Tag Archives: carnival birthday party


Themed Carnival Bean Bag Toss

DinosaurLittle kids love the old-fashioned bean bag toss game, and you can customize this carnival game favorite to almost any party theme. And, you can easily make it with a big box, posterboard, markers or paints and inspiration from the internet.

If your birthday party theme is a carnival- you’re good to go from the get go.

Any other theme, just find clip art on line that projects your theme and is sufficiently stylized for easy reproduction without much artistic talent. That means, it’s mostly geometric with block colors so it can be easily sketched and colors filled in to result in an image that works with your theme. Honestly, how hard would it be to reproduce the dinosaur graphic I used here? Buzz Lightyear might require some real artistic talent, but look and you WILL find cowboys that you can reproduce. Dinosaurs, Hello Kitty, Dora, Blues Clues… same goes for just about any other theme you can think of. BTW, this is a good ‘together’ project with your birthday child- you may end up doing the drawing but they can work with you to choose the image.

Obviously, this is a birthday party game for the preschool set.

Get a large cardboard box from the appliance store and posterboard for your graphic image. Once on the posterboard, glue the image to your box and figure out where to place your holes for the game. I suggest like 3 holes of different sizes worth different points to introduce an element of competition. Whether anyone wins in irrelevant- it just makes it more fun for the kids to THINK it’s competitive. Cut out the holes through both the posterboard and box with your exacto knife. All that’s left is the bean bags.

Dig out or get from friends some fabric scraps. Dig out your sewing machine or get good strong fabric glue at the craft store. Stitch or glue up your bean bags filled with white beans (easier to clean up than rice if the bags break).

Here’s a tried and true preschool age game that you can tie directly to your party theme with a minimum of artistic ability- your critics here are not reviewing your gallery show for the New York Times!

Pirate Photo Prop

Pirate Photo Prop

Pirate Photo Prop

Use one of these very reasonably priced photo props at  your next kids birthday party and you’ve got party fun taking the pictures and your party favor all taken care of!

There’s a photo prop for just about any kids party theme you can think of– pirates, princess, surfer dudes, safari, luau, farm, football, race car driver- just scroll through all the pages on Amazon and you won’t believe how many of these things there are  to choose from.

Have a helper to upload and print out the results so they’re ready to hand out as your party favor when your guests leave. Make sure you’ve got the glossy photo paper on hand for printing the pictures. And if your guests are young, your helper can help keep order as they get their pictures taken.

Alternatively, use the pictures as your thank you notes instead of party favors. Print the photos out on the glossy photo paper and use mounting corners to attach the photo to the front of your blank note card (so it can be removed and saved by the parents).

As either a party favor or as personalized thank you notes, these photo props are a fun addition to your kids birthday party.

Themed Circle Game

Kid Circle GameThis is one of the preschool birthday party games that’s as old as time but that still plays well. You may have forgotten about this preschool party idea, so lets bring it back into daylight. Always remember that the preschoolers at your party weren’t around when we were kids playing this game, so it’s all new to them!

Have a small prop of some kind that reflects your theme. A pirate bandana for a pirate birthday party. The crown or tiara for your princess birthday party. A stuffed animal for your safari party or jungle party. A ticket for your carnival party. This works with virtually any party theme. You’ll also need a bandana or handkerchief for a blindfold.

Have the kids sit in a circle with the birthday child in the center, blindfolded. You join the kids in the circle for this first round that shows them how to play. Place the themed prop in front of the blindfolded child. Carefully and quietly, sneak up and take the prop away and hide it behind another child’s back, all the while silently ‘shushing’ all the kids in the circle. Then ask the child in the center of the circle to remove their blindfold and choose who took the prop- all without moving from the center of the circle. Once the child guesses the thief,  the thief goes to the center to play the game again. Let them play as long as they’re interested, then move on.

Simple instructions to follow, quick moving, this has all the prerequisites for a preschool party game.

Outdoor Tic Tac Toe

Tic Tac ToeTake a simple game like Tic Tac Toe and outsize it for outdoors and that new spatial dimension gives you a birthday party game with a whole new twist.

Even preschoolers know how to play this easy game on paper, so they’ll take to the big version with no trouble and little explaining. And the younger the kids, the fewer directions you want.

There’s several ways you can set this up outdoors.

  • If you’ve got a nice long driveway, use chalk to draw the boards.  Have two kids at a time play using stones that they toss from a distance away – sort of a cross between tic tac toe and hop scotch, but without the hopping part. Mark where the stones land with X’s for one child and O’s for the other.
  • If you don’t have enough space for many repeats of the game, get a few sheets of posterboard, draw on the game boards, and cut X’s and O’s out of construction paper to use as the game pieces marking where the kids stones land.
  • Lay a game board out on the grass with ropes or duct tape or 2×4’s and have them toss tennis balls of different colors to play the game.

