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Carnival Themed Birthday Party Plan: Ideas, Activities, Games, Party Favors, Carnival Party Supplies & and More!


Inspiration for your child's next birthday party

Are you and your child looking for a unique and fun birthday party theme that all of their friends will be absolutely crazy for? Consider throwing a Carnival Themed Birthday Party for your child!

Reasons to have a Carnival Theme Birthday Party:

  • Unisex Party - Perfect for the child that has many friends of both gender. (What little boy likes getting a Pink Princess goody bag?)
  • Customizable for any budget; be as frugal or as extravagant as you want.
  • Great Summer Party Idea - Host your party outside in your back yard or even a park. If you're considered about getting 'rained-out', pick an alternate rain-date for the following weekend, or hold your party inside in a rented hotel conference room (also perfect for a winter/fall party).
  • Endless possibilites for fun activities, delicious food and fun entertainment.

Ready to get started? Let's go!


Decorations & Setting Up Your Carnival Atmosphere

Decorations for a carnival party or endless. You can be as extravagant or as frugal as need be and still create a wonderful ambiance that creates an "at-home" carnival atmosphere.

Color Scheme: Aim to use bright, vibrant colors. Reds, blue and yellows will work best.

  • Balloons - Use carnival themed colors such as red, blue and yellow. Use TONS of baloons for a fun carnival effect. Bunch theme together and combine different sizes for a fun display.
  • Crepe Paper - Layer crepe paper and twist to create crepe streamers. Run along the edges of all tables.
  • Either rent or purchase several canopy tents to use for your food serving area and prize booth.
  • Set up speakers around your yard or party locations and loop classic carnival calliope that will give the ultimate carnival feel to your party!
  • Use red, blue and yellow colored cups, napkins, plates and table clothes. Or, consider using a carnival themed "Under the Big Top" place setting package available at amazon.com

Carnival Birthday Party Game Ideas


Carnival Games

Depending on your budget, you can either build your own games, rent them or purchase them (how about a dunk tank?). Remember, most of your games need to have a prize ticket value so your guests can earn tickets for prizes at the end of the party!

  • Duck Pond - A carnival classic! Use a mini swimming pool filled with a few inches of waters and place 12 rubber ducks that have numbers 1-12 written with a permanent marker on the bottom of each. Allow each child to pick three ducks and give them prize tickets that correspond with the number on the bottom of the ducks. After a child has selected his three ducks, place them back in the pool, rearrange and let the next child have their turn.
  • Bean Bag Toss - Either create your own bean bag toss, rent or purchase one and award tickets that correspond with the holes that each bean bag lands in.
  • Candy Bingo - Print off your own bingo cards on the computer, or purchase them. Write all the possible numbers on little pieces of paper and pull out of a bag. As you call them off, have the children mark off each spot on their card with a piece of candy. For younger children, create your own clip-art bingo card with circus animals and call off animal names instead of numbers.
  • Musical Chairs - Award prize tickets to children as they are eliminated from the game. The first child gets 1 ticket, the second gets 2 tickets, and the last child will get 8 tickets (if you have 8 children playing).
  • Ticket Hunt! - Hide your prizes tickets all over the party area. Let your guests run wild to discover as many tickets as they can! Hide them under place settings, under chairs, behind game stations, etc.
  • Lucky Place Setting - Write a random number (1-10) underneath all of your party plates. Before the food is served, have the children sit down and announce that everyone should look under their plate. Distribute prize tickets accordingly dependent upon the number.

Carnival Treats

Carnival food is essentially the "icing on the cake" for your carnival themed party!

Instead of a traditional birthday cake, consider offering lots of carnival treats for your guests, instead. You can rent popcorn and cotton candy makers from any event company, however if you're looking to save some money, try these tips:

Popcorn - purchase some classic popcorn bags and fill ahead of time with microwaveable popcorn. Easy and very affordable!

Cotton Candy - instead of renting a cotton candy maker consder purcasing already made Cotton Candy. Wal-Mart typically carries cotton candy for sale. You can also purchase a cotton candy maker online at a pretty reasonabl rate.

Candied Apples - Purchase some candided apples from your local apple for or from your local grocer. They are a wonderful carnival treat!


Carnival Activities

There are tons of activities to choose from when planning your child's Carnival themed party! Here are a few ideas:

Face Painting - Most children enjoy getting their faces painted and almost anyone can learn how to face paint. Make sure to buy safe, non-toxic face paint that is approved for children. Practice drawing designs on the back of your hand. Keep it simple! After you've come up with a few designs that you can draw well, paint them on a poster board and use it the day of the party. Tell children that they must pick an image off of the poster board. Some ideas: hearts, clouds, rainbows, flowers, stars, cat whiskers and a pink nose. Make sure to gain permission from parents before using paint of their child's face.

