Create a Carnival Party for your very own Greatest Show on Earth

A Carnival Party is a flexible option- it's great as an indoor or outdoor party, and can be just as much fun with small or large party groups! As always, think about the number of children you wish to invite, the space you have available and your budget.

My favourite carnival party was thrown by one of my best friends for her daughter's 7th birthday. She had about 25 kids at the party (aged around 2 to 15), as well as the usual family and parent guests. She transformed her back yard into a magical carnival, complete with home made fairground booths, wonderful carnival party food and had everyone joining in the fun- much to the delight of the children.

Top Three Carnival Theme ideas

Carnival Party Invitations

Carnival Decorations and Carnival Craft

Carnival Game Ideas

Carnival Food Ideas

Top Three Carnival Party Ideas:

  1. Have a range of game booths and carnival food booths.The party guests go around the booths at their leisure, playing and eating as they go.
  2. Have a range of games booths and food booths. Give each guest a number of tickets. They exchange each ticket to play at each booth, and for party food. This allows you to have more control over the number of prizes given out and the amount of food eaten by each guest.
  3. Have a range of games booths and a food booth. The party guests play the games and are given tickets for successes. The guests can exchange their tickets for a prize at the end of the party- the more tickets, the better the prize. Open up the food booth when you are ready for the guests to eat.
Once you have decided what type of carnival party you are having, it's time to get the party organised.

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Carnival Party Invitations
Carnival Tent Invitation
My favourite carnival party invitation is shaped like a carnival, or circus, tent. You lift up the tent flap and the party details are revealed. It's easy to make. You just need two pieces of coloured card, or heavy paper. Cut one slightly narrower than the other- this will be the flap. Draw a box big enough to fit all of the party details, but smaller than the flap, onto the larger piece of card. Fill the box with your party details using a bright colored pen, not forgetting your RSVP details. Use marker pens to draw the stripes of a typical carnival tent on the flap, and in the space around the box on the larger card. Use double sided tape, or glue, to stick the flap over the larger piece. Bend the flap back a little just to create the crease.

Carnival Ticket Invitation This is a popular invitation for carnival themed parties. You just need some thin card, market pens and scissors. Cut out ticket shaped rectangles, about 8 inches (20cm) long and 4 inches (10cm) wide. Using a brightly colored marker pen, draw on edge around the ticket to give it definition. Next, write out your party details in the centre of the ticket.

To follow this theme, when your guests arrive at the carnival party you could give them a wrist band to allow them to access all the fun. These are real easy to make- simply cut out strips of brightly colored paper. Put a piece of double sided tape at the end. Voila- you have your own party wrist bands.

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Carnival Decorations and Carnival Craft
Banners and bunting can be used to dress the house or garden to create a carnival party atmosphere.

Brightly colored helium balloons look great. If you are outside, tying them on trees, or fencing, can create a great look. Tip: if it's windy, keep the balloons away from anything prickly- I once tied a whole lot of balloons in my front yard for a party, not even thinking about how windy it was outside. By the time the first guests arrived, every one of the balloons had burst as the wind had thrown the balloons around onto the prickly branches of my pyracanthia - and wasted $35! Inside, anchor balloons with weights, or tie onto chair backs.

Regular balloons can also be used. I like to have these scattered about on the ground, and the kids tend to pick them up and start playing right away- they are a great ice-breaker for any party.

I prefer to have the party plates, table decorations and napkins all brightly colored, using reds, greens, yellows and bright blues, to keep the theme true.

Clown Piñata
Piñata are great fun, especially if you having your carnival party outdoors. You can buy lots of piñatas that would suit a carnival party. If you want to make your own, here's a clown design idea for you. To make a simple clown's face piñata you will need:
1. A large balloon (inflated and tied off)
2. Lots of newspaper torn into strips
3. Paste, made up of flour and water. This is pretty easy to make, just mix a cup of flour for every cup of water and stir to get our as many lumps as possible. If you find the paste is too thin, add more flour. If too thick, add a little more water
4. A ping pong ball cut in half
5. Red tissue paper
6. Yellow wool, or string
7. Colored marker pens
8. Two pieces of strong string, knotted at one end

To make the clown piñata body, dip strips of the newspaper into the paste, remove any excess paste and stick the strips onto the balloon. Smooth the strips down to remove any air bubbles. Overlap the strips until they fully cover the balloon. Repeat this until you have three layers covering the balloon. It now needs to be left to dry. Put the covered balloon away from heat and on a surface that won't be marked by the paste.

After a few days, when the paper mache is absolutely dry, you can complete your clown.

Paint the body surface with a white coloured post paint. Leave to dry, then add another layer of white paint. While this is drying, cover the half ping pong ball in red tissue paper- this is the clown's nose. Cut some of the yellow wool, or string, into 6 inch lengths- this will be the clown's hair. When the paint on the clowns face is fully dry, cut a small flap opening at the top of the clowns head, just big enough to use to fill the head with candy. Remove the balloon and dispose of it. Make two holes on either side of the flap, large enough for the strong string to thread through. Next, stick the lengths of yellow 'hair' all over one half of the painted head, carefully covering the flap area, but allowing the flap to be opened easily. Overlap to create a wacky hair style. On the other half, we need to draw the face. Use marker pens to draw the eyes and the smiley clown's mouth. Stick on the ping pong ball nose using glue. Allow to dry. Draw on two rosey red cheeks to complete the face. Cut some four inch lengths of wool, or string, and stick this on top of the clowns forehead area to form a 'fringe'.

