How to have a carnival or circus theme birthday party for kids
Go ahead and "Admit one": you'd love to bring back yesteryear with an old time circus
party. You can go for the classics with bunting, pennant banners, circus peanuts,
colorful canopies, circus tents, and swirly carnival pops. Your little lion tamer will love a
classic carnival party you pull together by juggling these ideas:
- Make merry with a merry go round! Host a Carousel Horse party! See the sweet
carousel party items with horse party decor, food, favors and games. Now that's
how to eat, drink and be merry any time of the year! A carousel party theme
must have music, so choose Worlizer music.
- Carnival pops. No carousel party theme would without carnival pops. Any swirly
vintage style sucker will do: long twisted lollipops or the classic rainbow variety
pictured left. You'll find swirl pops and striped straws to match any party color.
For a circus party favor bag, choose a specially printed popcorn bag.
- Floss your teeth with candy floss. Cotton candy, or candy floss as it is sometimes
also called, is a staple at carnivals yet so easy to make yourself from home. And
you'd be surprised that cotton candy really doesn't contain as much sugar as
you think. And kids love watching you make cotton candy. Here's our favorite
cotton candy maker.
- Serve Carnival Snow Cones. Nothing beats snow cones or slushies for a hot day
and for a carnival party it's standard fair.
- Put up a circus tent: Make the focal point of your party a circus tent. Several play
tents are available online, pictured right. They'll make a great gift for your child
and serve as decoration for the party.
- Invite some fun with these carnival party invitation and wording ideas:
- You're Invited to The greatest Birthday Show on Earth!
- Step on up to wish Madelyn a Happy Birthday on Saturday, August 22, at
- Join us Under the Big Top at: 123 main street
- RSVP: Ring Master Mary or Strong Man Larry at 867-5309
(Stuff an "Admit One" ticket for each invitee at the address.)
- Make them work for peanuts. Spangler's offers a classic circus marshmallow
peanut that's a must for your party. They are orange in color, peanut in shape,
and banana in flavor. Sather's circus peanuts come in a bag two for a dollar that
you can use for invitations. It takes only a computer, some staples and a bit of
ingenuity to cover the label and hand deliver some amazingly clever invitations.
Setting the scene for a carnival party
Your little class clown wants a party, and you can give him the best little party under
the big top. Stick with a party of mostly red, yellow and blue and juggle with these fun
carnival party ideas:
- Hang sheets to the wind: Take a clothes line and section off party games by
hanging colorful bedsheets you find in a thrift shop in red, blue and yellow. See
the look in parents magazine.
- Clown around: Gather up some carnival party favorites, like a clown nose,
online. You can dress the part and have fun making kids smile. Give the kids
each a clown nose in a fun way. Before the main event fill a bucket with confetti
and clown noses, and place it strategically so that it's visible, but high enough
so the kids can't see the contents. Gather the kids for the show to get them
excited and tell them that they are a red hot audience and that you need to
cool them down for the show. Pretend that you've misplaced the bucket of
water. Then grab it suddenly and douse the audience with the confetti and
clown noses. Kids will scramble and giggle. Now the show is ready to begin!
- Have a main attraction: Host the party at a gymnastics facility, have a puppet
show, rent a bounce house, hire a magician, a juggler, or a clown with face
painting and balloon making. Pony rides are another fun addition. See also our
carousel horse party ideas. Visit your local high school drama department to
solicit inexpensive talent.
- Cage your favorite plush toys: Create a train of boxes into a circus wagon parade
of your favorite stuffed animals. Cut windows into boxes and affix circles to the
bottoms to resemble wheels, then paint in colors to match your theme and
allow to dry. You might find six boxes and spell C-I-R-C-U-S with one letter per
car. Your child may also add a few circus stickers to complete the look. This
decoration will serve as a toy long after the party is over and is a fun way to
involve your child.
- Put your other animals in the circus too! Put out the circus toys you may already
have. Suspend a tiger plush with fishing line from a hula hoop with flames you
make from construction paper. Put a bear, lion or elephant on an upturned
bowl. Place an inflatable ball on a seal's nose.
- Have a cake walk: Ask family for help baking a few small cakes and packages of
cookies or supplement from the bakery. Or fill carnival prizes into boxes that
look like a cake. See left.
Cakes and cookies and circus foods for the big ring!
- Tame the beasts with cake. Your little lion tamers will love the circus lion cake,
above left, by Wilton. It's sure to get a roar of applause. Another fun option is
what Wilton describes as a "perky pachyderm," left. The sweet elephant cake is
made from a stand up bear pan, which you can also use later for a teddy bear
- Shower them in confetti sprinkles. A crowd pleaser for any carnival theme party is
the use of nonpareils, colorful baking confetti, and rainbow jimmies (try Mr.
Sprinkles). Dip pretzels in a candy coating, then roll them in these colorful
tidbits. Bake sugar cookies, then load up with icing and sprinkle them with these
rainbow treats. Bake a confetti cake surprise! Just make a regular box white
cake or use your favorite angle food cake recipe, and add a quarter cup of
sprinkles. Here's the family fun recipe. Or have an ice cream social instead of
cake. Make home-made ice-cream cookies and roll the edges with sprinkles.
