How to Make an Easy Pinata

What with packing and prepping to move and preparing for homeschool to start, I'm not as organized as usual for my daughter's birthday party. But it's a big one this year: She's a decade old! So last week I worked like a mad woman to pull it together. I'd planned to purchase a pinata for the party - a kitty, to go with her theme. But I didn't order it in time and our local stores didn't have any cat pinatas. I considered buying a generic pinata, but I heard the ones in our local store break too easily. Then I considered making a pinata from a cardboard box - or making a pinata the traditional way, with all those little bits of crepe paper. But finally I decided we'd make a paper mache pinata, but instead of covering it with a gazllion strips of paper, we'd just paint it. Correction: I'd let the birthday girl paint it! And, for that matter, make most of the pinata.

Yes, this process is a bit messy...but my kids had such a good time with it. Making something out of paper mache is a project every kid should try at least once. I recommend making the paper mache part of the pinata outside - somewhere where the flour glue won't hurt anything (because, yes, it will drip all over). I also recommend only making a paper mache pinata when the weather is warm; the hotter it is, the faster the layers of paper mache will dry. If you must try this indoors on a cooler day, add a little salt to your homemade glue; this is supposed to help prevent the mixture from molding if it takes a while for it to dry.

What You Need to Make an Easy Pinata

A balloon. (I used a regular balloon because that's what I had on hand. A punch ball balloon is larger and more circular, and is another option.)



A whisk or fork for mixing

A large bowl


Non-glossy newspaper, preferably black and white

Exacto knife


Piece of cardboard

Large washer

Paint (we used Crayola Washable Kids Paint)

Colored paper or felt (optional)

How We Made Our Kitty Cat Pinata

1. Cut the newspaper into pieces about 1 1/2 inches wide.

2. Blow up the balloon and hang it somewhere outside, using string or yarn. Pick a spot where you don't mind the glue dripping on the ground.

3. Mix up the glue: Start by dumping 1 cup of flour into the bowl. Add 2 cups of water and stir well. You want the consistency to be close to Elmer's white glue; don't make it thick, like a paste. If the glue seems too watery, just add another handful and stir some more. Continue until the consistency is right. And yes, the homemade glue will be a bit lumpy.

4. Drip a strip of newspaper into the glue, then, holding the paper over the bowl, wipe it down, so only a small amount of glue remains. Place the paper onto the balloon. Smooth out the paper as much as possible. (Although, trust me, especially if kids are helping, the pinata will be a little lumpy!)

Cover the balloon with strips of newspaper dipped in flour glue.
5. Repeat step 4, overlapping the pieces of paper, until the entire balloon is covered. Let the paper dry completely, then repeat step 4 and 5 until you have at least four layers of newspaper on the balloon. Remember to do only one layer at a time, letting the newspaper dry completely before moving on to the next layer.
This is what our balloon looked like while the first layer of newspaper was drying.

6. Using scissors or a pin, poke a hole in the exposed end of balloon. Remove the deflated balloon from the pinata.

7. Cover the hole where the exposed end of the balloon was with several layers of paper mache. Allow to dry completely.
This is where the end of the balloon was exposed, now covered with a few layers of paper mache.
Here's what the pinata looked like, entirely dry. I put it in the bowl of my Kitchen Aid mixer, to make handling easier.

8. Being very careful, use an Exacto knife to poke a hole in the very top of the pinata. This is where the string for hanging the pinata will go. Now cut a trap door on top of the pinata, over to one side; this is where you will add the candy; the door shouldn't be huge - but it needs to be big enough to pour candy/toys through, and get a piece of cardboard into the pinata. Pry the door open; try not to completely break the door away from the pinata; ideally, the uncut edge of the door will bend a little. (If it breaks off, don't worry; just set the broken piece aside for a moment.)
Carefully cutting the trap door...
Trap door is cut and open.
 9. Cut the piece of cardboard so it's larger than the hole you made for the string, and will fit in through the trap door. Thread the string through the hole you made in the top of the pinata.

Threading the string through the hole.
10. Poke a hole in the center of the cardboard, then pull the end of the string that's inside the pinata through this hole. Thread a large washer onto the same end of string. (We actually used two washers, but I think one is sufficient.) Tie a firm knot. (So the layers are: Cardboard, washer, knot. The washer helps keep the knot from pulling through the cardboard and the top of the pinata.) Carefully insert the cardboard into the pinata. On the outside of the pinata, pull the string tight.
Adding washers.
Getting ready to knot the string.
Putting the cardboard, washer, and knot inside the pinata.
11. Fill the pinata with candy and/or toys. Close the trap door. (If the door accidentally broke off, just set it in back in place on the pinata.) Cover the trap door with a few layers of paper mache. Allow to dry completely.

12. Paint the pinata. Dark colors will cover the newsprint better than light colors. My daughter chose purple for her cat (grin), and she only needed to use two coats.

Painting the pinata.
13. To make our pinata look like a cat's head, we glued on colored paper ears, eyes, nose, mouth, and whiskers.

The finishing touches!

Ta-da! All done.

After the party.

1 comment

  1. Very cool! And the kitty looks so happy that his candy was stolen. LOL