How to Make a Piñata From Recycled Materials
Looking to harness your kids’ desires to create (and destroy) things?
Make an earth piñata from reused and recycled household items.
It’s more than just a fun recycled craft project for your family. Slip in lessons on global geography, local natural resources and math (like fractions).
In this article, I’ll show you how to make a piñata of the earth and fill it with natural materials for a fun game that also makes the perfect centerpiece for a party, picnic or family day at home.
Why Make an Earth Piñata?
Creating an earth piñata is a great way to start a conversation about recycling and encourage your kids to think like global citizens. They’ll learn about continents, oceans and nearby natural habitats. Plus, they’ll start thinking about how to recycle and reuse things at home.
It’s also an excellent excuse to host an ecologically centered event that delights all ages. Who can resist a piñata party?
- The earth is about 4.5-5 billion years old.
- About 70% of the earth is water and only about 30% is land.
- The average person generates over 4 pounds of trash every day and about 1.5 tons of solid waste per year.
- Over 75% of waste is recyclable, but we only recycle about 30% of it.
- Recycling one glass bottle is enough to light a traditional light bulb for four hours.
- Recycling 100 cans could light your bedroom for two weeks.
- Every ton of paper that’s recycled saves 17 trees.
The earth piñata activity has a lot of downtime. It doesn’t take long to make, but it does have a few stages where you have to let it dry for quite a while. I’ve found that it’s best to schedule this project for a weekend.
Depending on the size of your family, you can make one large piñata together or you can each make your own earth. You can also make one piñata with natural fillers and another for tasty treats!
#1: Make Paper-Mache Paste
Follow the recipe below from Storm the Castle to make a simple and kid-friendly paper-mache paste with no cooking required. All you need is flour, water and a dash of salt. And an apron—this activity can get messy!
Paper-mache is easy to make from ingredients in your kitchen.
Spread out a few sheets of newspaper on a clean surface like the kitchen table. Next, set out everything you’ll need: flour, water, salt, measuring cup, mixing bowl, whisk, blown up balloons (have a few extras in case they pop accidentally) and newspapers torn into one-inch strips.
Tear up the newspapers into 1″ (2.5 cm) wide strips as part of your prep, so they are ready to use and your paste doesn’t have time to dry out. You’ll need enough to cover your balloon with 4 to 5 layers, so aim for at least 20 strips.
Add 1 part water to 1 part flour in the mixing bowl. Stir and add a dash of salt. Using 1 cup of flour to 1 cup of water provides enough paste for 1 medium-sized piñata.
Whisk until your paste is smooth, thick and creamy.
Note: Here are two other paste variations—one uses glue and the other uses wallpaper paste.
#2: Create the Earth Piñata Cast Out of Paper-Mache
Dip the strips of newspaper into the paper-mache paste. Squeeze off the excess paste. Then lay the strips flat on the balloon.
Cover your balloon with 4 or 5 layers of newspaper. Be sure to leave a round hole uncovered at the bottom (at the tied end of the balloon) so you can fill it up later.
Set your piñata out to dry in the sun or in a room with great ventilation. It will need to dry for about 24 hours.
Note: If you live in a cooler climate, you may want to do only 2 or 3 layers, let your piñata dry, and then add 2-3 more layers. (You can refrigerate the paste in a sealed container if necessary.)
Be sure to place your piñata in a safe place to dry. We lost one to a pair of piñata predators–a toy poodle and a toddler.
#3: Gather Filler Items Outside
While your piñata is drying, head outside with your family to find treasures to fill it with.
Ask your kids to look for pinecones, leaves, flowers (preferably already on the ground instead of picked), seashells and other interesting natural resources in your yard or neighborhood. You can gather stuff too!
You can also use edible filler for your piñata. To stay with the environmental theme, fill it with nuts, dried fruit or individually wrapped natural candies from your home or local store.
#4: Decorate the Earth Piñata
Once your piñata is completely dry, bring it inside. Pop the balloon and remove it from the cast.
Tidy up the bottom with your scissors. Be sure to leave a hole that’s large enough to fill the piñata.
Cover the piñata in blue tissue paper and glue it in place. To teach your kids more about the ocean, have them the label the oceans with a marker or paint.
Alternately, you can paint your piñata blue. Wait until the blue paint is dry before going on to the next step.
Next, pull out your world map and your green tissue paper. (You can also find world map printouts on the Internet.)
Cut out shapes from green tissue paper that roughly match the continents. Glue these over the blue base. Have your kids use markers or black paint to label the continents and any countries that are important to your family.
To get your kids thinking more about the earth, ask them to draw small pictures of family, friends or animals from around the world. Glue these onto the piñata where the people or animals live. We added grandparents, sharks and lions to ours.
Allow the glue and any paint to dry before you fill up your piñata.
#5: Fill Your Earth Piñata
Once your piñata is fully decorated and completely dry, fill it up.
Add the natural items first.
Next, wrap your edible items in tissue paper and tie them up with raffia, twine or ribbons so they won’t get dirty. Then, add them to the piñata.
Alternately, you may decide to create two piñatas; one natural and one filled with edible items.
Next, glue two pieces of ribbon over the open end of the piñata and then use a long strip of ribbon or rope to hang it up. You can hang it from a tree, play structure or patio cover. Make sure there’s room for the piñata and the stick to swing in a wide arc without hitting something (like your house!).
#6: Smash Your Earth Piñata
You can use your piñata for a party or a fun night with the family.
Find a large, sturdy stick for cracking open the piñata. Use a fallen branch from outside or an old broom or mop handle or a baseball bat from indoors.
Here’s how you play.
Hang the piñata, so it’s suspended from a tree, patio cover or play structure.
Have everyone line up, youngest first. Note: keep this line a reasonable distance from the piñata, so bystanders don’t get hit.
Blindfold the first person. Turn him around three times. And let him have three tries to hit the piñata.
Variation: For younger kids you can skip the blindfold and allow them to hit it more times.
Each person takes a turn until the piñata breaks.
When the treats hit the ground, everyone scrambles to get them.
Whatever the celebration, you have to admit, making the earth piñata may have been the best part!
Some Final Thoughts…
Making an earth piñata is a great way to spend some family time together, indoors and out. It leads to important conversations that will have an impact on your kids.
Case in point: my son now saves every piece of garbage and wants to recycle it. He’s been saving balloons from birthday parties to make a water world piñata for sharks only and another earth piñata just for dinosaurs for his next birthday party.
What do you think? Have you ever made a piñata with your kids? What kind? What shape? What fabulous finds did you use to fill your piñata? I’d love to hear about your earth-shaped or other kinds of piñatas. Please leave a comment or a photo in the box below.