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Pinatas: A Birthday Tradition

Posted By Jessica Fisher On June 6, 2008 @ 11:54 am In Birthdays,Family Fun,Holidays | 8 Comments

incredibles robot pinata

If you have ever watched a rerun of The Love Boat, you’ll be familiar with the character named Julie The Cruise Director. My husband has jokingly referred to me as “Julie” on more than one occasion. I love to plan big shindigs and entertainments. (I’m way better at the planning part than the execution, but that’s a post for another time.)

I have had my fair share of spinning my wheels over birthday parties [4], and pinatas in particular. Having grown up in Southern California, I consider a birthday pinata [5] a given. It goes along with the cake and presents. And we have had one for most of our children’s birthday celebrations. IT’s a tradition [6]. But, man who woulda thought that a pinata could drive you batty?

The first year we had a birthday party, I decided to make the pinata myself. Surely, it couldn’t be difficult. How funny it was that my husband and I got into a complicated debate at 10 pm one night about the proper way to create Thomas the Train using an empty oatmeal container and a cereal box.

The next year, for my Little Knight in Shining Armour, I thought I would “buy” myself some time and went to great expense to order a dragon pinata because there was no way I wanted to make that. I paid an arm and a leg for them to send me not the dragon in the picture, but a long-necked dinosaur with tissue paper flames glued into his mouth. I could do that for less than an arm and a leg! Back it went to the supplier, and I went out and purchased a cheaper dinosaur from Target.

But, high-maintenance woman that I am, I was not satisfied with simple paper flames. No, I stayed up until 2 am gluing on irridescent blue tissue paper “scales” and made my husband spray paint cardboard wings with 14K gold paint. It was beautiful — until they hacked it up with a stick.
Then there was the year that my husband and I debated over how many legs were on The Robot in The Incredibles [7]. Four or five? While I continued to glue black tissue paper on the body, he fastforwarded through the film. (Just for the record, we were both right. There are four on the first robot and five on the redesigned one.) Yes, we’re detail people.

And yes, pinatas can drive me nutsy. Whether I’m chasing all over town to buy one or wracking my brain for all the creative details to add, I can get a little wierd about a pinata. But, times, they are a changing. Last week I mentioned how we’ve scaled back [8] on birthday celebrations. One of those ways is to make a simple pinata, if we have one at all.

Here are a couple options if you want to do it yourself.

The Basic Balloon Method
If your theme features something of a spherical nature, a balloon pinata is a great option. In the past we have had grenades, coconuts, the Incredibles’ Robot, and the Death Star. All of these are round in nature and so a balloon is a great way to go.

Basically, you will

    • paper mache an inflated balloon. We have used starch, diluted glue, and a paste of flour and water in the past. But next time I will use this recipe [9]. Most pinata how-to’s suggest using torn strips of newspaper. One of the FishBoys saw me sorting out expired coupons the other day and suggested we use those. So, we will for next week’s pinata. Make sure you attach something to hang it up with, such as strong string or wire.


  • let it dry until hard (at least 24 hours, depending on household temperatures.)



  • pop and remove the balloon



  • decorate the outside, using poster paint or tissue paper.



  • fill with candy



  • hang on a rope that can be raised and lowered. We have a hook on the ceiling of our garage: the pinata hook.


For more detailed instructions: check out this link [10] from Family Fun.

However, another option is one that I came up with a few years ago. Weary of the advance time it takes to make a balloon pinata, I made them out of paper bags.

The Paper Bag Pinata

  • Take two grocery sacks and place one inside the other.
  • Fill with candy. Add stuffing, such as paper towels, to fill out the space that you might need to make your shape.


  • Fold the top of the bag down to form a cube. Open it up again and insert a hanger as shown in the photo below. Refold and tape the top to secure.


  • Decorate as you see fit. We made a pirate’s chest.

[13] Then we did it again, only instead of a cube, we folded the top down to make a triangle-shaped gas can. (We had a Cars themed bday party.) Before covering it with red wrapping paper, I inserted a paper towel tube in the side for the spout.

So, while it does take a little time, supplies, and effort, it’s not all that difficult if you choose to tackle it!

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[5] pinata: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinata

[6] a tradition: http://www.lifeasmom.com/2008/06/birthday-traditions.html

[7] The Incredibles: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0317705/

[8] how we’ve scaled back: http://www.lifeasmom.com/2008/05/birthdays-on-cheap.html

[9] this recipe: http://familyfun.go.com/arts-and-crafts/buildmodel/expert/dony0300aapapier/

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