Surprise the children on Easter Sunday with something a little different by hanging a piñata in the garden, or include them in the creative fun of decorating it.
The piñata originated in China more than 700 years ago. It is a papier-mâché figure, often of an animal but can be any shape you want, filled with small toys and lollies, then hung up and hit with a stick to release the treats inside.
This is an easy craft activity, but you will need to plan ahead and allow six days to make the piñata because each layer of papier-mâché takes 24 hours to dry properly. The piñata can be adapted to other special occasions, such as birthdays and Christmas.
What you’ll need for the piñata
+ A big balloon, 35cm or bigger, works best
+ Vaseline petroleum jelly
+ Butcher’s paper (for the final layer)
+ Papier-mâché paste (see recipe below)
+ Bowl, to stand the piñata in as you work
+ Craft knife
+ Thick string or ribbon to hang (the length will depend on where you plan to hang it from)
What you’ll need to decorate it
+ Coloured crepe paper or tissue paper
+ Glue stick
What you’ll need to fill it
+ Lots of Easter eggs and/or other individually wrapped lollies
+ Novelty gifts or small toys (optional) – a great selection is available at discount variety stores
Papier-mâché paste recipe:
+ Combine ½ cup flour and 2 cups cold water in a bowl, stir well.
+ Add this mixture to a saucepan of 2 cups boiling water, bring this to the boil again, stirring to avoid lumps.
+ Remove from heat and stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar.
+ Let this mixture cool – it will thicken as it cools.
+ It’s ready to use once it has cooled.
Note: Only make the amount of paste you need, as it spoils quickly, even inthe fridge. Make sure you also keep it covered with plastic wrap when you’re not using it.
STEP 1: While you’re waiting for the paste to cool, tear the newspaper into strips of 4cm x 15cm. Don’t cut – the torn edge will give you a smoother surface. To tear easily, follow the grain of the paper and either fold a line to tear along, or tear against a hard edge, such as a ruler.
STEP 2: Inflate the balloon and tie a knot in the end. Roughly cover the balloon with a thin layer of Vaseline, which will make the balloon easy to remove later. For stability, sit the balloon in the bowl while you work.
STEP 3: Pour the cooled papier-mâché paste in to a container that isn’t too deep. Dip the newspaper strips into the paste and remove the excess paste by pulling the strip through your fingers or against the edge of the container.
STEP 4: Paste the strips onto the balloon at an angle, each strip overlapping, until the balloon is completely covered. Leave a hole about 2cm around the tied end of the balloon. Let the balloon dry – each layer will take 24 hours.
STEP 5: Continue this process, doing one layer each day, until you’ve completed four layers of newspaper and one layer of butcher’s paper.
STEP 6: The final layer of butcher’s paper provides a blank surface to decorate and will avoid the newsprint bleeding through the paint. This will give you five layers in total, making the piñata strong, yet not too tough for the children to break through.
STEP 7: Once the piñata has dried thoroughly, you can remove the balloon. Hold onto the tied end and pull it taut. With a craft knife, make a slit in the balloon to allow the air to escape. Hold onto the balloon the whole time or it will get sucked inside and will be difficult to remove.
STEP 8: As the balloon deflates, it will pull away from the piñata and you can pull it out through the hole.
STEP 9: Mark a two-inch square hole on the top. Using the craft knife, cut only three sides of the square so it will make a flap that can be opened to fill the piñata and then closed.
STEP 10: Using the sharp point of the craft knife, make a small hole 5cm on either side of the flap opening. This is to allow string to be threaded through to hang it from later.
STEP 11: Now for the fun part! Decorate your piñata to resemble an Easter egg, being as creative as you wish with paint, paper, bows, glitter, streamers, etc. Or give the blank piñata to the children to decorate – a great school-holiday activity.
STEP 12: Paint the piñata a base colour of your choice all over and leave it to dry.
STEP 13: While the paint is drying, cut coloured papers into simple geometric shapes. When the paint is dry, attach the coloured paper shapes with a glue stick. To create the fringing, fold a long strip of coloured paper along its length and snip into it without cutting all the way through to the folded edge, then unfold and attach with a glue stick. Add ribbons last, to give your piñata a real Easter egg look.
STEP 14: When you have finished decorating it, fill your piñata about halfway to the top with Easter eggs, lollies, trinkets, little gifts, confetti, streamers and the like.
STEP 15: Cut a length of thick string or ribbon long enough to hang to the desired length for the children to hit the piñata. While the flap is still open, thread the string or ribbon through one of the small holes to the inside and out the other small hole. Tie it securely on the very top of the piñata, over the flap, closing it. Your piñata is now ready to hang!