Football Helmet Piñata (Paper Mache) and More for Epic Tailgating

Tailgating Pinatas - New York Giants Pinata at Philadelphia Eagles Lincoln Financial Field Tailgate Party

You haven’t lived until you’ve attended D Lot tailgates at the home of the Philadelphia Eagles… Freezing your butt off tailgating in a bomb cyclone, or taking a chunk of paper mache to the face filming your hubs breaking open a homemade football helmet piñata made by you and your kiddos, exclusively for tailgating!

Everybody’s tailgate party is a little different. Some are all about loud music and huge crowds.

Others are all about top notch food, like a delicious seafood pasta I got to enjoy as a happy bit of social butterfly happenstance. OMGGGG

It. Was. So. Good.

Pretty sure I ate three meals that afternoon.

Still others, like ours, make our mark with a homemade paper mache pinata to beat the isht out of during some pretty epic beer-fueled hours before the game.

Eagles tailgate group with homemade Vikings pinata
Eagles tailgate group with homemade Vikings pinata that we beat to a pulp!!

It takes a crap-ton of time to make these homemade paper mache pinatas; I’m not going to lie.

But the pure adrenaline and the fun and happy buzz emanating from those moments – or sometimes only seconds – of breaking open the pinata – are well worth it!

Okay, so what are we waiting for?!

You want to know how to make a tailgating piñata for your next big game, right?!

Let’s get started!

What You Absolutely Must Know When Making a Homemade Paper Mache Pinata

I remember being a teen or tween making my own homemade piñata with balloon, newspaper, and flour and water mixture for Halloween one year.

It was so enjoyable, I made a few more afterwards. Then promptly forgot until I was a grown-ass woman with season tickets to the Eagles.

Re-enter: Paper Mache Pinata DIY Mad Skills!

DIY Paper Mache Pinatas - NFL Houston Texans Red, White and Blue Bull Pinata hanging from SUV Tailgate
DIY Paper Mache Pinatas – NFL Houston Texans

So first things first – this project is easy enough a 12 or 13 year old can do it! My kids helped from the time they were 3 or 4 years old.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • This Project Is Time-Consuming! Don’t be fooled – just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it won’t take a while!
    • Plan ahead: Making your own tailgating pinata takes a while, especially for the layers to dry.
    • Timing: Start your pinata at least one to two weeks ahead of your big game!
  • You Must Plan for the Trapdoor and the Pinata Hanger / Hook. Don’t wait until the end to start thinking about these critical components!
  • Injuries are possible! Use care in preventing injuries.
    • Use caution when working with a knife. Do not allow children nearby when cutting pinata parts with a knife.
    • Also, beware doing anything like breaking open a pinata, especially while consuming alcohol. Choose a wiffleball bat instead of a true baseball bat.
  • Check Your Work – Consider all options and use common sense when making pinatas. Review your plans to make sure your design won’t cause any tensions or inappropriate situations.
Seahawks football helmet pinata
Seahawks football helmet pinata

Paper Mache Pinata Ideas

When you’re making a tailgating pinata, the best advice I can give you is to make the pinata to model your opponent!

After all, you wouldn’t want to beat up your own team’s mascot, would you?!

  • Animal Mascots – Make the actual animal mascot for football teams or other sports teams when there is one.
  • Football Helmets – Craft a helmet with team logos for tricky mascots or those without true mascots.
  • The Ball – When necessary to go generic, make a football pinata or other sports themed style.
Houston Texans Pinata for Tailgating Parties - Red, White, and Blue Bull with Star
NFL Houston Texans Pinata for Tailgating Parties

To date, I have made Pinatas for:

  • Dallas Cowboys (x2)
  • Detroit Lions
  • Houston Texans
  • Michigan State Spartans
  • Minnesota Vikings (x2 – the best was the inaugural Vikings pinata during the Eagles’ quest for the Super Bowl!)
  • New England Patriots
  • New York Giants
  • Seattle Seahawks

How to Make a DIY Paper Mache Pinata for Tailgating

Making a homemade pinata takes some time, so be sure to plan ahead!

Discover how to make a pinata with newspaper, a balloon, flour, and water.

Follow these steps to make an awesome DIY paper mache pinata for your next tailgate party!


  • Balloon
  • Newspaper
  • Flour
  • Water
  • Bowl
  • Scissors
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Hot Glue Sticks
  • Crepe Paper / Streamers
  • White Paper
  • Black Sharpie
  • Flexible Wire or Bendable Hanger
  • Duct Tape

Homemade Pinata Instructions:

Making the Base for the Pinata:

  1. Blow up a balloon to the desired size.
  2. Cut newspaper into strips of various sizes.
  3. Mix approximately one cup of water and one cup of flour until smooth.
  4. Apply newspaper strips to the balloon, using the flour mixture as paste. I’ve found two ways to do this.
    • Use a spatula or just your hands to smear paste onto the newspaper strips one at a time.
    • Spread paste all over the balloon and apply newspaper strips as evenly as possible.
  5. Apply two to three layers at a time and allow the pinata to dry thoroughly in between these sessions. (Sometimes for as long as 24 hours!)
  6. Once the pinata is dry and firm, after about 5 or 6 layers, pop the balloon. This lets the air get inside to dry the pinata quicker and also allows it to hold its shape if you wait until it’s firm.
  7. Continue layering the pinata form with paper mache. Be sure to cover up the hole where the balloon knot was peeking out. Remember to let the pinata dry after every 2 or 3 layers.
  8. Consider adding in a few strips of tulle netting fabric. This strengthens the pinata. Apply the tulle using the same method as traditional paper mache.
  9. Top off with more newspaper and paste. Work to obtain 10 layers for the best chance of a successful tailgate pinata.
  10. Allow the pinata to dry completely for at least 24 hours or until fully dry.

