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Piñata 101: How, When, and What to Include (Besides Candy)

Piñatas are a super fun activity to have at a kids’ birthday party, and with a little prep ahead of time, you’ll be a Piñata Pro in no time!

Whether this is your first time hosting a kids’ birthday party or you’ve been doing it for years, we bet you’ll find some great info here.

Check out this list of great places to buy a piñata in Los Angeles.

What is a Piñata?

A Piñata is made of cardboard and can be shaped like almost anything. Star shapes are traditional, and favorite cartoon characters are always a hit, but no matter what they’re shaped like, piñatas are hollow so they can be filled with candy, sweets, toys, prizes – almost anything!

The Piñata is one of the activities at a kids’ party. You’ll hang it up by a string or rope, and the kids will each take turns hitting it with a stick or a baseball bat, trying to crack it open.

Once it’s been smashed, the prizes inside will fall to the ground and the kids will make a mad dash to grab as much as they can!

Related: The Best Places to get Balloons in SoCal

colorful star shaped pinata
Colorful piñata perfect for celebrating a kid’s birthday

Why Should I Have a Piñata at a Kids’ Party?

The reason to have a piñata at your child’s birthday party is because of how much fun the kids will have. The idea of smashing something open and having surprises fly out for all to grab is too delightful to resist.

The tradition of having a piñata at a celebration may have its cultural origins in Mexico, possibly via Europe or maybe even China, but today they are in widespread use. Piñatas are a staple at kids’ birthday parties, but you can also have one at a Baby Shower, Family Reunion, or at a Christmas Party. Or any other gathering you like!

Related: Check out LA’s Best Birthday Party Guide

How To Do a Piñata – Step by Step – Safely

Now that you know you want to have a piñata at your kids’ birthday party, here are the steps you’ll want to take. You’re going to need a couple of adults to help you, so round up your team and get started.

1. Prep Time: Fill the Piñata

Before the party starts, fill up the Piñata with treats. Most piñatas are filled with candy, which you can buy in a handy giant sized bag, but if you’re looking for alternative filling ideas, scroll down for a list.

Some piñatas are made with a pull string and a convenient flap that opens on the bottom, usually meant for young kids’ parties, and the are by far the easiest to fill. Most piñatas are made with cardboard and don’t come with a pre-made filling hole, so you’ll have to cut a slot. Try to make it in an inconspicuous spot.

2. Hang up the Piñata

You’ll want someone to help hang the piñata up with string or rope, and if you want to get fancy, they will also pull on the rope when the kids take their swings, making it a little harder to hit! This is best when you have older kids; the younger ones will have a hard enough time hitting the target.

Of course you’ll need to find a spot to hang the piñata that will hold its weight. It’s no fun when your piñata comes crashing down because the hook wasn’t strong enough and not because of some kids’ awesome swing. Tree branches are great, if they’re in the right spot, but again, make sure they can hold up.

Another thing to consider is where all the treats will fall once it’s smashed open. It’s not ideal to hang it over a patch of dirt because remember: the kids will be grabbing up the goodies from there.

Related: Best Birthday Yard Signs

3. Get the kids in Line: Smallest to Tallest

At least one adult needs to be in charge of the line, for a couple of reasons. Bigger kids may get excited and try to go first, so you’ll prevent that. But you’ll also need to be a safety monitor and make sure the kids stay back far enough so they won’t be hit by the wild swings of the baseball bat or piñata stick.

This is a real possibility and should be taken seriously. A smack from the bat could really hurt, not to mention it’ll really put a damper on the festivities! You may want to assign a couple of adults to this job.

An adult should hand the stick to the kid whose turn it is, and let each kid take a couple of swings. Then the adult needs to step in (carefully!) and get the stick to give to the next kid in line. Don’t let the kids hand the stick to each other.

Why Smallest to Tallest?

Every kid at the party should get to take a turn trying to smash open the piñata, and the youngest (or smallest) simply won’t have the strength to do actually open it. If you let the biggest kids go first, they’ll surely break it wide open and the youngest ones won’t even get to try, so let the little ones have the first tries.

