How To Make A Pull String Piñata (It’s Easy!)

We had a bunch of requests for a tutorial on Clara’s pull sting piñata, so here ya go. And if you have no interest in this project but want to blow off some steam after work you could easily turn this post into a drinking game and take a sip every time I say the word piñata. But beware, you won’t be ok to drive afterwards. Anyway, I had never heard of a pull string piñata until I got some unsolicited baby party catalog with one and I instantly realized that it was a genius idea for wee ones. Clara’s not exactly strong enough (or coordinated enough) to whack a regular piñata with a bat, but she can definitely tug a string like the best of them. And the entire concept behind a pull string piñata is exactly what it sounds like: each kid holds a string and tugs on it so the piñata bursts open and treats fly out. Here it is in action for ya (you can also see the video here) and although Clara just ended up watching from the sidelines, she really seemed to enjoy the show:

Who knew my weird homemade piñata would actually work? Anyone who saw Friday’s post saw that the first few steps left it looking a little questionable (I’ll recap those steps quickly so this post is a one stop shop for anyone who wants to whip up one of their own). And I’m sure there were some doubts that it would work out (mine included) but I guess this piñata was destined to beat the piñata odds. First we made paper maché (mixing approximately two parts water to one part flour)…

… and blew up one of these punch balloons from Target that wasn’t in our color scheme (the orange one)…

… and cut a bunch of newspaper strips…

… which I paper machéd to the big balloon…

… which I then let dry a bit overnight and then hung outside in the morning to hopefully speed up the drying process (since it was still soggy and looking a bit like a goiter).

That didn’t help much because it was a humid day, so I brought it inside and thanks to some reader recommendations I actually opted to break out the hairdryer on that sucker. It worked really well (drying it out completely in about ten minutes for a nice hard shell).

How about that orangey paneling in the background? Are you feeling inspired yet?

Anyway, then I popped the balloon which slipped out really easily, leaving me with a large hollow piñata-ish thing (which still wasn’t breaking any hearts in the looks department):

I turned it over (with the bottom of it facing up) and used an exacto knife to cut a little “exit flap” for all of the treats to fly out of:

Here it is opened so you can see what I mean:

Then I added our kid-friendly treats. We didn’t want anything too small and choking-hazard-ish going on, so we went with crowd pleasing packs of Goldfish and Teddy Grahams.

Once they were inside I used a hole puncher to make nine holes that I’d use to attach nine pieces of ribbon (since there would be nine kids coming who I figured might want to get in on the fun):

I cut nine 30″ lengths of curling ribbon and treaded them each through the holes so they could be duct taped down on the back of the flap.

Then I realized that in order for my flap to stay closed with all the weight of the treats inside (since this was the bottom of the piñata and gravity wasn’t on my side) I would need smaller flaps of cardboard to hold it closed. So I used more duct tape to secure those smaller flaps to the opening…

… so that my large flap could be slid in behind them and held closed by those handy smaller tabs. It worked but I’ll admit it- at this point it was looking pretty grim. Have you ever seen an uglier piñata? I said a little prayer that tissue paper could cover a multitude of sins.

Since the balloon was no longer inside, I had nothing that the piñata was hanging from anymore, so I folded four 4″ pieces of duct tape around the top hole (to reinforce the paper maché shell) and then used my trusty hole puncher to create four holes through the duct-tape enforced areas. Then I used two long pieces of ribbon (which Burger was mildly interested in) and looped each one through two of the holes (the ones that were opposite each other) and tied them off at the top to create two long loops that were the same length. I figured that was stronger than trying to knot four of them inside of the piñata or something, and it really did turn out to be nice and secure.

With my heavy duty string-it-up system going on, I looped my two long strings over those weird eyeball cabinets in the kitchen (so they could watch- more on those here). This enabled me to have two free hands to start adding little pink fish scales in the hopes of saving The World’s Ugliest Piñata.

It only took one 99 cent pack of pink tissue paper from Target, which I folded and then cut little scales out of (by folding it I was able to cut out a bunch at a time, and soon I was left with a big pile of them). Oh and on the subject of budget, that was all I purchased for this project since I had the ribbon already and the newspaper and paper maché paste (flour + water) were free since I had those in the cabinet and the recycling bin. Oh and the multi-packs of Goldfish and Teddy Grahams were $7 all together, so this whole project came in at under $8.

But on to the fun stuff – the fish scaling step. As I mentioned yesterday, the design was inspired by this one that I pinned on Pinterest a while back. So I figured that taping the scales from the bottom up would hopefully yield the same sweet (and semi-finished looking) results as my inspiration piñata (and yes, I just snickered at the use of “inspiration piñata” – what an insane sentence).

I just worked my way around in rows, gently twisting the piñata as I taped around it on all sides (using regular old scotch tape), and moving up from the bottom slowly – row by row. I was left with a pretty cute result. Definitely something at least 5,000 times easier on the eyes than the mess of newspaper and duct tape underneath it all. As for the top, I just folded the top scales into the hole and taped them to the inside for as polished of a look as I could manage (I knew it would be hung pretty high so no one would likely see the top, but I’m weird so I still tried to make it look ok anyway).

