Family Math Activity: Make a Robot Piñata

It's party time! Help your children explore 3D shapes while making a colorful piñata.

Esta actividad también está disponible en español.

Young children use touch to explore and learn about shapes. In this hands-on arts activity, children will explore 3D shapes while making a colorful piñata. Fun fact: Piñatas originated in China, then were passed on to Italy and Spain by Marco Polo, and subsequently brought to Mexico. Today, piñatas can be found all over the world and they come in all shapes and colors.

Two colorful robots made of construction paper.
Children (and parents and caregivers) will have a lot of fun discussing 3D shapes while making this fun craft activity. | Yesenia Prieto

Learning Goals

This activity will help your child:

  • Learn about shapes while enjoying the arts
  • Identify 3D shapes in everyday surroundings
  • Practice describing shapes by its number of sides (faces) and corners (vertices)
Supplies including construction paper, two small empty boxes, scissors, glue and markers are set up on a table.
Only a few household items are needed to make this piñata. | Yesenia Prieto


  • Markers
  • Tape or glue
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Color construction paper
  • Colorful tissue paper/crepe paper
  • Cardboard tube (bathroom tissue roll)
  • Empty tea box

Step-by-Step Instructions

1. Create your robot’s head: Trace each side of the tea box on the construction paper. There are six sides so you may want to use a variety of colors. Cut out the traced shapes and tape or glue them to the sides of the tea box.

Supplies including a small box, markers and construction paper are laid out on a table.
Make a robot head by covering a tea box in colorful construction paper. | Yesenia Prieto

2. Make your robot’s body: Trace two circles on the construction paper using the end of the cardboard tube. Cut the circles out and tape or glue them to each end of the cardboard tube.

A an empty roll of toilet paper on top of a piece of blue construction paper.
Make a robot body by covering each open end of a cardboard tube with construction paper. | Yesenia Prieto

3. Make paper fringe (papel picado): An essential addition to your piñata is papel picado, the traditional fringe used in many modern piñatas. It is typically made using colorful tissue paper, but the fringe can also be achieved using crepe paper or construction paper.

Pieces of colorful crepe paper cut from the bottom to form fringe.
Don’t forget the papel picado, the traditional fringe used in many modern piñatas. | Yesenia Prieto

4. Dress the body of your piñata: Dress the body by glueing the fringe to your base in rows, starting at the bottom so that the fringe above overlaps the previous row. Alternate colors to make an exciting pattern!

Pieces of colorful crepe paper cut from the bottom to form fringe are pasted on to an empty toilet paper roll
Dress your robot with colorful fringe. | Yesenia Prieto

5. Make your robot a hat! To make a party hat for the robot, print the provided template. Cut out the shape provided and decorate while flat. Tape or glue the ends together using the provided guidelines to create a cone shape. Trace the open end of the cone on construction paper. Cut out and tape or glue this shape base of the cone.

A colorful piece of paper shaped like a cone is set atop a piece of blue construction paper, surrounded by other crafting supplies.
Talk about the shape attributes of a cone while decorating this party hat. | Yesenia Prieto

6. Give your robot a face: Use markers to draw a face on one of the sides of the robot’s head.

The head of a cardboard and construction paper robot
Give your robot some personality! Talk about the facial expressions we make to demonstrate different emotions while drawing a face on the robot head. | Yesenia Prieto

7. Assembly time: Assemble the robot by taping or glueing the bottom of the head to the top of the robot’s body.

Two colorful cardboard and construction paper robots are placed atop a table.
Stack the building blocks of your robot. | Yesenia Prieto

8. Decorate! Use markers and paper to decorate your robot. You can add arms and legs, control panels, tools — anything you can imagine!

Math Context for Activity

  • Have your child compare 2D and 3D shapes. How are they similar or different? Point out that 2D shapes are flat (lying in a plane) while 3D shapes are solid.
  • Explain solid shapes have vertices and faces. Vertices are just another way to say corners and faces or sides are flat surfaces.
  • Have your child hold each 3D shape and make observations about its attributes (e.g. name, color, number of sides, etc.) Which shapes roll? (A sphere). Which shapes have pointy corners (vertices)? (A cube or a cone).
  • Show your child the faces of the cube, cylinder, or cone. Point out that the flat faces of 3D shapes are actually 2D shapes! For example, a cylinder has two flat faces shaped like a circle.

Keep the Conversation Going

  • Practice drawing shapes and naming shapes.
  • Go on a “Shape Hunt” around the house or the neighborhood. Can you find something shaped like a sphere? What else do we have around our house that is round with no corners? (A ball, a globe).
  • Have your child combine shapes to make new shapes. For example, two right triangles can be combined to make a rectangle.
  • Construct a sphere!

Book Suggestions

  • “Now What? A Math Tale” by Robie H. Harris
  • “Cubes, Cones, Cylinders, and Spheres” by Tara Hoban
  • “Shapes, Shapes, Shapes” by Tana Hoban

Online Games

Corresponding Standards

Head Start Preschool Math
Goal P-MATH 9. Child identifies, describes, compares, and composes shapes.

Common Core Kindergarten Standards
Analyze and compare 2D and 3D shapes, in different sizes and orientations, using informal language to describe their similarities, differences, parts (e.g., number of sides and vertices/”corners”) and other attributes (e.g., having sides of equal length).

Model shapes in the world by building shapes.

Compose simple shapes to form larger shapes.

Related Stories from PBS SoCal:

— A Sweet Pretend Cupcake Math Activity That Blends Crafting with Counting Up to 20 (English / Spanish)
— Make a Colorful Stick Puppet to Learn about Shapes and Problem Solving (English / Spanish)
— Make Fun Crafts While Counting, Measuring and Weighing Objects With Your Little Ones (Watch How-To Videos in English & Spanish)