This is a perfect birthday party game for a carnival themed party, but you can also switch things up with  themed game pieces you’ve made out of clip art and the game now fits perfectly with whatever theme you’re using.

So add oversize Tic Tac Toe in to your games for any outdoor party for kids from preschool age right on up through about age 9 or 10 – just make the distance they toss their stones longer so the game is harder if they’re older.

Knock ’em Down

Knockdown GameEvery carnival has the KnockDown game with the baseball and the big stuffed whatevers– and you can include it as one of your birthday party games at your next party. Perfect if yours is a carnival themed party, but it can be tweaked for just about any theme with a little computer art on the tin cans to be knocked over.

Use tin cans rather than soda bottles as they are MUCH easier to re-stack for the next player. Just print out your theme graphics, cut to the height of your cans and wrap your clean cans with the graphics as if they were a label.

Tweaking this game to your theme is easy. Animal face graphics on the cans for a jungle or safari party. Cowboys hats for a cowboy party; aliens for a Star Wars or space party; Disney princesses for a princess party; pirates for a pirate party. You get the idea.

Obviously best played outside, you just need something to set the targets up on, and the baseball or tennis ball. A 2×4 stretched between 2 sawhorses works well. So does a card table or any other kind of table that can take a little abuse is it gets hit with the ball.

Check the throwing distance ahead of time with your own child to get a handle on what kids that age can do. Lay a rope on the ground or use a 2×4 or a yardstick or even just a line drawn with flour on the grass.

Give each child 2 or 3 throws, and score by how many cans get knocked over. Have either a helper re-stack after each throw or have the kids do it when they’re not throwing.

This game shows up at every carnival and midway because it’s fun, and your party kids will enjoy it. At no cost to you and no prep either, it’s one of the easiest games you can include in your next party.

Homemade Skee Ball

Skee BallI ran across a post about making a Skee Ball game out of a pizza box and cardboard, and it got me thinking about this terrifically fun arcade game and how to adjust it for kids birthday parties. And you know what- you can!!

In any arcade, these skee ball games always draw the younger ones because they can manage it and score once in a while. And of course, the shorter the lane, the more probable that they will score and the more fun they will have.

With a shorter distance ramp, the round circles become unnecessary– all that’s needed are holes or cups for the ball to go through to score.

Invest some time putting this together and you’ll have a great birthday party game. Plus, you’ll have a game to play at home afterwards.It’s surely perfect if you’re having a carnival themed party.

Decorate your game with clip art relevant to whatever your party theme and it will be a super addition to your fun.

All you really need to make this game are a ramp with a lip that will ‘flip’ the tennis balls into one of 3-5  cups at different distances from the lip for different scores. Looks like bottomless plastic beer cups work perfectly with the tennis balls. A handy dad might really enjoy putting this together out of some scrap plywood or heavy cardboard. A very handy dad might love this more authentic homemade skee ball project. While the pizza box construction actually used software and a computer to keep score, all you really need are the kids who aren’t currently playing to chase the balls that either miss or go through the cups and to keep the score on a newsprint sheet you’ve taped to the wall.

I’d recommend having your party kids play and score this game in teams– so nobody gets their nose out of joint if they’re not very good at it.

Help really young (i.e. preschool) players to score with a much narrower ramp up to the lip, so the balls don’t have as much chance to get ‘off-course’.

More of a time than money investment to make this to use as one of your games, but a big payoff in terms of party fun AND you’ve got it to use afterward at home for fun with family and friends.

Ring Toss

Circling the Prize

Ring Toss I posted a few weeks ago about the old fashioned Ring Toss game that you can use at a carnival themed party. Now I’ve run across this variation that you can use with a variety of different party themes just as successfully. All you need are the rings to toss, a floor and plastic tablecloth to toss on and something to toss at. Simple. The rings pictured here from Amazon give you the whole game to use at other times and are quite reasonably priced. Should you make a purchase through this link I make a commission which seems quite fair to me.

Use this as a game during your party OR as a game to hand out your take home party favors for the kids. You can keep it really simple and just use candy as the prize or you can ‘upgrade’ to a simple toy the kids will enjoy that corresponds to your party’s theme.

Array your prizes around on the tablecloth that’s smoothed out on the floor. The prize must be small enough that the ring can easily slip around it when thrown from a distance.

Decide ahead of time where to put a line they must stand behind to toss the rings to ‘circle’ their prize. Use masking tape or a yardstick on the floor to demark the line. The harder you make it, the older the kids can be and still enjoy the challenge of the game. Give each child 3 rings to toss to try to snag their prize. Once they’ve circled their prize, move on to the next child.

Preschoolers and young elementary school age children, i.e. age 6 to 8,  enjoy simple games like this where they can test their ‘skill’.


Racetrack Game

Racetrack A fun game for up to 6 kids at a time- take them to the races!

