Digging through Pinterest for inspiration is the way I start most of my projects, especially planning for parties. In August after our family attended our hometown fair celebration, I knew the kids’ birthday party in the fall was going to be carnival-themed. The first order of business was creating a Carnival Birthday Party Pinterest Board for inspiration and to get my creative juices flowing.
Why am I thinking about an October party in August, you ask? Or at least my husband asks. To take advantage of all of the fun summer items that are being clearanced out, of course! Not to mention all of the school supplies that go on sale. Crayons, notebooks and pencil cases can make awesome gifts for goodie bags and giveaways!
For my family, fall means four birthdays (all four of us celebrate our birthdays in either September or October), birthday treats for school, Halloween treats for school and goodies to give out ON Halloween for all of the little trick-or-treaters that ring our doorbell. If I’m not smart about my planning, things start to get expensive and overwhelming, really quick.
See how I ended up putting everything together as I invite you into our home for our carnival spectacular!
I found a lot of cute carnival items from Oriental Trading Company. It gave me a lot of visual inspiration and game ideas. I also found this AWESOME site SchoolCarnivals.com that provides an A-Z list of carnival game ideas and an affordable online store for all of your carnival shopping needs. While I didn’t actually purchase anything from the site it was a wonderful resource for game ideas. So let me share some pictures!
For some of the centerpieces, I used bright fresh flowers in mason jars placed inside a cardboard popcorn container I scored at Hobby Lobby. I used absolutely no helium balloons for this party. All of the balloons were air-blown and then displayed on the plastic sticks you can buy from party stores or party websites. I loved them!
THE RIDES (well, ride. . .one ride)
What’s a carnival without a bounce house, right? Here’s the one I rented – normally, these inflatable companies charge per day, but I found a company in our area that rented them out for the weekend for an even more affordable price than the per day companies! The carnival directional sign you see in the photo with the bounce house was one of the items I ended up ordering from Oriental Trading.
I planned seven games for the party. Probably a bit aggressive but I knew I would have some friends and family there who could help run them. A few of the games were inside and a few were outside on our lower deck. Thank goodness the weather cooperated. Whew! Children could earn a certain amount of tickets at each game to trade in for prizes later. I tried to get some photos of the games in action, but because I was handing out tickets and manning the games myself, it was hard to be the photographer as well! I did the best I could for you. Here goes:
This was A LOT of fun. I was looking for an affordable prize wheel. The cheapest one I found was on Oriental Trading for about $20 but the reviews said it was kind of flimsy, etc. To me, $20 was still a lot to spend, regardless. I did some research and found this iPrizeWheel HD app in the iTunes store. For $5, this wheel can be customized both with color and labels and projected onto your TV for loads of party fun.
Each wheel segment was labeled with a certain amount of tickets (1-5) and a couple spots on the wheel were labeled 2 tickets + free spin, candy of your choice, etc. This was a guest favorite – both young and old”er”. I apologize for the not-so-great photo. We had to turn the lights down and my hubby just snapped a pic with his phone.
I found this Wooden Disk Drop Game on Amazon.com. It was a little pricey but it got great reviews so I ordered it. What a great buy! Guests each got to drop 4 chips and we totaled their numbers to determine the amount of tickets they were awarded.
I was able to put this game together on my own. I scored these plastic pails from Michaels when they were clearancing their summer items out. I used adhesive mailbox numbers to label the pails from 1-5. Guests each got 4 wiffle balls to throw into the buckets. The number of tickets they received corresponded to the number on the bucket that they successfully threw their ball into.
Did you know that you can order online from Dollar Tree and have them ship to your local store for free? I found these glass “fish” bowls on the Dollar Tree site for my goldfish toss game and knew it would be much more affordable than I could find in a thrift store. Each child got to throw 10 ping pong balls. For each ball they got in a bowl, they received three tickets.
Lucky Duck Lagoon
This was a fun game for the little ones. I ordered the ducks from Oriental Trading and they worked great. The inflatable pool I found on Amazon.com. Each child picked three ducks. The numbers on the bottom of the ducks were added up and that’s the number of tickets they were awarded.
Another great game for toddlers – take a look at how I created it. Each fish was numbered and kids were instructed to catch four fish. The numbers were added up and that’s the amount of tickets they were awarded.
My hubby helped create this game. I found a foam diorama set at Walmart that he glued together, rounded up four golf tees and grabbed a squirt gun from the garage to put this game together. The kids had 15 seconds to shoot all four balls off of the tees to earn three tickets. This was another favorite game of the day.
THE PRIZE TABLE
I found an array of fun prizes for the party. From bubble wands and activity books to punch balloons and bouncy balls. The kids had so much fun choosing their prizes, and I had plenty left over for classroom gifts and Halloween! Of course I’m still going to have to buy some chocolate. For the trick-or-treaters, of course.
Oh, the food. I actually had two food tables. A carnival food/candy table and a not-as-pretty normal food table. The carnival food table featured candy necklaces, Laffy Taffy ropes, Big League Chew, Twinkie corn dogs, Tilt-a-Whirl-Pops (Whirly Pops), caramel apples and individual boxes of popcorn.
The “normal” AKA boring food table had shaved beef and ham, hotdogs, a fruit platter, veggie tray, cheesy hashbrown potatoes, apple slices and confetti dip and a Dorito taco salad.
Here’s the fun table. Guest got a rise out of the Twinkie corn dogs. They’re just Twinkies on sticks with some red icing squirted on top to mimic the look of ketchup!
This was the boring one:
A SURPRISE GUEST
What’s a carnival without a bounce house? Well, what’s a carnival without a. . . clown?! Meet Howdy Twinkles. Howdy has been in the family for years now – his outfit is made out of bed sheets from the 70’s I believe. You can always count on Howdy to entertain the crowd. That day we had laughing, crying and just one or two freak outs. I think it was the high-pitched, squeaky voice that put some of the kids over the edge. Towards the end of his visit some of the kids started to warm up to him. My 5-year-old, Dane, in the Packer jersey still chose to keep his distance. I don’t blame him.
THE PARTY FAVOR
To thank our guests for coming, I made these fun goldfish-in-a-bag soaps. They were just the thing to wrap up the carnival party.
If you’re planning a carnival for your church or school event or want to have a carnival party for your kids, I hope you’re leaving today with some good ideas. All of the games created for this party will be used next year at our church picnic. So, for now, they’ll go into storage, but it will certainly bring a smile to my face next summer when I get to see more children enjoying them. A child’s smile and laughter make all of the work. . .worth it.