No-Hit Piñatas and the Killers of Childhood

This is a no-hit piñata. Send it to Hell.

The latest device invented by childhood-fearing adults is the “no-hit piñata,”a new invention designed to make the ancient traditional child’s game less violent. Instead of hitting the colorful paper container with sticks to get at the candy and toys inside, the children pull strings, and the piñata opens non-violently.

What fun.

This is just another sally from the growing number of whimsy-challenged and anti-violence-addled parents and psychologists, who won’t rest until no child ever again picks up a stick to use as an imaginary gun, plays soldier, watches the Roadrunner push Wile E. Coyote off a cliff, or participates in a dodge ball game. When these self-righteous and destructive people aren’t making childhood grim and boring, they concentrate on making children victims rather than proactive masters of their own fates-in-training. They are the same people who condemn bullied kids who suddenly solve their problem by popping their bullies a good one right in the chops. They are the people who want children to collect money for UNICEF instead of candy on Halloween. They don’t like competition, either. Winners mean there are losers, and losers might feel bad.

All the people who conspire to make childhood as dreary and risk-free as possible are well-meaning, but they are evaluating a child’s world with adult sensibilities, which inevitably leads to the death of childhood, and more. I know these people are misguided and wrong, and are making life less rich, creative and interesting, but I can’t put my finger on what their ethical breach is. Incompetence? Failure to respect childhood? Interference with human autonomy? Perhaps it is simply being irresponsible, setting out to suppress human nature and warp our culture using shallow logic, a flawed sense of fairness and hysterical caution. (Blogger Jeanne Sager suggests that suppressing a child’s violent instincts may lead to psychopathic kids.) All I know is that when I read the musings of the Childhood Killers, I see conduct that will make life worse by leaching precious happiness and fun out of it. That’s got to be unethical.

Here is a terrifying sample, the anti-piñata warning of Yahoo blogger Vanessa Barltlemus:

“A blindfolded child is led up to some poor helpless papier-mâché animal hanging off a tree by a string. They have a stick or a bat in their hand, and they proceed to whack the animal with all their might.  Other children are cheering on the fight. When the piñata is broken open, candy spills out. Everyone rushes to grab as much candy as they can. It’s every kid for themself. Doesn’t sound like such a good party game when it’s put like that, huh?

“Piñatas are not a good idea for your child’s party. Children should never hit anything with a stick. Even worse, kids can get piñatas in their favorite character too. Doesn’t anyone slightly cringe at the thought of their child whacking Dora the Explorer or Elmo around with a baseball bat? What is that doing for a child’s character? Getting a flower or car piñata is only slightly less worse…[…]… Then they get candy; they are rewarded for violent behavior!

“As for the candy that spills out afterwards, each child is quickly grabbing as much as they can. Whatever happened to sharing? Not to mention that all that candy isn’t that great for your child’s health. And what about the shy kids, or the kids who aren’t pushy? They end up with much less than everyone else. Is that how they’re rewarded for their better behavior?”

Ms. Bartlemus’s theories would also ban football, soccer, hockey and basketball, as well as Easter egg hunts and bridesmaids fighting for the bridal bouquet. By all means, let’s teach children that everything is just given to them, and equally divided regardless of skill or effort. The shy kids aren’t being punished for “better behavior,” they are losing out because they aren’t playing the game. People like Bartlemus, if they get the upper hand, will kill more than childhood and fun. They’ll kill initiative, ambition, determination and personal responsibility too. All with the best of intentions, of course.

And it all begins with the no-hit piñata.

12 thoughts on “No-Hit Piñatas and the Killers of Childhood

  1. The title was enough. But your writing usually has something more to say than I already thought of. So I read on. Until I got to Bartlemus’ anthropomorphism. And I began to cry, to sob, to wail — oh, my stars and garters … that pooooor animal.

    Isn’t it unethical to spoil children’s fun by making them feel sorry for their toys and shamed for their games’ sake?

  2. Well done, Jack. I whole heartedly agree –

    They’ve banned tag at my school, and nobody there has ever even heard of murderball (another name for dodgeball –

    And, while I’m on the subject, here’s one you’ll like. I learned last week that kindergartners at my school are forbidden unstructured play time. (I’m subbing for a teacher on maternity leave and will be working with these little ones for the next four weeks.) Everything during the day is geared toward the collection of DATA. How can you collect and triangulate DATA on play time? You can’t. So, bye-bye fun and frolic.