Make it matchbox cars for the boys or horses for the girls, they can even race cars against horses in this game and it will still be a fair race.

Their game pieces (the cars and/or the plastic horses) can be their take home party favors.

You can get fancy, but only if you want to, and make a 6 lane race track out of plywood and paint. But, all you really need is a roll of wide white paper and markers. If you can’t find a 24″ wide roll, use the 12″ wide and tape 2 piece together the long way to get 24″. Make your track about 6 feet long.  Mark out your 6 lanes, the start and the finish, and divide the remaining space in each lane into 12 spaces (I’ve used just 10 here in the illustration):


If using a paper track, place it for the game on a hard surface like the floor- not on a rug where it will tear much more easily.

You need two different color dice- one to determine whose turn it is NEXT and one to tell how many spaces they can move. I suggest making all 2’s and 4’s (on the dice that determines how far they can move) be ‘backwards’- meaning they have to move their game pieces backwards 2 or 4 spaces, instead of forwards. If these are the rolls at the start- that game piece stays in the starting gate until their next turn.

Start the game off with the player in Lane #1 rolling the one die that determines who gets to roll. That player then rolls both dice, moves his  or her game piece and passes the roll to whichever player’s number was rolled by the dice that determines who rolls next. Repeat as necessary until one of the game pieces crosses the finish line- the winner.  If they’re enthusiastic, let the winner stay in the game with the next bunch of players.

Include this as one of your party games for your carnival birthday party, but it can also be adapted to a variety of party themes by changing the game pieces: dogs for a Scooby-Doo party, other plastic animals for a safari or jungle party, plastic kittens for a Hello Kitty party, monkeys for a luau party- you get the idea.


How to Juggle Carnival Game Station

Juggler Your circus or carnival birthday party doesn’t have to be limited to pre school age kids- most of the games that fit with this theme are still good fun for older kids. And here’s one they’ll have a great time with. Teach them all how to juggle!!

Not you- but your laptop set up to play  a YouTube  “How To” video for the kids. This one shows how to juggle 3 balls in easily understood terms- of course, understanding and executing are two different things, but that’s where the fun comes in. Got a teenager who can watch the video and learn how to do it? Have him or her run the juggling game table and give the lessons instead.

You’ll need to provide the kids with the proper balls to follow along with the video (or the teenager), in small groups of two kids, no more than three. You can find the sand or bead filled balls recommended for juggling at Amazon. You’ll need one set of balls for each child in the group- so that’s 2 or 3 sets. These are not only the correct weight and size, when dropped- and they WILL be dropped A LOT- they roll away less, so more time can be spent learning to juggle and less time chasing the balls.

I suspect this game station will be a very popular one at your carnival or circus birthday party, so put your kitchen timer out on the table and limit each group to 10 or 12 minutes. That way, everybody will get a chance to try to juggle.

Toward the end of your party, when everyone’s had a chance to practice, have a juggling competition. Have each guest pick a number out of a hat, and have numbers 1, 2, and 3 start off (assuming you’ve got three sets of juggling balls). Whoever drops a ball is out, and #4 takes his place, etc, on through the group. The last one standing is the winner – and gets to take a set of the juggling balls home as his or her prize.

Juggling is NOT something they get to do every day or at every party, and that alone makes it well worth including in your kids party games for your circus or carnival birthday party.

Popcorn Cart

Carnival Popcorn Cart

Popcorn Cart One of the staples of any carnival or circus themed event is the popcorn cart. Colorful, flavorful, and just plain fun. But there’s no need rent one of these babies to get the full effect. With an empty cardboard box, plastic wrap and masking tape, paints,  glue and paper plates, you can create a table top model of the popcorn cart for your at-home carnival or circus themed party. And it won’t take you that long to do it.

Decorate your cart in non-carnival type colors and/or graphics, and you’ve got a great birthday party decoration for almost any birthday party theme you might be using.

Get a good sized box, approx 2′ in length and obviously less wide. Cut ‘windows’ in all 4 sides of the box, leaving a good 2-3″ of cardboard around the edges to give it some strength. With masking tape, stretch the clear plastic wrap as tight as you can and tape it to 3 of the 4 sides, leaving one of the big windows open for serving up the popcorn for your guests.

Before attaching your paper plate wheels to the box, decorate it. Paint on red and yellow stripes with your child’s paint- 2 coats will probably be necessary to cover any graphics or text on the box. On the top margin above the windows, paint on “Popcorn 5 cents” (use the cent sign) in white or black (or whatever strikes your fancy).

Paint 2 large or 4 small paper plates a contrasting color- maybe blue for the red and white striped cart- and glue them onto the box as fake wheels.

Fill the box with the popcorn you’ve made your favorite way in the kitchen or purchased from the grocery. Be sure to print out and make these cute popcorn bags to serve up your popcorn for the kids.