Isn’t she kinda cute?

It was definitely lots o’ fun. So that’s how I started out making a record-breakingly ugly piñata and then tried to course correct with some sheer determination and a pack of tissue paper. Hope anyone at home who decides to follow suit ends up with something at least this sweet (and most likely a lot sweeter).

Good times. Have you guys made piñatas or other homemade party games (cornhole? pin the tail on the donkey?). Share and share alike.

Psst- We’re over on BabyCenter sharing the play by play for making cheap and easy balloon garlands here. When it comes to festive party bang for your buck, it doesn’t get much simpler than those.

Comments

  1. says

    i LOVE it… uuuuhhhhhh, exactly how long did the entire process take? Loved all the super cute party details, arent you glad that we live in the digital age and it makes it super easy to have great pics to share with her when she’s older. B/c we all know that us mommies don’t get nearly enough credit from the little dudes for all the work we put into their parties and such…lol. Thank for the tutorial :)

  2. Holly says

    Sherry, I’m totally stealing all your ideas for when I have a baby! Clara is such a lucky girl to have loving parents like you and John.
    And this is a little off topic, but how long did you have to wait for a Pintrest account? I’m usually very patient, but this is a difficult wait!

    • says

      Ooh try dropping in on our Facebook page and requesting a direct invite from someone. People are usually really nice about sharing and then you don’t have to wait!

      xo,
      s

  3. Kelly says

    love the pink scales! I chickened out of making one from scratch a few years ago, but I retrofitted a regular pinata to use the pull-strings. I threaded a dozen “dummy” ribbons into the pinata that would just pull out without opening it, and then there was one ribbon that was taped to the bottom so it would rip it open. Each kid got one pull at a time until someone got the real ribbon and the treats spilled out.

    • says

      Kelly – that’s the way I’ve seen them done as well. I’ve never seen where the kids all pull at once and all the ribbons open the trap door.

      Love the ruffles…I pinned that pinata as well. ;)

    • StumptownMom says

      We did a pull-string pinata for our 5 year old’s party this year. His fabulous uncle makes him a pinata every year but this year the venue insisted on only pull-string pinatas. This year’s was a robot – but past years have been a rocket, octopus and cow.
      We did what Kelly describes with “dummy” strings and one that opened the hatch at the bottom. That way they all got a turn and the suspense of not knowing who would pull it open.

  4. Sassy says

    Best pinata story I’ve heard was a girlfriend who had grown up without being exposed to pinatas but was going to get one for her young daughter’s birthday party. Took a ton of bat swinging to get it to break — and when they did get it smashed, it turned out to be stuffed with paper, not treats: she’d bought the cutest one she could find and did not realize that they did not come pre-filled with treats. Very disappointed kids but she did save a lot of us from the same mistake with our own kids!

  5. says

    Loved the party, especially the fabric you created! I may have to try making a pinata for our next party, you made it look so easy! We just had a monster themed party for our 3 and 4 year old boys. Using an overhead projector, I made a pin the eye on the monster and an entire wall of monsters for the kids to color. You can see pics on my blog, http://nounces.com/2011/05/10/real-parties-monster-party/

  6. says

    the scales are SO pretty. I made the world’s ugliest pinata a few years back. It was for my adult women’s soccer team, so I painted a soccer ball design on it. It was horrifying, but did the trick for us.

  7. Trey says

    I know curiosity killed the cat and all, but what did it look like from Clara’s POV? is seems like she would have seen the newsprint underneath… if not, awesome. If so, i wonder if I could paint it the same color as the paper when we make one (thanks for the inspiration) for my daughter’s 2nd bday in a few months…

    • says

      I did the same thing as I did from the top with the bottom. I just used loops of tape and stuck petals to the underside and then started my rows around that so it was all feathered and you couldn’t really see the newspaper at all. Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s

  8. Jillian says

    I laughed outloud at “cornhole.” We’ve always just called the game “bags.” Cornhole is so. much. better.

  9. says

    LOVE this!! I am deathly afraid of pinatas…all the bat swinging makes me so nervous. But this! this is perfect! I will be making one for my Ellie’s b day party coming up! Thanks for sharing!

  10. says

    heeey, i just made a pink inchmark pinata too! i had seen it back when she posted it, then repinned your pin when i started planning my daughter’s 3rd birthday party. they seem to be all the rage these days. i just posted my party photos on my blog today.

    i didn’t have the heart to bust mine up, though. i’m going to hang it in my daughter’s room. inchmark pinatas are the new tissue paper pom poms. :)

  11. Bridget says

    I just love your website… I have been following you guys for a year now and reading your blog is truly one of the best parts of my day. I find myself being more artistic than I ever though I could be! I picked up a 4ft by ft 4ft solid wood coffee table at Goodwill today for a whopping $15. Any suggestions on fun things to do to do to it? Ex. chalk board paint like the idea above?

    • says

      Ooh yes chalkboard paint! And now it comes in all different colors at the craft store (there are even online DIY recipes to make it colored) so you could paint it with white chalkboard paint or even something like navy blue for an unexpected look!

      xo,
      s