Saturday, February 28, 2009

How to make a pinata with kids

Someone posted a comment suggesting I explain a little more about how we did the pinata a few weeks ago. To begin with, I got the idea from a website. Pinata boy has tons of great detailed info and designs. I'll try to explain what we did and what I think works best when making a pinata with kids. The whole process would be a lot quicker and cleaner without children involved, but what fun is that! My kids loved doing this together with me and especially loved the finished product and the candy reward.

First you'll need to decide on a design. The easiest is to just paper mache around a balloon and let that be your shape. Then you can decorate it with anything. The first one we did (pictured above) we used striped crape paper then put the child's name and age over that to personalize it. (we gave this as a birthday present for a friend.) We've also used the balloon shape then created a hot air balloon design using a paper basket and strings hanging from the bottom of the balloon pinata. You can get creative with shapes or use any of the designs from the internet.

Here's a list of supplies:
1. Newspaper torn in strips. If you hold the newspaper sheets on their side with the short end of the rectangle at the top you should be able to tear pretty straight pieces. You'll need them to be about 1/2 to 1 inch wide. This does not have to be exact.
2. Plain white flour. Make sure to buy the cheapest white flour you can find. The last pinata I made out of organic flour because that's all I had. It didn't mess anything up but made the pinata more expensive to make.
3. Balloons.
4. Decorations for when the paper mache is dry and your basic design is complete. I like to use cut up crape paper. Rolls of crape paper are usually around a dollar depending on the length of the roll. I like to unroll it and fold it in long lengths so that I can make slits about 1/2-3/4 of the way through the paper to make it look authentic.
5. String, wire, or an old coat hanger for hanging the pinata.
6. A little duck tape and/or masking tape to attach pieces of cardboard and reinforce the hanger if needed.
7. Small pieces of cardboard or cups depending on your design.
8. White glue for attaching crape paper decorations.

Directions for paper mache :
In a large, wide bowl, use a whisk to mix a flour and water paste using a ratio of 1 to 1. You can start by using 2 cups water and flour since the mix will keep in fridge for a couple of days. It's better to make a little too much than have to mix more when you're messy with paste all over the place. The kids love to help with this step. Since the measurements aren't exact and you won't be ingesting the batter it doesn't really matter how much they play in the bowl while mixing. My kids know not to make a huge mess, so I usually give them a lot of freedom here. They get the measuring cups out, pour, and mix with little help from me. Of course they have flour and water on the counter and on their clothes but it is easy to clean. They know not to dump the bowl and paint the cabinets with the paste. Other kids may not know this, so obviously you would only want to give as much freedom here as the child can handle:) Keep in mind you'll probably all need to change clothes when you are done. We usually do.

Start putting newspaper around balloon. You can begin this part of the process two ways. This last pinata we made, we taped dry newspaper around the balloon first. The idea is that when you start putting wet paper mache strips on the balloon they will stick better to the newspaper than to a balloon. Or, you can skip this step and just start putting the pasted strips on the balloon. I tried it both ways and I do think it's easier to start with a layer of dry paper. You can apply paste to the newspaper strips 2 ways. One option is to dip the strips in the bowl of paste. Then dangle the paper over the bowl and use your fingers to scrape off excess paste. Another way is to use a paintbrush to apply the paste to each strip. I think the second way takes too long and adds another tool to have to clean.

The best way I have found to do this part with kids is to let them watch a few times first. I spread sheets of newspaper out on the kitchen floor to work over. The kids can access the bowl and balloon easiest this way. Then let them do the dipping and scraping over the bowl. The parent can help guide the pieces onto the balloon making sure to spread it as even as possible. I usually end up holding the pinata/balloon with one hand and pointing to where the next piece should go. Then I can turn the balloon and we can cover all sides.

Cover the balloon with one layer of paper mache then set it out on newspaper to dry. The time it takes to dry will depend on the weather and how much paste you used, but you can count on it taking about a day or more.

Once the first layer has dried, poke a whole in the top, pop the balloon, and remove it. Then make a small door on top of the pinata so you have room to put candy in.

Then do 1-3 more layers of paper mache using the same process as before. Let it dry between each layer.

Directions for decorating:
Starting at the bottom of the design, begin gluing the crape paper strips. I like to pour white glue into a bowl and let the kids use q-tips to dip and apply the glue directly on the paper mache. I've noticed that this step usually gets boring pretty fast. They usually help for the first few rows of crape paper then start doing something else. You may want to either stop and finish this step over a few days or, just finish it yourself. The kids don't mind watching me. They understand it has to be done and usually just play around me while I'm completing the design. They join in whenever they feel like it.

Then you'll need to attach a string or wire for hanging. I have done this several ways. The first is to use string and just glue or duck tape it to the inside or outside of the pinata. You could use hot glue on top or duck tape on the inside. Just make sure you attach it somewhere that can hold the weight of the pinata after it is filled with treats. It is pretty heavy when complete and so you need to take that into consideration. I used a wire coat hanger for the last pinata and it was easy and very stable. Just cut the wire right before it turns the corners so you have an upside down V with a hanger on top. The I just punched the ends into the finished pinata and stuck my hand inside (through the candy door) and turned the ends under so they would stay in place.

No comments: