Sunday, June 1, 2008

Best circus party ever

Well, in retrospect, the theme really should have been a carnival party, rather than a circus party, as any elephants, tigers, trapeze artists and other big-top attractions were sorely lacking, however, the carnie atmosphere permeated everthing.

Guests were greeted at the door and given a paper bracelet that read "Admit one • All games" on it. Tad's parents then offered them a balloon animal (they had practiced creating hats, swords and a basic animal shape -- they were quite good), then they were shown into the back yard to begin the fun.

(bracelet as shown on young party guest's wrist as she plays the duck lasso game)

I showed them their goodie bags, each marked with their names. I told them that this party was not one where they would simply be given goodie bags at the end, but that they would have to earn their prizes. As they did, they had a ready spot to stash their loot.

We had five games that the kids played to earn tickets with which to "purchase" prizes:

  • Ring Toss (shown below), a lawn game that I picked up at Freddie's for 40% off. They got four tries and were given that many tickets.
  • Duck Lasso, with floating ducks that kids tried to lasso out of a galvanized metal tub. When they got a duck, they turned that duck over to find a number (1 to 3) and were given that number of tickets.
  • Clown Dunk. I hung a laminated clown face in a tipped over wastebasket and invited kids to try to bean him with a collection of water balloons that I'd spent party of the morning filling up.
  • Go Fish. This was a magnetic fishing game I got for the boys at Target many years ago and which they never really played with much. My carnie counted to 30 while the children tried to get as many of the fish as they could.
  • Bottle Splash. Party goers tried to knock over number of plastic drink bottles with super soakers.

One last game was the Candy Count. Kids could guess the number of pieces of candy in a jar. The guesses were written on tickets, so they could have multiple guesses, if they wanted.

I was very gratified to see how quickly the kids dived into the games and really got into the spirit of things. Of course, the big reason why they got jazzed so quickly over the games was that the tickets they earned could be redeemed for candy and toys at the concession stand, below.

My husband, Tad, manned the concession stand. You can see him spinning the cotton candy above (note: cotton candy does not keep well if you spin it and let it sit -- it attracts moisture and dissolves! You can save it in ziplock baggies, if you need to). Over the last few weeks, I picked up little things I thought kids would be interested in wherever I could find them cheap. Century Novelty was a good find. I got foam glider kits, body glitter, squirt guns, clown noses and other little things from them. At other spots, I picked up lip gloss, puzzle sets and a bunch of assorted candy. Some sparkley headbands with mylar flowers and technicolor feathers were a huge hit with the girls. Tad found some great party favors at Target and brought home wooden snakes and whoopie cushions. I sorted things into various baskets and marked them with tags that let the guests know how many tickets would be needed to redeem each item. Small pieces of candy were worth one ticket. The foam gliders and lip gloss were relatively luxurious and worth five tickets each.

Once kids got the idea, they dove into each game enthusiastically, quickly filling up their goodie bags (below).

A lot of the fun of the games goes to my enthusiastic "carnies," who are known, in their other lives, as the kids' grandma, grandpa, Uncle Johnny and godmother Sarah. They were great and kept the kids going from one fun activity to another.

My boys, above, are looking over the concession stand. Later in the party, the kids would virtually wipe it out (which was good -- I didn't need the sugary leftovers in the house afterward!).

I polled several of the kids after the party and even the most jaded of them pronounced the party a great success!

Thank goodness it's over for another year, though. And what a relief! I love the backyard birthday party (last year the boys had voted for a bowling party, which was not nearly as much fun for me to plan) and am soooo glad that this one was so successful!


lethappinessgrow said...

I'm planning a circus/carnival party for my 3 year old niece, and your post helped out soo much! I had thought about giving the kids tickets and having different games, but i hadn't even thought of letting them redeem the tickets for prizes!! GREAT IDEA!! I will be going to the $1 section at wal-mart and stocking up on cool gifts!!

lethappinessgrow said...

*$1 section at Target!!

Molly said...

Great! I'm so glad this helped! Yes, our kids went nuts about the fun little prizes...