Since our son is not particularly into any characters or themes, we decided to throw a carnival themed party. Part of our decision was based on the idea that we could have several games for the kids to play and parents could move from game to game as they pleased.
We handmade our invitations to look like an admission ticket, similar to the cheap ones you get at carnivals.
It was an outside birthday (so there would be enough room for the carnival games) so we decorated the backyard.
Everywhere there was a game station we took large pieces of posterboard, cut them in interesting shapes and wrote the name of the birthday carnival games on them. We added colorful streamers to the posterboards to decorate them even more.
We created all of our own games as well, and they were the big hit of the party. Here are the 5 games that the kids liked the most.
We had leftover fish bowls from our wedding which we filled with water. We laid out a sheet on the ground and put the bowls on the sheet. The kids lined up and waited their turn to throw ping pong balls at the bowls.
Anyone who got a ping pong ball in the bowl won a prize. (Not real fish, but plastic fish toys we found online. Way happier parents than if we were handing out real fish!)
No we didn't toss real lizards! This was a bean bag toss game using lizard bean bags. We made bean bags with fabric that had lizards on them. We sewed the bags into squares and filled them with navy beans.
I took a large piece of cardboard and drew balloons onto it, then cut out holes inside the balloon drawings. I stapled the cardboard onto a frame made of old 2x4 boards.
The kids threw the lizards (bean bags) through the holes. Whenever anyone got their bean bag through a hole they won a little plastic lizard. We got a bunch of them in different colors very inexpensively. The kids had so much fun trying to win every different color of lizard.
For the 3rd game we did a football theme. We tied a hula hoop to the clothesline. Around the hula hoop I made big signs out of posterboard that said, "Are you a Football Star?"
The kids threw a miniature Nerf football through the hula hoop to win their prize. The prizes were little football stickers.
For a 4th game, we filled 2-liter soda bottles with water and food coloring so they were really bright and colorful.
The kids threw "donuts" (they were really shower curtain rings) at the top of the bottles trying to ring them. Whenever the kids got one on they won a ticket redeemable at the dessert table. We had little treats set out so they didn't get too much of a sugar buzz.
The kids really liked this carnival game because they got sweets as the prize!
The final game was a baseball pitch. We used old plastic puff containers (from our 1-year old's snack puffs).
They were filled with a couple rocks to keep them weighted down a little, then stacked 3 in a triangle. Kids had to throw plastic waffle balls to knock down all three containers.
They got baseball stickers when they won this game.
Overall the games were a hit, but the kids tended to go from game to game all at once instead of a few at a time. As parents we wanted to see them spread out doing all the games instead of packed up waiting in line.
But it's just like kids to change things up. They didn't mind waiting and I think half the fun for them was seeing how everyone else did with the games too.
Overall it was a very successful carnival-themed party. As well as the games we had normal birthday party food like pizza, sandwiches, chips, etc. The main focus was definitely on the birthday carnival games, and that's what the kids enjoyed.
The most popular of these games were the lizard toss and the donut holes. The kids were very into what the prizes were. It was like one kid decided he had to get all the different colors of lizards and the next thing we knew all the kids had decided the same thing!
The donut holes prize being candy made it really, really, really popular. We had to police it a little. After a kid got more than 5 pieces of candy, we started making piles for them of their other winning candy loot.
At the end of the party they got to take home the party favor bag with all the candy and prizes they won. If parents aren't watching though, the candy prizes could have gotten out of hand. 5 pieces of candy plus the birthday cake was enough sugar for the kids.
What we learned is the prizes made all the difference in which games were most popular.