  3. Would it be acceptable to have a pinata that broke open with individually distributed candies in bags, for everyone to get an equal amount of candy? Even if it’s not as fun, it would be fair.

    Also, I would love to buy one of those and break it open in the most violent way possible.

  4. I got a no-hit pinata for my 4-yo daughter’s bday party- it was Disney Princess (bleck). Best part about it? CORRUGATED CARDBOARD. After the ribbons were ripped off and everyone gathered everything out of the grass (why bother with blindfolds on small kids?- but I digress), we WHACKED THE CRAP OUT OF IT. And guess what? It survived to be done the same way the next year, sans the ribbons. I used wrapping paper to close the small hole in the bottom formerly to be opened with those ribbons. It didn’t take long, but again, MORE WHACKING. So there is value to these puppies, esp. since they’re made in China/Taiwan from serious cardboard and so heavy-duty they can take a *real* beating with a *real* bat. SO worth my $20, not only for the happiness it inspired the first year, but the next. ALL the actual Tex-Mex paier-mache pin~atas of my Texas youth couldn’t have taken what this one already has. And it’s getting hung on a tree again this June- year THREE!

    I also cringe at the idea of whacking the crap out of Nemo at a party where everything- plates, cups, napkins- is Nemo, but honestly, watching all those kids give the PRINCESSES a beating didn’t make me bat an eyelash. An since they’re still smiling happily in my basement, I’m feeling a bit ethical about it. Perhaps I’m anti-princess…

  5. Clearly, we need to call this to the attention of the Mythbusters. There’s nothing they can’t reduce to shreds or rubble, using the most violent methods imaginable.

    Or maybe even the U.S. Marines; I recently saw a bumper sticker with nothing but the Marine Corps seal and the slogan “When It Absolutely, Positively Has To Be Destroyed Overnight.”

  6. Tom, if actual full-sized Marines did a few pushups on it or used their issued boots on it, it might not survive. But small girls with an aluminum little-league bat had a ball and it survived. At least 2 times. And saving the whacking took the candy incentive out of it- the WHACK was the only fun the kids were having!

  7. By all means, let’s just ban pinatas (bane of existence that they are) and old party games like “pin the tail on the donkey” or “musical chairs.” Someone might get hurt! Or,worse, their feelings hurt! Or worse, create some odd affinity to the rump of of donkey!!

    While we’re at it, let’s bag: Soccer (running around trying to kick the ball away from some other nice kid). Baseball (actually using a hard implement to connect with a pitched ball). Archery (rarefied but still practice at killing someone. Basketball (once upon a time a “no contact” sport). Ice hockey (name 15 players who have all their teeth). And even races… someone’s got to come in last, poor guy/girl, and we all know that real Marathoners are short-lived.

    The world is full of competition. Played right, sport for young people teaches values, not cheating strategies. It also sets them up for the real adult world. NO EMPLOYER views the Pinata as a “pull the string and everybody wins” tenet. (If you know of a Fortune 1000 company that uses this approach, please enlighten me.)

    Pinatas — the real subject here — are an imported, moronic, ridiculous party game. Ban then if you want to, because they are frustrating, stupid games. But don’t give me any crap about how games and sports of any kind have bad influences on our children.

    Hey! Here’s an idea! Take the birthday group to a baseball game instead! Have with you someone who can really explain the game. Might take a little more organization than the ol’ Pinata dodge, but your kids might have fun and learn something, too!

    Pinatas are clearly for lazy party-givers. There are a thousand ways to engage kids — and they don’t require pinatas, or hiring some creepy clown/magician/balloon animal maker. Write me back for ideas… But DON’T denigrate pinatas (and therefore sports in general) because you just can’t get the blasted thing open.

  8. Better yet: Make your pinata in the likeness of Hugo Chavez, Che Guevara or Ken Salazar. Take a video of the kids whacking the hell out of it and post it on YouTube. Now prepare for the onslaught of Raza Unida, MSNBC, the ACLU, CITGO representatives and the Forest Rangers. Tell them you’re trying to uphold the Latino flavor of the tradition. See how far it gets you!

  9. “A blindfolded child is led up to some poor helpless papier-mâché animal hanging off a tree by a string. They have a stick or a bat in their hand, and they proceed to whack the animal with all their might.  Other children are cheering on the fight. When the piñata is broken open, candy spills out. Everyone rushes to grab as much candy as they can. It’s every kid for themself. Doesn’t sound like such a good party game when it’s put like that, huh?”

    No, it doesn’t. It sounds like an AWESOME party game when you describe it like that.

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