Or, How I Learned to Embrace the Mess and Had a Ton of Fun.
At the ILF Children’s and Young People’s Division conference I attended a few weeks ago, I went to a session by Vicki Parker from the Westfield Washington Public Library. She talked about ways to use art (not crafts!) in programming with young children. I have to admit that I have been squeamish about using messy supplies in our children’s programs, but Vicki convinced me that it’s worth it to embrace the mess in order to encourage creativity.
So, last week we had a piñata-making program for our homeschoolers! Yes, it was messy. But it was also cheap, easy, and really, really fun. And you can do it, too!! Here’s how:
First, you’ll want to know how to make a piñata. The How to Make a Piñata video from About.com will show you the basics. There are several variations on these steps, all of which are easy to find by Googling.
I wanted to teach families how they could create their own piñatas at home, so in the program, we practiced making and working with paper-mí¢ché. I also wanted them to be able to decorate and take home a piñata. Since piñatas need to dry between layers and they need at least three layers of paper-mí¢ché, I pre-made about 20 piñatas so that after the kids were done putting a layer of paper-mí¢ché on their balloon, I could switch them out and they could have a dry piñata to decorate.
I won’t lie: this was a lot of prep work. BUT if you can enlist the help of a few friends or a group of eager teen volunteers, you can get it done pretty quickly. It’s not hard, but you do need to plan ahead because it could take at least a day or two for all the layers of the piñata to dry. For the piñatas I pre-made, I only did two layers of paper-mí¢ché, which is a flimsier piñata than I would normally make, but it was good enough for them to have the experience of decorating it. After the program, they’ll know how to make their own at home, so they can make a more sturdy piñata if they want to.
To set up the room, I had pre-cut paper strips (you can use old newspapers, magazines, or catalogs. If you get as many Oriental Trading catalogs each month as we do, you’ll have pleeenty of material to use). I set out balloons in bowls and I pre-measured the flour and water into more bowls. Of course, I had a book display with Pura Belpré Award books and books about piñatas and Latino history and crafts.
I started off the program by sharing some information about piñatas. (Did you know that piñatas may have originated in China?!) Then I had kids mix up the paper-mí¢ché paste (using spoons or their hands), dip paper strips in the mix, and put it on their balloons (which are sitting in plastic bowls). I explained that they needed to cover the whole balloon except for a spot at the top.
You know what? The kids totally surprised me by how well they were able to do this. Even the little ones had no problem doing it (with mom or dad helping, of course). Their first layers actually turned out really nicely. (One of my staff members saw the piñatas later and asked me, “Where are the ones the kids made?” She couldn’t believe that they had turned out so well!)
Once their balloons were covered, we switched the wet piñatas out with the pre-made, dry piñatas (in dry bowls) and passed out paint, paintbrushes, cups of water, and crepe paper. We used washable tempera paint and I took Vicki’s suggestion of adding a few drops of mild dish soap to the paint to make it easier to clean up (it really worked!! We will be doing that from now on!!). Kids painted the piñatas and added crepe paper to the wet paint if they wanted. I didn’t provide a painted sample for them, but just let them do their thing.
We had plastic bags for families to take their pinatas home and we handed out packets with information about piñatas and the complete instructions so that they can make their own at home! I didn’t provide candy and we didn’t break one open at the program, but you could do either (or both) of these things if you want to add a little something. The whole program took about 45-60 minutes.
This would be a great program to consider if you’re celebrating El dia de los niños/El dia de los libros or for the One World, Many Stories summer reading club theme!
Yes, we got messy. Yes, it was a lot of prep work beforehand. But it was so much fun that it was definitely worth it! And did I mention that it’s cheap? We had paint, crepe paper, plastic bowls, and spoons on hand. We used an old catalog for the paper strips. Balloons and flour cost less than $5.00 total (and we’ve got plenty of both to last us a long time).
So, what do you think? Are you ready to embrace the mess?
— Abby Johnson
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN
How wonderful!!! I never thought we could do this because of drying time, but you handled it so well! Now I cannot wait to use this in a program. Did kids take home the wet (first) pinatas too?
My hat is off to you, Abby! Ole!
That looks like a really fun idea! I am always on the lookout for cheap programs.
Kristie, we only had them take home the painted pinata, but if they wanted to take home the wet pinata they certainly could. When we did it for our homeschoolers, we kept the wet pinatas because we did a second workshop in the evening for families and we used them for the second workshop once they were dry.