Whipped cream, Mr. Sprinkles, and a cherry on top does the trick for a banana
split. Bake a few cupcakes for those expecting tradition and douse them with
- Go for the big ring. Set the scene at the table with edible placecards. This idea,
from Wilton, right, is candy: Big Top Candy Place Cards.
- Mix it up. Classic clown cupcake picks aren't just for cupcakes, use them to
skewer up other appetizers.
- Give some zing to popcorn. Make a mix of sweet and savory treats. Try Popparazi
Gourmet Popcorn, which has a rainbow mix of flavors that includes Cherry,
Orange, Vanilla, Blueberry, Lemon, Strawberry, Banana, and Watermelon. Set
aside another bowl of cheddar cheese popcorn or make a party mix.
- Corn dog it. Consider corn dogs as a special treat, instead of hot dogs. They
come in party sizes and are easy to reheat in the oven. Placed side by side with
hot dogs, they will be the first to go.
Circus Party favors and prizes
Kids have come to expect a favor bag or treat even if you've awarded a generous
selection of carnival trinkets as prizes, so reserve at least one nice item to thank party
goers for attending. Here are some ideas:
- Get down with the clown: Give the classic Bozo the Clown Rocket. A mini Bozo
bop bag will be a fun reminder of the day's activities.
- Stuff them with Fluff. Buy cotton candy in bags instead of renting a cotton candy
maker. Fluffy stuff is just $9.60 for a package of 12 and a lot less messy and it
makes an easy party favor.
Circus games and activities
Circus games at this kids party are a must. If you purchase rubber ducks, realize that
they won't necessarily float upright. Just keep that in mind if you plan a party game
with rubber duckies. Here are some ideas for carnival games:
- Set up various activity stations. Start with a ticket booth. Provide "Admit One"
tickets to party-goers for face painting, bean-bag toss, and other games and
activities. It adds an element of authenticity to your event. Each roll has 1500
tickets, and while you could divide by the number of prizes you have available
this really becomes a complicated process for the hostess. If you choose this
method, have some reserves to make everyone a winner or you will have some
sad little clowns.
- Set up a prize booth table. Circus pops are an easy treat. Kids can select their
size. Another fun idea is group candies by color and display them in empty jam
jars topped with a gingham cloth and rubber band or just some raffia and a
prize tag. A prize can be a jar of yellow lemon drops, orange gum drop wedges,
or red licorice. Other colorful ideas: a jar of bubble gum balls, spice drops, jelly
beans, or old-fashioned, swirled stick candy.
Here are classic ways to clown around:
- Bag the idea: Bean bags are easy to make, but why bother when they're just
$1.29 each available online with other goodies you'll need. Make your own bean
bag toss with paint and a cardboard box.
- Pound the nail game: With adult supervision, set up a pound the nail game with
a 2 x 4, a hammer and some nails. Set a timer and see how many nails kids can
drive into the wood in the allotted time
- Rubber ducky carnival game: Place rubber ducks in a kiddie pool at least three
more than the kids in the game. Mark each with a number. Set aside a
corresponding prize. Allow kids to scoop ducks with a net. Make every child a
winner. Use the remaining prizes for other games.
- Shoot the cans. Allow kids to test their skills with a squirt gun to knock over tin
- Toss around the idea of a ring toss game: Buy a ring toss game online, or use a
Hula Hoop to toss over a large stuffed animal.
Real Circus Parties
Thinking of clowning around with a Circus party? You can get party planning ideas by
visiting Web sites of moms who've already had a party like the one you're thinking of
hosting. Here are our favorite circus parties (bookmark our site and see them all):
Real Vintage Carnival parties...
Want to get into the vintage fun and host a carnival party? Here are even more
resources for your party planning. Real moms who've hosted vintage carnival parties,
show you how to party putting on the vintage charm:
- Vintage candy man party: Steal this idea from Emerson's Carnival Birthday:
display carnival pops in vintage milkglass vases (the kind found easily at thrift
shops). Mom planned the party well in advance and hired a photographer to
snap up adorable shots of the birthday boy in a vintage hat and licking a large
carnival pop. She turned the gorgeous pictures into invitations displayed
proudly at the party. Sugar was the first ingredient in the adorable candy buffet.
- Vintage Carnival Glamour! You'll find loads of ideas from this custom children's
party from Glamour Avenue Parties. The carnival candy table has a clever use for
disposable plastic tablecloths. As a table runner, these tablecloths help create a
vibrant carnival look in red blue and yellow.
- Polka dot vintage carnival party. Another real vintage circus party makes use of
colorful polka dot paper and vintage classic popcorn bags and Wilton circus cake
- Candy Circus Party: Join the candy carnival in this sweet candy circus party filled
with trinkets and candy in hues of vintage blue and red. The candy circus
collection is available at Shop Sweet Lulu. This is a vintage carnival party with a
Have party inspiration to share? Tell us about your circus party or vintage carnival
party and share party ideas with us on Twitter. Newly added is our carousel party.
We're always looking for cute birthday party ideas.
All about a Carnival party...
(C) Copyright 2009-2012 by M.C. Nygard. All rights reserved. Updated 9/28/12.
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