Piñatas are always a “hit” with kids at outdoor picnics and parties. It’s one of the few chances kids get to whack at an object repeatedly with a stick — what’s more, instead of a getting a time-out for destroying the object, they get candy!
Store-bought piñatas are gorgeous, but they can easily cost $20 or more, so they’re best saved for special occasions. Making your own piñata is inexpensive, easy, and fun. The challenge is coming up with a piñata that doesn’t disintegrate after a single hit, but doesn’t require a couple of bodybuilders to get the treats out.
Figuring out how to make the perfect piñata is a great way to spend the afternoon with your kids. It’s also the perfect way to introduce your child to the Design-Build-Test concept. Because this requires such inexpensive materials, you can easily make several prototypes and have fun testing each one!
Before actually building the piñata, encourage your child to think about the different shapes he or she can use. Let your child know that incorporating triangles into the piñata structure will help it withstand more hits, because triangles are extremely stable and do not change under pressure. Ask your child to consider 3D shapes containing triangles like these:
Encourage your child to explore different materials for constructing the piñata. A piñata constructed solely out of cardboard will be sturdy, but would it be too heavy for the string to hold? Having tissue paper or newspaper “windows” on each face would make the piñata lighter, but would it make the piñata too easy to break open?
Brainstorm with your kids about what kind of candy the piñata will hold: M&M’s or jelly beans? Gummy bears, lollipops, or gum? Get your child thinking about which candies are heavier than others. Do ten mini-packs of M&M’s weigh more than the same number of snack-sized bags of gummy bears? You want lots of candy inside that piñata, but you don’t want your piñata crashing to the ground even before anyone has had a chance to take a whack!
Ask your child to think about the best way to protect the candy inside the piñata from the force of the stick striking the piñata. Should the candy be wrapped in a layer of newspaper or tissue? Should the piñata be filled with Styrofoam peanuts as well as candy? The newspaper and/or Styrofoam form a safety cell (a reinforced area that protects the objects inside), which is also used in cars to protect passengers during a crash.
Use cereal boxes, cardboard, and newspapers to build the piñata, and use tape to hold it together. Make sure the piñata has a hollow opening to place the candies in. Your child can also decorate the piñata with crayons, markers, and stickers.
Hang the piñata from an overhanging tree branch or roof. Have your child hit the piñata with a wooden broomstick or bat (make sure the area is clear of other objects and people!). Record the number of hits it takes to break open the piñata. Was it too easy or too difficult to get the candy out? Did the piñata fall off the string before you could break it open? Did the candy come out broken or intact? Take your observations back to the drawing board and use them to build a better piñata the next time around!
Be sure your piñata candy is fresh and tasty with this Bedtime Math problem.
Image licensed by Ingram Publishing