Carnival-themed birthday parties are popular because they work for any age group, casual or formal parties and almost any budget. The specific games you choose to include should depend on how many guests you plan to invite, how long the party will last, how much help you will have and the age group of the guests. Include the birthday celebrant’s favorite carnival game, if at all possible.
Hide several coins in the bottom of a child’s wading pool filled with sand or jars filled with beads. Give the children a time limit to see how many coins they can find.
Cover a small table or large piece of cardboard with colorful paper, such as wrapping paper. Use glue or Velcro to attach bottles or jars. Have the kids try to toss the coins inside the containers. Use a variety of sizes if you want to give out different prize levels.
Use thick masking tape to create a tic-tac-toe grid, or draw the grid on a large piece of cardboard. Have two different colors of beanbags if you want to make it an interactive game. The game contestant who can get three beanbags in a row wins.
Draw or paint a large picture of a lion on a piece of cardboard; or cut out a large picture and glue it to a piece of cardboard. Cut a hole where the lion’s mouth is. Select a throwing distance, and have the kids throw beanbags into the lion’s mouth to feed him.
Ring Toss Games
Draw an elephant’s face and ears on a large piece of cardboard or wood with a small hole cut out for the trunk. Stick a vacuum hose through the hole to represent the elephant’s trunk. Bend a wire or hang a string to keep the trunk upright. Give your guests small rings to toss onto the elephant’s trunk.
Small bottles, empty paper towel holders, jugs or bowling pins can be used as targets for tossing rings. Use plastic or wood rings, children’s toy rings, sturdy bracelets or even teething rings to toss on the objects. The rings shouldn’t be much larger than the objects, unless you’re trying to make the games easy for younger kids.
Games with Balls
Build a pyramid of cans, bottles or other containers with a little bit of sand or water in them to help steady them if necessary. Give the kids a softball or baseball to try to knock the containers over. Beanbags can be substituted for balls.
Set up a piece of cardboard or plywood with different sized holes cut out. Throw different balls, ranging from ping pong or golf balls to baseballs and softballs. Getting the biggest ball through the smallest hole deserves a larger prize than a small ball through a large hole.
A small putting course can be set up with “mouse holes,” which are three small holes, each larger than the last and each large enough for a golf ball or ping pong ball. Your guests can putt the balls through the holes, with the smallest hole awarding the best prize.
Wet and Messy Games
Cut face-sized holes in a large piece of plywood and set it upright. Allow guests to throw cream pies or wet sponges at a volunteer’s face, limiting the tries to two or three per game contestant. Prizes can be awarded, or the satisfaction of hitting the target can be reward enough.
Place ping pong balls on top of various bottles or glasses. Give your guests water guns to shoot the balls off the bottles. Limit guests by time or by one refill per game.
Carnival booths, such as dunking tanks, can be rented from some party supply stores. Consider a bounce house for younger children. Set up booths for food or snacks as well, including hot dogs, nachos, cotton candy, churros, snow cones and lemonade.
Ask your friends, family members or neighborhood teens to volunteer to help run different booths. Give each helper a shirt or apron to wear, such as red-and-white stripes, to distinguish them from the guests.
Give guests small prizes for winning a game or give them raffle tickets that can be redeemed for prizes at the end of the party. Include different levels of prizes for the difficult games. Prizes can include small toys, candy, costume jewelry or anything appropriate for the age group of your guests.
Don’t forget to reward your helpers with a prize, gift or treat, such as a gift card.
- carnival games image by Janet Wall from Fotolia.com