Guess How Many - This is a simple, fun activity that kids love. Dedicate a table and use three clear plastic jars (for variety, try using different sizes). Fill one with pennies, one with gummie bears and one with Hershey's kisses. Allow each guess to wager three guesses, one for each jar. Record each guess and at the end of the party, present each jar of goodies to the guest that guessed the closest amount without going over!

Pin the Nose on the Clown - Draw an image of a clown on a large piece of posterboard. Omit his nose! Cut out different colored circles from cardstock and put a piece of tape on the back. Blindfold each child and have them attempt to place the nose in the correct place. The child the comes the closest wins! Distribute prize tickets depending on level of closeness to the nose, or to make things more fair for younger children, give each guest that plays 5 tickets and the winner 10 tickets.

Prize Booth

Using a Prize Booth at your Carnival will stir-up excitement and anticipation for children as they arrive. It should be set up as the focal point of your party so the children will know that at the end of the day, they can turn in their earned tickets (earned from your games and activities) for fun prizes. Children love prize booths as they can select the prizes that they want from a large selection chosen by you.

Tip: If you use a prize booth, do not feel obligated to also provide party favors in loot bags for your guests. Just make sure that there are plenty of prizes to redeem for tickets at the Prize Booth!


Get creative! There are so many things that you can use for prizes and luckily party favors are pretty affordable. There are many places online to find fun party favors that match your theme. Or, try looking at the dollar store for a wide assortment.

Ticket System:

  • Purchase a roll of tickets to distribute throughout your event for winning prizes and other activities.
  • Give out fabric bags or large goody bags for your guests to keep their earned tickets in upon arrival. Make sure to write the names of each guest on the bags as they are bound to get mixed up.

Decorate Your Gift Bag Station: It's great to have an activity to occupy children that arrive earlyuntil everyone arrives!

  • Set up a bag decorating station and provide fabric markers for guests to decorate their bags and write their names. (Paint and glue-on items such as rhinestones take time to try to your guests need their bags throughout the event).
  • A cheaper alternative to using fabric goody bags and fabric markers is to simply buy paper gift bags that have a non-glossy or shiny surface and allow guests to decorate with non-permanent markers and stickers.

Ticket Redemption

Organized prizes by size and category into baskets. Make cards that say how many tickets each prize is in each basket. For example, 1 pack of candy might cost 3 tickets. A stuffed animal may cost 10 tickets. A sticker could cost 1 ticket. Make sure that your games give out the necessary number of tickets for each game to ensure that your guests will be able to afford your prizes "prices"!


Optional: Hired Entertainers

If you have some extra money in your budget, consider hiring a child's birthday party entertainer.

Do a google search for what's available in your state or look in your local phone book under entertainers. Typically, there is a wide variety of talent, anywhere from a singer that can perform children's songs or a clown who can face paint and make animal balloons on request!


birthdaybash on September 14, 2012:

Great ideas. Thanks for sharing.

Tina Potts-Foley from Louisville, Kentucky on April 14, 2012:

on the canopies the frames are pvc and the canopy itself are crib sheets dyed green

lptyni on January 24, 2011:

I was planning one this year for my daughter you have a lot of great ideas,I wanted to know what are the names of the little tables you have up top and were can I buy them??? Thanks

bradleyfox on December 09, 2010:

Wow! Indeed kids would love this kind of party.

charmstotreasure on July 06, 2010:

My favorite types of get-togethers! YOu can get carnival kit ideas online, like for Jerry's kids, just a tip :)

invita from Tampa, FL on June 16, 2010:

This is a great idea. I will keep that in mind for my kids upcoming birthday parties.

CAROLYN on May 29, 2010:



Shan on May 10, 2010:

Pottery Barn...No longer for sale:(

girly_girl09 (author) from United States on April 13, 2010:

I apologize - I have no information about the tents in the photo as it is a stock photo. They are very cute, though!

BabyZoe09 on April 13, 2010:

I absolutely love the tents with green canopies. Did you make them?

Katrina on April 13, 2010:

Where did you find the tents you used with the green canopies or did you make them?

Debbie Gee from California on August 24, 2009:

wonderful ideas..

Debbie Gee from California on August 24, 2009:

Nice Hub with good info...


girly_girl09 (author) from United States on April 29, 2009:

I have done one before for a friend's child (I do part time party planning) and it was SO MUCH FUN! It'd also make for a fantastic fundraiser for a school, church, etc.

Al Hawkes from Cornwall on April 29, 2009:

This is absolutely brilliant, what a wonderful idea.