Below are lots of suggestions for Carnival Party Games and Activities suitable for a Carnival theme party or kid's birthday.
For other Carnival birthday ideas including suggestions for party invitations, food and drink, and Carnival party decorations, check out my Carnival Party page.
Here's a great tip from Martha Stewart (see pictures below) for how to create side stalls and booths for the Carnival party games below. Just raid your linen closet for colourful sheets, beach towels, and blankets (or pick up some cheap fabric by the roll) and hang these from ropes or clotheslines tied between trees.
Then all you have to do is create homemade signs for each of the Carnival party games below to hang on top. Alternatively, you can buy some of these ready-made Carnival signs (USA only) for a couple of dollars each.
One idea is to have the kids play individual Carnival party games to win tickets or tokens. You could use these cheap Bingo chips (which come in bags of 500) or a roll of Star tickets (available in different colors) as the tokens. Both are available here (USA only, UK visitors see here).
Then you can set up one big prize stall where they can redeem their tokens at the end. You can stock the prize table with a whole range of different size prizes and treats with different values (ie a large plush toy could be 10 tokens, whereas smaller items might need only one or two tokens). This way they can choose what they win and even leave with several prizes of different value. See here for a range of toys and novelties (USA only) which could be used as prizes for these Carnival party games.
For other games, such as sack races etc, you could use these 1st, 2nd, 3rd place and honoree mention award ribbons, or these winner buttons as prizes. See here for both (USA only).
Cut a large picture out of cardboard to act as the target, ex a clown face with a hole for the mouth. Then let the kids try to toss bean bags into the clown's mouth from a distance.
Alternatively, if you don't want to make this yourself, there are lots of variations of these Carnival party games available to buy from simple canvas pouches (below left), inflatable ones (below center) and clown print stand up options (below right).
See here for a full range.
Attach lots of balloons to a cork board and use darts to see how many they can pop. Have a stock of spare balloons already blown up so that you can replace any that they pop quickly and easily.
Stack up tin cans in a pyramid and use rubber balls to see if they can knock them down. Alternatively you can buy this
Carnival themed version which includes the tin cans and bean bags.
The Ring Toss is a bit more exciting when the kids are actually trying to get the ring over a particular prize, so set up some small plush toys raised up on blocks. Alternatively you could just use simple objects such as wine / soda bottles (but remember to weight them down so they don't fall over when a ring hits them).
There are several variations of these Carnival party games that you can buy, such as a kit that includes rings, stakes and flags (below left), an inflatable ring toss game (below center) or this cute Big Top elephant themed ring toss game (below right). See here for these items.
Set up a kids padding pool with lots of rubber ducks. Mark the bottom of some of the ducks in advance to indicate how many tickets they win (ex, none, one, two, etc). Give the kids fish scoops to try to catch a duck while blindfolded.
Lay out different targets on a table (or on the ground) and have the kids throw a penny to try and get it to land on the target.
You can theme some of the Carnival party games such as this one even further by applying these Carnival stickers to each target (just make the targets out of cardstock) and write on the back how much each one is worth.
Set up a row of rubber ducks and let the kids use a super-soaker to try to shoot them off. Alternatively, you could use ping pong balls balanced on golf teas (stick the teas into a block of Styrofoam).
Pick up this classic muscle man peep-through photo board or this general Carnival themed one and use it for photo-ops. Both are available here.
Use the same muscle man peep-through plastic photo board (above) and let the kids toss a wet sponge to see if they can hit each other (or a parent!) in the face.
Let the kids see if they can toss a ball into a basket from a distance. Alternatively, use this inflatable 3 in a row game.
Use this pack of 6 potato sacks to hold sack races and award prize ribbons to the winner and runners up.
One of the more classic Carnival party games which isn't as easy as it sounds. Let the kids see if they can drop a clothes pin into a glass jar while holding their arm straight out in front of them. You can pick this up here.
Balance coconuts onto wine / soda bottles (weigh the bottled down first) and let the kids see if they can knock them off with tennis balls.
Set up some glass jars / tumblers and let them try to throw ping pong balls into them.
This inflatable hot potato game (USA only) is so cute. It comes with a music CD with 33 minutes of kid's songs. That should keep them busy for a while!
Have a parent or sibling dress up as a fortune teller and read the kid's palms and dispense fortune cookies. Or use one of these standees to create your own fortune telling booth as part of the Carnival party games.
This kit is a great little activity to include in your games. It includes 6 hats with various stickers, pom pom and foam attachments for everyone to decorate their own clown hat.
Fill a selection of boxes with different objects and have them reach in to see if they can identify what's inside just by feeling (remember to include lots of different textures and some gooey, smiley things that kids will love).
These coloring activities are perfect for indoor parties or if it ends up raining on the day. Either color your own Carnival scene (USA only), or color in a Carnival themed paddleball game (USA only).
Another great option for a rainy day is this Big Top party game / quiz which you can download and print at home.
Set up some skittles for bowling, or make your own using soda bottles.
Let the kids play at being the Strongman by making some fake barbells using black balloons or Styrofoam balls sprayed black. Add the weight (ex, 100 lbs) to the balloons / balls using white cardstock.
Use a Sharpie to paint lollypop sticks in different colors. Have each color correspond to the number of prize tokens they will win (ex, Green = none, Red = one, Blue = two etc). Have lots of the lower number colors and less of the higher ones.
Then, cut out a cardboard tree (or use this cheap cardboard tree stand up, below left) and make numerous holes in it so you can slot the lolly sticks through. When viewed from the front you should only be able to see the head of the lollipop on the tree, not the stick. Have them take turns to pick a lolly to see what they win.
Set up a photo booth with lots of different props such as moustaches, monocles, top hats etc and use these Carnival style signs (USA only).
Fill a large jar with jelly beans or other small candies and have the kids try to guess how many there are.
There are various ready made games available such as this Carnival spinner (below left), disk drop (below center) and a knock 'em down game (below right). See here for these and lots of others.
A simple variation of 'Pin the Tail On', this 'Pin the Nose on the Clown' version ties in nicely with these Carnival party games.
Finish off your Carnival party games with a Carnival themed pinata, such as these Big Top or Clown Pinatas.
Were these ideas for Carnival party games helpful? If so, check out my other page of Carnival Party Ideas which includes suggestions for birthday party invitations, food and drink, and games.
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Matt James is a professional party planner and owner of event agency DNA Productions, which has produced events for Elton John, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kevin Spacey, Stella McCartney, David LaChapelle, John Waters, and Elvis Costello & Diana Krall. Since 2004, DNA has won 24 industry awards for excellence including Production Company of the Year.
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