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How to Throw a Carnival Theme Birthday Party

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Sadie threw a carnival-themed birthday party for 3 of her sons that was a hit. She shares advice on how to create your own carnival party.

Carnival theme parties are always a hit—and games are essential.

Carnival theme parties are always a hit—and games are essential.

Welcome to the Carnival!

What better way to celebrate a birthday than with a carnival? A carnival-themed party is an easy DIY party that provides lots of fun for everyone! It will take some planning to pull it off, but the smiles, laughs, and good times will be well worth the effort! A successful carnival party should have at least four games, fun, themed food, a fabulous fair-inspired cake, and, of course, tickets to trade in for prizes!

I will give you ideas for six different activities and games to provide for your carnival-going guests, a menu of simple fair foods to offer, and all the other little details that will ensure that your party will be the talk of the town!

Let the Games Begin!

Games are by far the most important part of a carnival party! Some ideas for games and activities include:

  • Milk Bottle Toss: I created this game by collecting quart-sized buttermilk jugs and spray painting them a bright red. I printed out blue "milk labels in a free carnival font and used Mod Podge to affix the labels securely. You will need about 6-8 bottles in total. Fill them with some rocks, sand, or water to help stabilize them. Add a bucket of plastic balls and a table, and you are ready to go!
  • Feed The Clown: Nothing is better than the old stand-by bean bag toss, especially for the youngest party-goers. Grab a large piece of foam board, get out your markers and channel your artistic side! Draw your best clown and cut out circles where his mouth should be or as juggling balls. Lean your board up against a wall or add a second board to the back to create an A-frame. Add your bean bags and get tossing!
  • The Balloon Blaster: This was by far the hit of the party! It was so easy to make and so fun to play! All it takes is a large piece of foam board, cardboard or wood, and lots of little water balloons. Blow up lots and lots of balloons—and then blow up some more. In rows, attach your balloons to the board using push pins. Set the board up off the ground a little—we used an easel—and grab a few darts. Put all of your extra balloons in a bag and set them beside the game so you can replenish them as needed. Don't forget the parental supervision on this one!!
  • Ping Pong Ball Toss: I remember games like this as a kid. I always came home with a little goldfish from the school carnival! This one is simple to make and more challenging than you might think! You will need about 12-16 containers. I purchased small glass bowls from the candle section of my local dollar store. Fill them with colored water and set them neatly on a small table. Set out a basket of ping pong balls and let the fun begin!
  • The Guessing Booth: Find a few small jars and fill them up with some favorite treats such as M&Ms, Goldfish Crackers, or Hershey Kisses. Set them on the table with some entry forms and a large jar to hold all of the guesses. Whoever comes closest to the actual amount wins the jar! Just don't forget to count the treats first!
  • Watermelon Eating Contest: Simple and Messy fun and perfect for cooling off on a festive summer afternoon! Cut a couple of watermelons into large equal chunks—in half, and then each half into fourths is a good size. Then it is just ready, set, EAT! Whoever eats their part the fastest wins the prize!

Keep reading to see pictures of each of these activities!

Bringing It Together

Once you have your games made and in place, there are a few little details that can help bring it all together.

  • Create matching signs for all of your games.
  • Assign a ticket award to each game: one ticket for popping a balloon, a ticket for getting a bean bag in the hole, two tickets for knocking down all the milk bottles, etc.
  • Ask other parents to help "man" the games and pass out tickets.
  • Have a basket, bag, or roll of tickets at each station so that no one runs out.
  • Keep a timeline in mind for when the games will end, and you will move on to ticket redemption, cake, or presents.
A fun carnival-themed cake, complete with candy barrels and icing ice cream cones!

A fun carnival-themed cake, complete with candy barrels and icing ice cream cones!

Let Them Eat Cake!

No birthday party would be complete without cake! You can go a variety of ways when it comes to cake—popcorn or cotton candy cupcakes or clown ice cream cones, to name a few. I chose to go with a simple, yet still very fun, carnival cake.

I made a 6-in cake layer for the top and surrounded it with Kit-Kat bars to create a candy barrel filled with M&Ms. This barrel sits on top of a two-layer 9-inch cake frosted in white with ice cream cones pressed into the sides and filled with icing "ice cream," then topped with sprinkles and an M&M cherry!

In our house, this was a joint birthday party for my three sons, who share August birthdays. I also made them each their own personal clown cakes using a dome cake, buttercream frosting, and an inverted ice cream cone hat. You can see these pictured below.

Personal clown cakes

Personal clown cakes

Don't Forget the Food!

Food is an important part of a party—at least it is for my kids! And at a busy carnival, you will need simple and easy foods that can be eaten quickly or carried along as the kids play the games.

Fun Food Ideas

  • Boxes of air-popped popcorn
  • Fruit kabobs
  • Cups of cotton candy
  • Juice boxes and water bottles
  • Veggie trays

Line a table with brightly colored cloth and label it the concession stand! Open and ready to serve!

A huge armful of prizes

A huge armful of prizes

On to the Prizes!

It's not a carnival without prizes! Remember all those tickets the kids earned while playing their games? As the party comes to a close, it is time to wrap up the games and start turning those tickets into prizes!

  1. Set up a special table with various boxes of toys and trinkets. Think of things you might often include in the guests' goody bags: boxes of crayons, matchbox cars, candy, pencils, notepads, foam fliers, etc.
  2. Assign each prize a ticket value and allow the kids to come to the ticket store to exchange all of their tickets for the prizes of their choice.
  3. This is also a good time to announce other winners—such as those from the Guessing Booth Game—and hand out bigger prizes, like to the winner of the watermelon eating contest.

Happy Celebrating!

And that is it! If you throw a carnival party of your own, I would love to hear about it!

© 2014 sadie423


dontaytte from Palos Hills on March 22, 2014:

Great hub. I will have to try this for my kids birthday

Tirralan Watkins from Los Angeles, CA on March 22, 2014:

Wow, great hub and tutorial. We went to a 5-year-old's carnival birth party last year and it was the best kid's party we'd ever been too. Your ideas are great! Congratulations on HOTD!

Bernadyn from Jacksonville, Florida on March 22, 2014:

I love this idea, congrats on HOTD! My son had a carnival-themed birthday party last year and this makes me want to have it again. Great job on the cake, too, so creative. :)

RTalloni on March 22, 2014:

Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for this themed party post!

Sangam Krishnamoorthy Ramamoorthy from India on March 22, 2014:

I am from India. This birthday article reminds me of the sweet memories of my childhood. In India we do celebrate birthday parties both at tender ages till we grow up. Thanks for this visual treat.

Bernie Ment from Syracuse, NY on March 22, 2014:

Nicely done! Well deserved HotD! Too bad I don't have kids or I might be able to put some of these ideas to use.

swilliams on March 22, 2014:

Very creative! And Cute! I love the ice cream cones. What A colorful Hub!