Roll up, boys and girls
A carnival theme can be as elaborate or as simple as you want to make it - as long as it's noisy and colourful.
For the annual extravaganza that is your child's birthday party, step right up folks (drum roll, please!) for a carnival. Carnivals have always been about people coming together to celebrate, have fun, play games, eat, drink and have a jolly good romping time. Basically anything goes. Think bright colours, bunting, stripes, 50c lolly bags, toffee apples, candyfloss, popcorn and of course balloons, games, prizes and dress-ups.
Get the date locked in with invitations that spell F-U-N. You might use a big top tent invitation where the invite is shaped like a tent and the party details are revealed when you lift up the flap. Or issue ticket invitations, where the invites look like tickets for carnival rides. To continue the theme when your guests arrive give them a wrist band made out of coloured paper to allow them access to all the fun.
Setting the scene
Banners and bunting can dress the house or garden to create a carnival party atmosphere. Bright balloons always look great and, if you are outside, tie them on trees or fencing. Or scatter them on the ground, where the kids can pick them up and start playing with them right away - they are a great ice-breaker. For a traditional carnival look use reds, greens, yellows and bright blues for the plates, table decorations and napkins.
If you want to go all out you can make your own striped stalls or create a tent by hanging fabric from the ceiling. For something simpler set up activity areas with hula hoops, apple-bobbing buckets, lemonade, popcorn, hotdogs, hamburgers and sweet stands.
Encourage the guests to wear bright colours and throw a bowler hat, clown wig and nose into the mix for a bit of fun. The kids can come as gypsies and pixies, remember anything goes. If the party is for a birthday boy dress him up as the ring leader, or for the birthday girl make her the all-powerful, magical, mystical fortune teller or maybe a trapeze artist.
Our young guests got into the swing of it in gear from www.punkbaby.co.nz.
Fill pretty party bags with animal biscuits, sweets, yoyos, toffee apples, clown noses and for a healthy twist pop in a crisp green apple.
There are lots of game ideas that are easy to create. Visit the $2 shop for a selection of carnival prizes the kids can play for.
Setting up games booths adds to the carnival party theme. For an easy booth, simply drape a sheet or bright wrapping paper over a table. Make a coloured sign using paints or marker pens and attach.
Hoopla game: Buy or borrow a set of plastic or wooden rings. Arrange various objects on the table top, such plastic bottles, dolls or teddy bears - anything that is unbreakable and that the rings will easily fit over. The first child to get a ring around an object wins.
Duck pond game: A great outside game, you need a small wading pool, 25 or more plastic ducks and some small prizes. Half-fill the pool with water, and using an indelible marker pen, write "number one" on the bottom of one duck, "number two" on five and "number three" on the rest of the ducks. Then put them in the water. Each child picks one of the ducks and the number on the bottom of the chosen duck will determine the prize (the best prize goes to number one). Obviously, with young children about this game will need to be supervised at all times.
Bowling: You can either buy plastic or wooden skittles, or make your own out of drink bottles which you fill to one third with sand or water. You will also need a medium-sized plastic ball. Set up the skittles like pins in a bowling alley - five at the front, four behind, then three, then two, then one. Place a marker to show where each bowler has to stand. The kids roll the ball and see how many skittles they can knock over. You can keep scoring the same as for bowling, or just give the prize to whoever gets all the skittles down first.
Face-painting: Ask one of the other parents to volunteer as face-painter, have a good selection of face paints and plenty of tissues and you're all set! If your budget will stretch you could even hire a professional face-painter to come to your party.
Fortune Teller: Everyone loves magic so ask one of your friends to dress up as Madame Rose and have the kids cross her palm with chocolate coins, while she sits in a little tent or corner draped with curtains. Madame Rose of course sees in their future good school reports, happy days, tidy rooms and nice manners.
Bobbing for apples: Drape a table with a cloth, get a bucket of water, some apples and a parent to supervise and you are all ready to have the kids bobbing for apples, probably best to do this before the face-painting!
Open up the food booths when you are ready for the guests to eat.
Carnival party food should be simple, fresh and as colourful as possible. Hot dogs, hamburgers, bags of popcorn, lollipops, home-made lemonade, cupcakes and sweets keep to the carnival party theme. Add candyfloss, toffee apples and jelly cocktails and you have the perfect colourful carnival party menu. Our treats looked great in partyware from www.dollyrockets.com.