Some piñatas are super tough, and the party guest lists are short, so you’ll everyone will get a couple of turns swinging the bat. If there are lots of kids, try to let everyone get at least one turn before the candy flies out.

Birthday Child: First or Last?

It’s a good idea to let the birthday boy or girl go first, especially if they’re young. Another thing to consider is whether to let the birthday boy or girl be the one to deliver the final blow. If the child is too small to actually make it happen, you can let an older brother or cousin do the honors. Or simply let the biggest kid do it when it’s their turn in line.

Some piñatas come with a handy-dandy string, made for pulling open the bottom and allowing all the treats to fall out. These are perfect for toddler birthday parties when you’re sure none of the kids can really smash the piñata themselves.

An adult simply steps in and pulls the string when each kids has had a turn and is ready for treats.

little girl swinging at a rainbow unicorn piñata
This little girl is about to crush the piñata at this outdoor party!

Blindfold – yes or no?

With older kids, having them wear a blindfold when they take their turn at bat adds a degree of difficulty to the process. And, let’s be honest, a degree of cruelty as well. Making the kids wear blindfolds often goes hand in hand with someone pulling on the rope so the piñata is mostly out of reach.

You know your kids and whether this would make the party more fun or a lesson in supreme frustration. It’s certainly optional.

4. Hand out treat bags to all the kids

Once the piñata has been cracked open, the kids will run and grab as much of the treats as they can, and they’ll stuff them all into their bag. If you want to get fancy, you can set up a DIY craft table ahead of time and each kid can decorate their treat bag however they like. But plain works well, too.

5. Smash and Grab

Even when the piñata has been broken open by a hard swing, the treats may not all come out at once. And adult should step in, take the stick away from the last kid to use it (so no one gets hurt in the rush), and shake out the piñata, making sure all the treats are now on the ground.

Adults should try to make sure each kid gets a few treats, and discourage kids from taking more than their share. Think of it as a teachable moment! Emotions can run high at parties, and it’s a chance to talk to your child about their feelings.

6. Enjoy the Aftermath

The kids will be eating their candy, or playing with their new toys, depending on what you stuffed inside the piñata, and you and your team can clean up the mess and relax. Until it’s time for cake!

What Can I Put Inside the Piñata (Besides Candy)?

If you are looking for alternatives to candy for a piñata, we’ve got quite a few ideas. Check out our Amazon Shop to get these delivered!

Just remember to only add things that are not too heavy, since they’ll make the piñata hard to hang, and you don’t want one to hit a kid on the head by accident!

You can mix and match any of these, or buy a big grab bag that has a variety of them. You can also do a half-n-half and use some toys as well as some candy. Totally up to you!

25 Ideas for Alternatives to Candy for a Piñata

  1. Mochi Squishy characters
  2. Bubble wands
  3. Coins
  4. Plastic Slinkies
  5. Small play-dough
  6. Silly sunglasses
  7. Bouncy Balls
  8. Plastic Dinosaurs
  9. Plastic Animals
  10. Small Toy Cars
  11. Mini Hand Clappers
  12. Whistles
  13. Little Toy Airplanes
  14. Toy Gliders
  15. Mini Keychains
  16. Pencils
  17. Erasers
  18. Mini Notebooks
  19. Stickers
  20. Temporary Tattoos
  21. Yo-Yos
  22. Fidget Spinners
  23. Mini Skateboards
  24. Mini Magic Cubes
  25. Mini Frisbees

What Supplies Do I Need to Have for the Piñata?

  1. Candy or toys to fill it up
  2. Strong string or rope to hang it
  3. Tree branch or strong hook for hanging
  4. Stick or Baseball Bat to hit the piñata
  5. Treat bags for the kids
  6. Blindfold (optional)

When to do the Piñata at a Kids Birthday Party?

The piñata takes some planning and it creates a lot of energy at a party, so it’s not a good idea to do it right away at the start. Plan to do it after the meal time, and plan to have some down time afterwards. Having a buffer between this activity and cutting the cake (which is often the last activity of the party) is a good idea.

Related: Best Birthday Cakes for Kids in Los Angeles


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