It’s hard to imagine what possible good could come out of letting a child beat the crap out of a paper-mâché object with a stick in order to get to the sugary treats inside. Let’s just flash forward fifteen years for a minute to that same child smashing a pharmacy window with a baseball bat to get to the sudoephedrine inside… Hmm. That old myth that marijuana is the gateway to the hard drugs has been blown right open: it’s the piñatas, people!
But hey, it’s all just a bit of fun, innit. Piñatas are de rigeur at any pre-school birthday party these days and we certainly wouldn’t want our children to miss out on vital training for when the world’s banks crumble and everyone takes to smash’n’grab looting on the streets. In any case, so many of the pre-made piñatas available in the shops where I live, are fashioned in the shape of well-loved TV characters such as Dora The Explorer – and it’s a very rare parent indeed that hasn’t harboured any violent thoughts towards Dora. Yep, it’s all good clean healthy fun. (“Whack her, kids! Whack her!“)
For those DIY parents who want to make their own piñatas from scratch, here are a few tips I’ve picked up in my own forays into this Magnificent Art Form.
TIP ONE: Resign yourself to failure
With most paper-mâché projects where the finished product is going to be smashed open, there’s always a very fine line you walk between having too many layers of newspaper & flour-glue and having not nearly enough. Basically your piñata will EITHER:
A) crack open as easily as a sparrow’s egg – as in the case of C3PO, the Big Girl’s Blouse who spilled the (jelly) beans after just three whacks (see Fig. 1);
B) it will withstand any manual force applied to it and you will have to get out the power tools – as we did with that Alcatraz of the Paper-Mâché world, the Impenetrable Shark (see Fig. 2).
Do not fool yourself: there is no middle ground. The sooner you realise that, the happier you will be on the day of the party – though I do not need to add that alcohol can help you with that, too.
TIP TWO: Do not let your child bond with the piñata
In the lead-up to The Pixie’s 3rd Pink Fairy Ballerina Birthday Party, she and I spent many happy hours together pasting and painting a beautiful Pink Piggy Piñata (Fig. 3). Uh, NDM… duh! It doesn’t take a genius to work out where all that was going to lead. Because the minute Mr Justice took the first swing at that Beloved Piggy, The Pixie basically started screaming and threw herself in his path. We had one of those classic impasses – between one little girl’s love of a pig and a baying crowd’s need for sugar. We ended up having to perform a swift c/section on said pig and everyone was happy.
The post-surgery Piggy then convalesced beside The Pixie’s bed where, every night, The Pixie would say to me “Is the Piggy smiling at me, mama?”. Yes, darling. The Piggy loves you.
But a few weeks later that smile was wiped off the Piggy’s face forever more when it somehow found itself outside during mothers’ group and was promptly decimated by a 5 year old guest wielding a cricket bat. And of course The Pixie, who watched on the sidelines, took every blow to that beloved Piggy as if it were to her own flesh. All I could do was to remove the body and immediately transfer $100 into her psychiatry fund.
TIP THREE: The night before is FAR TOO LATE to start making a piñata from scratch
For one thing, it will look stupid. (Fig. 4)
No-one, not even The Pixie’s future psychiatrist, could blame me for not making another piñata for her birthday this year. But of course, when it was discovered there wasn’t going to be one the night before, there were tears. Lots and lots of tears. I tried to suggest we buy a Dora piñata from Big W, somewhat relishing the idea of having a swing at her myself, but The Pixie wasn’t going to have a bar of it. Her reason? Because she “wasn’t pink enough”.
And so I ended up making the Emergency Butterfly – and for the record, I used an empty Vitawheats box for the butterfly’s body and NOT, as some suggested, a full carton of cigarettes.
But because I filled the body with sweets at the very beginning rather than half-way through the paper-mâché process (when a few layers had already fully dried), the result was less than appetising. This is what you get when you mix marshmallows and flour-glue, kiddies (Fig. 5).
TIP FOUR: Find an alternative
At the end of the day, unless you’re extremely bored, a frustrated artist or just plain scratchin’ around for material for your blog (or, in my case, all three), there really is no point.
You see, the fundamental problem with the whole piñata thing is that you need to get the kids to work OFF the sugar, not work FOR it. So here’s one alternative: give each of the party guests a super-sized Whizz-Fizz and then give them a stick to beat your carpets with. The kids get their sugar fix, they still get to indulge in a spot of violence (but for Good, not for Evil) and no piggies get hurt in the process. Perfect!