Take your two pieces of string (knotted at one end only). and thread the string through the holes at the top of the head.

Allow the glue to dry thoroughly.

Fill with candy and hang. You're ready to go!

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Carnival Game Ideas
There are lots of carnival game ideas that are easy to create. The carnival games will be an important part of your carnival party theming. Set the carnival games up as booths and this adds to the carnival party theme. For an easy booth, simply drape a sheet, or banqueting roll, over a table. Make a brightly colored sign, using paints or marker pens stating the name of the game and attach this to the sheet (I usually use safety pins to attach the signs).

Hoopla Game
Buy, or borrow, a set of plastic or wooden rings. Arrange various objects on the table top, such a plastic bottles, dolls or teddy bears- anything that is unbreakable and that the rings will easily fit over. If a person gets a ring around an object they win.

A variation on the above is to have small prizes placed on the hoopla table, including bags of candy, small toys, boxes of pencils (avoid wax crayons in the summer heat). If the child gets his or her hoop over a prize, that's what they win.

Duck Pond Game
This is a great game. You just need a small plastic wading pool, 25+ plastic ducks and some small prizes. To set the game up, inflate the pool and add water, filling a third to half way. Using an indelible marker pen, write number 1 on the bottom of one duck, five number 2's and number 3 on the rest of the ducks. Let the marker pen dry, then place the ducks in the water. The child has to pick one of the ducks. The number on the bottom of the chosen duck will determine the prize (the best prize for number one). Safety point: You'll need to make sure this water game is supervised all the time if there are young children about.

This is my variation on the bowling- which is great fun at a carnival party, and is ideal for indoors or out. You can either buy plastic or wooden skittles, or make your own. If you want to make your own, collect 15 soda bottles (same size and shape). Add weight to the bottles buy filling one third full with sand, or water. Make sure you screw the lids back on tightly, as these bottles will get knocked over a lot! You will also need a medium sized plastic ball (don't use a basketball as this is too heavy). Set up skittles, like in a bowling alley: 5 at the front, 4 behind, then 3, then 2, then 1. Place a marker to show where each bowler has to stand. The kids roll the ball and see how many skittles they can knock over. You can keep score like in bowling, or you can just give a prize (or tickets) to whoever gets all the skittles down.

Variation: Table top bowling
Blow a ping pong ball through a straw and try to knock over mini skittles (yogurt drink containers are the ideal size).

Toss the Bag
You need bean bags and a target. The target can be carnival themed, for example a clowns face. The object of the game is to throw the beanbag onto the clown's nose. If you do this you get a prize, or tickets. You can also have minor prizes, or fewer tickets for getting the bean bag anywhere on the clowns face.

Coconut Shy
This is a classic game, and one that really makes a carnival party seem authentic. You need coconuts, something that they can be knocked off, and three bean bags. For this game I have used soda bottles, cut the tops off them, wrapped them in brightly colored paper and filled them with sand for stability. You them place these around the table, and place one coconut on top of each bottle. Party guests are given three bean bags to try and knock a coconut off the bottle using a bean bag. If they knock off a coconut using one of their three attempts, then they get a prize (or tickets). This is great fun- and not as easy as it looks!

Face Paints
Kids love face paints and you can set up a face paint booth to add even more color to your carnival party. You can't do everything yourself, so ask one of the parents to volunteer as face painter, have a good selection of face paints and plenty of tissue- and you're all set! If your budget will stretch you could even hire a professional face painter to come to your party.

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Carnival Party Food
For me, carnival party food should be simple and fresh. Hot dogs, bags of popcorn and snow cones or popsicles, make excellent foods and keep to the carnival party theme. Add cotton candy and candy apples and you have the perfect carnival party menu.

Hot dogs are great for carnival party food. The kids can pick one up from the food booth or table. Just leave out plenty of napkins, ketchup and mustard.

Cotton candy really makes a carnival party. You can buy bags of ready made cotton candy, or if your budget will stretch to it, hire a cotton candy machine. If you hire a machine, set up a cotton candy booth, and hand out cotton candy on sticks- just like at a real carnival!

Candy or caramel apples are delicious for any party. I prefer caramel apples, as I love the gooey caramel topping. To make your own carnival caramel apples, you'll need:
4 medium sized apples
4 popsicle sticks
6 ounces of caramel candies, unwrapped
15ml of water
A tray lined with parchment paper

Melt the caramel candies and the water together over a low heat. Wash and dry the apples, and insert a popsicle stick into the top of each apple. Once the caramel has melted, dip each apple and swirl to coat. Shake off any excess caramel, and place, bottom down, onto the parchment paper. Put into the refrigerator to set (usually about an hour), and bring out when ready to serve.

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