No Cinco de Mayo party is complete without a piñata! These papier-mâché objects – often shaped like animals – are staples at children’s birthday parties because they’re a fun activity as well as a way to spread tasty treats. Piñatas are filled with candy and raised overhead on a tree limb, flagpole, or beam, hung by a rope. One at a time, participants are blindfolded and brought forward, handed a stick, and asked to strike the piñata. The person at bat swings blindly, trying to find the piñata. If the adult on the other end of the rope tries, they can jerk the piñata away at the nick of time to make it more difficult, or make it easier by lowering the piñata to child level. Once the swinger gets a good enough hit, the piñata breaks, raining candy and small toys down for everyone to grab.
It’s easy and fun to make your own piñata, and this is a great camping activity. Traditional Mexican piñatas are in the shape of a five-pointed star, but you can make yours in any shape you like. The easiest method is to build your piñata around a blown-up balloon, so it’s easiest if you choose a look that’s round, such as a football, a sun, the earth, or a brightly colored ball. Take your piñata to the next level by adding a papier-mâché head, tail, and legs, or turning your object into anything you choose.
To make your piñata, you will need: 2 cups of flour, 3 cups of water, 1 balloon, newspaper, string, colored crepe paper, and decorating materials like pens, paint, crayons, and stickers. First, blow up the balloon and tie the end. Mix the flour and water together to make a smooth paste. Cut or tear the newspaper into long strips that are about one inch thick. One by one, dip the strips into the flour paste, letting the excess drip off, and drape the strips on the balloon. Continue working your way around the balloon, applying strips in varying directions, leaving an open spot near the knot. When you have the balloon completely covered, let it dry. If you want your piñata to be especially sturdy and hard to break, apply a second layer. If your piñata is for small children, one layer will probably be perfectly fine. Let the papier-mâché dry completely, then pop the balloon and pull it out.
Now it’s time to unleash your creativity! Paint your piñata, color it with pens and crayons, or drape it with crepe paper. For a traditional-style piñata, glue pieces of fringed or looped crepe paper all over the piñata, starting at the bottom and working your way to the top (or the hole). You can also hang crepe paper from the sides and bottom.
When it’s decorated, punch two small holes in the top near the opening and thread a sturdy piece of twine or string through it. Fill up the piñata with pieces of candy, small toys, and other little trinkets, then use the twine to string the piñata up high. Use a stout stick or plastic baseball bat to strike at the piñata, but be careful! Blindfolded people with sticks can be dangerous, so be sure to keep everyone well out of the way. To make the piñata game more difficult, spin each player around three times after blindfolding them. Then jump out of the way and let the games begin!