How to make a pull-string pinata

When I first read AJ's post on how to make a pull-string pinata, I had no idea what he was talking about. Pull strings? No bat? No blindfolds? Then, last weekend, my son attended a 6yo's birthday party where a pull-string pinata was the big finale. Let me tell you, it was brilliant. All the excitement and suspense, none of the near-brainings. There was still a dogpile when the candy fell out, but on the whole the process felt more humane.

(Here's how the pinata went over at AJ's daughter's 2nd birthday party.)

Any pinata hacks to share? Minimum age? How/where to hang it? How to moderate the whacking/string-pulling? What to fill it with? How to (or should you) regulate the post-pinata loot grab?

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  1. AJ says

    I wanted to plan out how the toddlers (and parents) would be instructed, and how string pulling and loot grabbing would transpire so that all the kids got their turn and fair share. My wife thought I was crazy. She was right. She provided minimal direction, just explaining how the pinata worked. The parents regulated everything on their own and the 1-2-3 year olds were too young to understand greed. Sure, toddlers can be selfish with toys, but none of them owned the pinata, so none of them tried to dominate the fun.

  2. iheartnewyork says

    Pull string pinatas are a great idea for young kids. Whackable pinatas, sticks, blindfolds, close spaces, and little kids are the making for a really lousy end to a fun birthday party. (And great fodder for a winning “America’s Funniest Home Videos” entry.)

    That being said, I did have the whackable kind at my son’s 5th birthday party (it was outdoors) and it went okay. I was able to fill the pinata with whatever I wanted, so I made mini goody bags with candy and toys, labeled with each kid’s name. That way we avoided the ugly wrestling and crying part of the breaking pinata.


  3. Jennifer says

    I was at a 5-6 year old party where the loot bags were in a whacking pinata. When the first parent showed up, it was “Whack the Pinata” time. What a great way to end the party!

  4. Tim says

    I have been making my own pull-string pinatas for years after we discovered that most of the pinata characters that my kids wanted didn’t come in pull string style. It takes me about an hour to convert and fill a pinata. The differences from the article is that I use a washer instead of a big knot on the “magic ribbon”. I use a razor blade(box cutter) as well since we use some durable pinatas. If you are careful when cutting the door, you can reuse the crepe paper that comes on the pinata. I usually cutaway the existing crepe paper carefully and then reglue it back in position over the door.

    Sometime, to prolong the fun, I will help the younger kids “choose” a ribbon so that the magic string gets pulled later. With the kids older now, I just let chance take over.

    We like pull strings for four reasons:

    1. We don’t want to encourage violence against what our kids view as their “friends” (hitting Nemo for example)

    2. If your kids are under 7 or so, it takes a LOT of whacks to break the pinata. Some are so well made that one of the dads eventually has to step in for the finishing blow.

    3. Safety – blindfold + crowd of goodie hungry kids + whacking. You do the math.

    4. Mess – after the big whack, candy and goodies seem to spread far and wide. Depending on the venue, this can be a problem. The trap door neatly deposits the goodies in a 6-10 foot area under the pinata. Providing some good photo opportunities of scavenging kids.

    Another benefit of pullstring pinatas is that the character can be played with itself after the party.

  5. Moxytc says

    My mother made us pinatas (the stick hitting kind) for years – using a brown paper grocery bag painted/decorated with crepe paper. I’m not sure if it would work with the string pulls, but it was easier to bust open with a wiffle ball bat than the normal cardboard ones. (Plus – lots cheaper!)

  6. Boko Dasu says

    Oh, I wish I’d known about this two months ago. We had a pinata for my kid’s 3rd birthday – her, her best friend, and a six year old cousin. We opted for outdoors, a big stick, and no blindfolds (and a baseball pinata, because I’m like that). Three kids whacking away for 20 minutes didn’t even make a dent in the thing. My husband found an even bigger stick and smacked it around for awhile – he did finally manage to make a tiny ding, which popped right back out the next time he hit it. I finally got out a boxcutter, stood on a bench, and dumped all the goodies over the kids heads. They enjoyed it, but man, next time I’m making one of these. Out of tissue paper. Sheesh!

  7. Duane says

    My 4yr old’s birthday is this weekend, and we have a pullstring pinata. She seemed disappointed to learn that. “It’s for safety,” I told her, equally disappointed in such a tradition falling by the wayside. “So no one gets hit with the stick.”

    “Daddy,” she informed me, “You have to stand way back when somebody takes their turn. That way nobody gets hurt.”

    I guess not everybody understands that.

    I’ll let ya know how it goes. Do all the kids pull strings at once, or take turns? I really have no idea what to expect.

  8. AJ says

    Duane, kids take turns pulling strings unless you want instant mayhem.

    Boko, there is a tradition in my extended family that, when the pinata appears, someone asks in a loud voice, “OK, who has the hammer?” On more than a few occasions an adult has had to rip into a regular pinata with the claw end of a hammer.

  9. Shane Lee says

    I have been in all of those situations. You want you kids to have fun but not get hurt. That’s why I have created a company that keeps the fun of the pinata but takes away the risk of getting hurt. Also my pinatas are reusable immediatly. It’s called playaction pinatas and we will be launching our first product this fall. You can check us out at
    We have kind of Americanized the great pinata game. Now the kids will be able to throw a soft hacky sack type ball at the pinata. When the hit the target on the pinata the candy comes out! The first model we have is a Volcano and when the target is hit with the soft ball the candy comes out just like a volcano erupting. You can then reset it and reload it for the next kid to get a turn. No kid is left out or gets hurt. We have a patent pending device that we have been working on for over a year. We are close to launching this new product. our second model will be a castle that when hit the candy comes out the draw bridge. We also have a whale where the candy will come out the blow hole. Look for us to launch soon and have fun!

  10. Tanya says

    I didn’t know what a pull string pinata was until now…I wish I would have bought one of those last week for my daughters party instead of a regular one. It was a pain! Took the screaming kids 1 hour to break it…and that is with our help! But I now know I am getting a pull string for my sons bday. We are going to do youngest to oldest..and I think I am going to put confetti in it to make it pretty when someone ‘finds’ the string! Then I will make my husband clean it all up! :D

  11. monica says

    Tim, please help. You stated you have been changing pinatas for years and refered to an article for advise. Even though it takes about an hour to convert the pinata, we would apprecate a bit more “how to” advise before the slicing and dicing my daughter’s cowgirl boot.
    thank you

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