DIY Pinata Hanger:

Make a pinata hanger to suspend and support your homemade pinata.

  1. Bend a thin metal hanger so one of the corners becomes a loop you can use for hanging the pinata.
  2. Fold the hanger over itself to make a more compact bundle out of the wire hanger.
  3. Check that the loop is long enough to stick through the inside of the pinata and out the top.
  4. Use heavy-duty duct tape over and across the hanger bundle, except where the hanging loop is.
  5. Set the pinata hanger aside. You will later use hot glue to glue it to the inside of the pinata.

Making the Pinata Functional:

  1. Use a sharp utility knife to cut a trapdoor in the back of the pinata. Simply cut two small vertical lines and a horizontal line connecting them. The flap connects to the pinata at the top.
  2. Use the knife to poke a small hole at the top of the pinata. This is where the hanging hook will come through.
  3. Reach through the trapdoor to install the pinata hanger / hook. (See above for instructions. I make mine by twisting and bending a dry-cleaning hanger to look almost like a letter T. Then add some duct tape to create some surface area you can glue.)
  4. Hot glue the flat part of the hanger to the inside of the pinata at the top. Pull the pinata hanger through the slit at the top of the pinata so you can hang it.

Decorating a Tailgating Pinata:

You can make different pinata designs based on your opponent or your desired style and needs.

  1. Use a hot glue gun to glue streamers around the pinata. Run a strip of glue along the newsprint and then lightly press the streamers onto it. I go around and around for best results.
  2. Keep going until your entire pinata is covered and you no longer see newspaper. Light colored streamers may need more than one layer.
  3. Make “X eyes” on white cardstock with a black Sharpie permanent marker. I typically make the pointy, wide almond-shaped eyes. Cut them out and hot glue them onto the pinata.
  4. Add any accessories you might need, such as a football helmet. Use pipe cleaners for the facemask in the front. Print out the opponent’s logo or create one freehand!
  5. Set it in a sweet location and take a picture. You’ve worked hard and deserve to celebrate this awesome creation!

Like I said, take a picture. It’ll last longer!

Because seriously, something that took you at least 5 or 6 hours to make, may take at best 5 minutes for someone to destroy and break open!

Football Helmet Pinata

Here are some of my favorite football helmet piñatas that we made over the years.

Homemade pinata of NY Giants Football Helmet player
Homemade pinata of NY Giants Football Helmet player

The New York Giants football player pinata worked out pretty well! Not gonna lie – it was kind of annoying to make the nose, but other than that, not too bad!

Definitely needed to step this one up as my high school bestie is a HUGE Giants fan. Booo! 🙂

Love those X eyes!!! Definitely lets other tailgaters know who you’re rooting for!

Tailgating with a football helmet pinata to beat the Giants!
Tailgating with a football helmet pinata to beat the Giants!

Tailgating Pinata Tips

Making pinatas for your tailgate parties is very fun and memorable. These are just what you need to level up your tailgates.

Here are some tips to try on your homemade paper mache pinata:

  • Embrace Shapes – Look at the mascot or thing you’re turning into a pinata in terms of shapes. Breaking down the full vision into individual shapes will allow you to reach your football game pinata with ease and a better design!
  • Repurpose Your Recycles – If needed, use cardboard, paper towel and toilet paper rolls, and other recycling items to help you achieve the desired shapes.
  • Reuse Your Supplies – Remember to grab your hook and take it home for your next pinata. It took me more than half a season to realize how much time that would save me!
  • Recruit Help! – When my daughters helped me, it was a lot more fun making the pinatas. Family time is great – bring in your hubby, too!
Tailgating friends whacking at the homemade pinata at the Eagles Giants tailgate on 11/25/18
Tailgating friends whacking at the homemade pinata at the Eagles Giants tailgate on 11/25/18

Game Day Pinata Tips

Be sure you have these supplies with you before breaking open the pinata on game day!

  • Pinata Stick / Wiffleball Bat
  • Rope, Bungee, or something for hanging it
  • Pinata Filler – candy, airplane bottles of Fireball – whatever you like!

We love our paper mache pinatas at Philadelphia Eagles tailgates!

Big group of Eagles fans with homemade pinata
Tailgating with a homemade pinata with a big group of Eagles fans

But, these fun tailgating eye-catchers are super fun to take to college football tailgates as well!

We went to the Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Michigan State Spartans matchup a few years ago and it was a blast!

Check out Sparty!!

Sparty Mascot Michigan State Spartans Pinata Used at a Penn State Nittany Lions Tailgate
Sparty Mascot Michigan State Spartans Pinata Used at a Penn State Nittany Lions Tailgate

DIY Football Helmet Piñata for Tailgating

Making a tailgating pinata is time-consuming, yet a truly worthwhile tailgate party attraction, at least once in a while.

We truly enjoyed our Vikings playoff game pinata during the Eagles’ quest for the Lombardi trophy.

Well, we enjoyed the heck out of all of our pinatas! I have too many photos to share them all, but the creative effort is rewarded with epic memories.

Have you ever made a homemade football helmet pinata or similar for a tailgate? Do you have any questions or want to share your own experience?

Please leave a comment below! We’d love to hear from you.

09.27.22 – Edited to add Pinata Hanger tutorial. Adjusted spacing and flow of steps.

01.25.23 – Updated to add another pinata photo.

06.24.23 – Added more photos and focus on football helmet pinatas and updated from 3/1/21.

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