Friday, June 9th, 2006
HOW TO: Make a Pull-String Piñata
Piñatas are a tradition in my family, and we will have one at Little Miss’ second birthday party this weekend. Rather than blindfold toddlers and let them swing bats in my living room, we opted for a pull-string piñata.
As the name implies, you don’t whack this piñata to crack it open. Kids take turns pulling dangling ribbons from the piñata’s bottom. One of those ribbons opens a trap door, releasing goodies.
You can buy such a piñata ready-to-go, or retrofit any normal one. All your piñata needs is a flat bottom. Our chicken-duck-whatever piñata didn’t have a flat bottom, but its buttocks were flat.
(My sincerest apologies for the photo with blown highlights. I’m stuck using a lousy camera today.)
- One flat-bottomed piñata.
- Box cutter and/or scissors.
- Ample string or ribbon.
- Elmer’s glue, the kind that dries clear.
- Crepe (tissue) paper which matches the color of your piñata’s bottom, or is a complimentary color.
Step 1: Mark a 3″x3″x3″ area on the bottom of the piñata indicating where you will make an incision.
Our piñata was covered in fluffy crepe paper strips intended to look like feathers, so we marked our cutting point with tape. The tape ripped feathers when it was removed, but that didn’t matter. The whole area will be covered with a new layer of crepe paper in step 7.
Step 2: Make the 3″x3″x3″ incision using a box cutter or scissors. (See a photo of the trap door.) Our made-in-Mexico piñata is composed largely of thick cardboard, so regular scissors were out of the question.
Step 3: Poke a hole in the middle of the trap door using scissors. Thread a 3-foot-long ribbon through the hole and put a large knot on the exterior side of the door. The knot should be big enough that it cannot be pulled through the hole when a toddler yanks the ribbon. (See a photo of the ribbon in the trap door.)
Alternate Step 3B: If the knot is too big and you think it will be unseemly when you put crepe paper over it in step 7, use this workaround. Poke two holes in the middle of the trap door. Thread a 3-foot-long ribbon through one hole from the interior to the exterior of the door and then back up into the interior side of the door. Place a big knot on the end of the ribbon which lies inside the piñata.
Step 4: Cut 16 or more 2-foot-long ribbon segments. The length is arbitrary. It should be long enough so that when attached to the piñata the ribbons would fall well below the piñata and be easy to grab.
Step 5: Attach the ribbons around the perimeter of the piñata’s bottom, inset from the edge by a half inch to an inch. Use small pieces of tape to attach the ribbons.
Step 6: Fill the piñata with goodies. Close the trap door, but do not secure it. In most cases the door should stay shut on its own.
Footnote: Because we have a chicken-duck-looking piñata, we put the goodies in plastic Easter eggs so that when the trap door opens, the “chucken” beast will lay dozens of eggs in rapid succession.
Step 7: Now you need to hide the trap door and the connection points for all the ribbons. Drape the special ribbon so it dangles off the trap door’s edge opposite the door’s hinge. The ribbon should then continue to the piñata’s edge and be positioned near the other ribbons. Cut a piece of crepe paper roughly the size and shape of the area you need to conceal. Glue the crepe paper to the piñata. We bought our crepe paper from the Michael’s craft store. They sell packets of paper in three shades, ensuring one will be a close match. (See a photo of the crepe paper fully applied.)
Step 8. Let the glue dry. Trim the special ribbon so it is the same length as the other ribbons. It should not be indistinguishable from the other ribbons. That’s it. You’re done.
Did these instructions make sense? Post or e-mail me questions.
On Monday I’ll detail the non-candy goodies we used in the piñata, explain the ground rules we set so that one, two and three-year-olds could compete equally for the same loot, and reveal whether the whole thing was a joyous success or ended in a room full of crying toddlers.
Pinatas.com photo example. Pinatas.com sells a $3 pull-string conversion kit if you’d prefer not to gather the needed supplies. We bought a piñata from pinatas.com for our wedding. (Don’t give the wedding ring to your best man. He’ll lose it. Keep it safe inside a piñata. While you’re at it, make your friends compete for the title of best man. First person to find the ring as it scatters across the floor wins.)