Glue sticks
String for hanging the piñata
Masking tape

For the bee decorations
2" yellow pom poms
1" black pom poms
Black pipe cleaners
Hot glue gun & glue 
Vellum, tracing paper or baking paper

Let's start by making the base of the piñata.

First up you'll need to prepare your materials. Tear your choice of paper into small strips. I usually make them about an inch square, but it really doesn't matter if the sizes and shapes vary a little. Floppy paper like newsprint works best for piñatas, and it's a great way to recycle newspapers and those pesky supermarket flyers that always fill up the mail box. I like to vary the paper type between layers to make it easier to see where I'm at while I'm working, but you can totally stick to one type if that's all you have.

Now let's prepare the glue. White school glue like Elmer's (PVA or Aquadhere in Australia) is perfect for papier-mâché. I like to use a ratio of 1 part glue to 2 parts water, but this does take a while to dry. If you don't have a lot of time, a half and half mix of glue and water will dry a little faster.

Blow up the balloon to your chosen size and make sure it's done up tightly. Stand it on a small bowl, vase or mug to keep it upright. Classic pudding bowls are my go to when working on papier-mâché.   

Once the materials are prepped it's time to start getting messy. And you will get messy! But that's totally fine as school glue is water based and cleans up easily.  

I use a mix of two different techniques when it comes to pasting the paper onto the balloon. The first (and usually less messy) is to use a large flat paint brush. Brush the glue mix onto a section of the balloon and place a piece of paper on top. Brush another layer of glue mix over the paper. Place the next piece of paper onto the balloon, layering it slightly over the first piece. Continue adding pieces of paper in this fashion until the balloon is covered, going as close to the knot at the top of the balloon as possible. Make sure not to leave any gaps. 

The second technique I use is faster but messier. Either way you're going to get glue on your fingers, but they'll be much stickier with this technique! Rather than brushing the glue mix onto the balloon, dip each piece of paper into the glue, wipe the excess off on the side of the bowl, and place the paper directly onto the balloon. Continue until, overlapping the pieces as you go until the balloon is covered. This technique works best with a slightly less watery glue mix. 

No matter which technique you use, you'll end up with the first layer looking somewhat like the pic below. Leave the piñata to dry. Depending on the temperature and how watery your glue was this could take anywhere from a few hours to overnight. 

Once the first layer of papier-mâché is dry, repeat the process again with the second layer. As you can see below I used a different type of paper for each layer and this made it very easy to see where I was up to. In the past when I've only had one type of paper available I've given each layer a light coat of paint once dry so I could see my progress more easily.  

Repeat until you have four or five layers of papier-mâché. If your pinata is going to be decorated a light color (yellow in this case) you'll want to make sure that you either end with a layer of light colored paper, or you can give it a light coat of paint. I used some white packing paper that happened to come in a parcel the day I was making the final layer. Good timing!

Once the final layer is completely dry it's time to remove the balloon. Pull the end of the balloon up so that you can access under the knot, and give it a small snip. Try not to cut the end of the balloon off completely so that you can use it to pull the balloon out. If the cut balloon falls inside the piñata it's not a big deal, so don't worry if this happens. You'll hear the balloon pulling away from the papier-mâché as it shrinks. It's a pretty funny sound! Once the balloon has completely deflated you can pull it out the top of the piñata. 

Take a pair of scissors and make a few snips around the hole at the top. This will be your access to fill the piñata with candy. How big you make the snips depends on the size of your candy. I made them about an inch long each. 

Now fill the pinata with candy! We went with Hi Chews and Japanese gummies this time.

Once you've filled the piñata it's time to make holes for the string, thread it through, and then close it all up. I use a metal kitchen skewer to start the string holes. I then use one side of my scissors to make the hole a little bigger. Kitchen scissors that come apart are handy for this. To thread the string through I tie the string to the end of a kitchen skewer and push it through the hole on one side and out the other. Giving the skewer a twist helps if the hole isn't quite large enough for the end of it.  If you get a little stuck you can always reach in through the larger hole at the top to guide the skewer through. Once the thread is through use masking tape to close up the hole at the top.

Bring both ends of the string to the middle and tie a couple of secure knots. 

Cover the string with some more tape to make it a little more secure and neater. I like to leave at least a foot of excess string as it can always be cut shorter later. Tie a secure knot or two at the end of the string. You'll loop the string that you hang the piñata with through this later. 

Now it's time to decorate!

I like to use crepe paper streamers for a classic piñata look, but I have also simply painted them in the past too. You can see Lola's painted potato piñata here

If you're using crepe paper streamers, prep the streamers by folding them into small piles and snip cuts two third of the way through about half an inch apart. Make sure to snip at the folded ends too.

Once you get going covering the piñata with the streamers it's super easy, but the start can be a little fiddly. Start at the bottom and work your way up. I like to tip the piñata upside down to get it started and and stick the streamers on in strips, starting small in the middle. Once the bottom is covered I tip the piñata over and start working my way up with the streamers by going around the piñata. I find glue sticks the best for applying the streamers. School glue is too wet. I went through about two and a half small glue sticks sticking the streamers on this piñata.

Keep sticking the streamers around the piñata until you make your way to the top. 

Now for the bee decorations!

I saw these little bees online and they're adorable. They are much fiddlier to make than I expected though. I had originally planned to have the kids make more bees as a party activity but they ended up being a little too tricky for Mathilde. Older kids will be able to make them though.

I started by making the wings for the bees. I used tracing paper, but any sort of sheer paper will work as long as it can hold its shape. I made a small template out of cardboard for one wing, folded the tracing paper in half, and then traced the wing shape onto the tracing paper with the flat end against the fold. I then cut out the wings. I find nail scissors handy for little cutting jobs like this as they're great for curves. 

To assemble the bees' bodies I took a 1" black pom pom and attached it to a 2" yellow pom pom with a hot glue gun.

I then cut the pipe cleaners into small pieces (about 2" - 3" long) and wrapped two of them around each bee body. As simple as this sounds, this was actually the fiddliest part. You may need to adjust the pipe cleaners a little to make them fit and stay in place. 

Now take the wings, folded closed, and run a very fine line of hot glue along the fold. Carefully stick the wings down on the back of the bee. 

Voila! The bees are done! Once you've made the number of bees you'd like, use the hot glue gun to attach them to the piñata. 

Now all that's left to do is hang the piñata from a tree, pergola, climbing structure etc. Find a decent stick to hit it with (a broom handle works well if you don't have a dedicated piñata stick) and you're ready to party!

Make sure to have bags or cups ready for the kids to collect their piñata loot in. 

We started something of a piñata hat tradition in our family over the years. Once the piñata is smashed open the party girl always ends up wearing the piñata remains as a hat! I have lots of funny photos of piñata hats from over the years so I'll be sharing them all together in a fun post soon.

Do you ever make pinatas? I really enjoy making them and they're such a fun addition to any party. For a simpler type of pinata to make go check out this cardboard pinata DIY. Once again, this is an older post so I'll be sharing a more updated DIY soon. 

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