How Do I Throw A Backyard Carnival? A Complete Guide To Creating The Perfect Carnival Theme Party At Home

carnival theme party, How Do I Throw A Backyard Carnival? A Complete Guide To Creating The Perfect Carnival Theme Party At Home

Last updated on May 25th, 2022

Kids love carnival parties, and they’re a great way to bring everyone together – family, friends, loved ones – nobody will be able to stay away when they hear you’re throwing your very own backyard carnival at home! Think Hyde Park Winter Wonderland in London: THAT’S how popular this party is going to be! A carnival theme party is great for many different reasons, but today we’ll be focusing on throwing a carnival themed kid’s birthday party filled with carnival party decorations and carnival party games! Ready to read our complete guide to throwing a carnival themed party? Then get ready for an extravaganza like no other!

Let’s kick things off with an invitation!

To start with, let’s create some buzz around the party, right? When a carnival rolls into town, posters announcing its arrival usually come first, so let’s help get your guests excited with some carnival themed party invitations. 

You can send them out to all your kids’ friends, telling them the party theme, any ideas for dressing up, and of course the date and time that the backyard carnival will be starting! A carnival party invitation that screams ‘Roll up, roll up’ is exactly what we need to kick things off!

What’s next? Carnival clothing, of course!

Now, if you’re like us, then you’ll be excited for the chance to dress up and have all the kids dressing up in carnival clothes, too. But remember, this is ultimately a children’s carnival themed birthday party – not an actual carnival (although we will do our best to make it feel like one!). 

carnival theme party
Photo Credit:Sharon McCutcheon,LInk:Pexels

By that, we mean it doesn’t need to be too over the top. Some simple carnival party hats will work great to remind everyone why they’re here. And of course, some face paint or face crayons would be amazing too. Maybe ask another mum for support? That way, every kid at the party can have expertly painted carnival faces! 

How should you decorate your carnival?

Invitation? Check. Clothing? Check. Now, let’s get to one of our favourite parts: the decorating! You’ll need quite a few different pieces to create that exciting carnival atmosphere, but don’t worry, we are firm believers that decorations shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg, so everything on our list shouldn’t be too expensive! 


Our first idea is a circus directional sign, of course. Whenever you head to a carnival, there is always a sign pointing you in the direction you want to go. Us? You can usually find us by the food and drink, but we always like to know where the carnival party games are too once we’ve eaten our fill.

It’s a small touch, but placing a carnival directional sign by the entrance to the party helps create that feeling of excitement we all remember so well from attending carnivals as kids. 

Circus lighting 

The thing we remember most about carnivals is the lighting. They always dazzle and impress. Well, now your backyard carnival can too! Circus party lanterns are the first idea we want to introduce you to, because they’re so bright and colourful, and exactly what we remember from being children. Put some string lights inside them, so when the evening arrives, your carnival is still as bright and beautiful as ever! 

Talking of string lights, we’ve also found some amazing colourful globe string lights that can be used outdoors. We can’t think of a single carnival that doesn’t have bright lights all over the place, so these string lights can help recreate that feeling. Better yet, your carnival can last even later! 

Bright bunting 

Next up, you’ll need some colourful bunting to help decorate your backyard. Think yellows, reds, blues, greens – all the bright, typical colours you expect to see from carnival bunting. And now you get to use it in your own backyard to make your carnival as authentic as possible! 

Circus balloons 

Even if you’re throwing this carnival themed party for a reason other than your kids’ birthday, you’ll still need balloons. A party isn’t a party without them. An obvious place to start would be with a circus birthday balloon for a kid’s party, but you can also just grab some balloons that are themed around the circus. You know, clown balloons and carousel balloons – that sort of thing. 

If those balloons are a little on the nose for you (or, if you’re like us and you think there’s no such thing as too many balloons) then why not break up the circus theme a little with some colourful polka dot balloons. They might not be traditional, but they sure match the theme well. After all, isn’t a carnival all about colour?

Don’t forget the table 

Another thing we’ll need to think about is the tables. You’ll need a couple – one for food, one for games. And you might as well decorate them in keeping with the carnival theme too! A circus table skirt is a great idea. The traditional red and white stripes just scream carnival tables, and they’ll take something ordinary like a table, and make it feel special to your guests! 

A carnival isn’t a carnival without photos!

Now that the decorations are all done, let’s think about capturing all the special memories you and your guests will make on the day. After all, going to all this trouble to throw an amazing carnival themed party in your own backyard shouldn’t go unnoticed! Oh no, you’ve created something amazing that everyone should see – so let’s take some social media worthy photos and get them uploaded, shall we?

Let’s re-create the infamous carnival entrance! 

Walk with us a moment, down memory lane. Imagine you’re on your way to your first carnival. If you were like us, then you were probably around 5 or 6 years old. Now, what’s the first thing you remember as you walked up towards the entrance?

For us, it was the classic cardboard cutout that you put your heads in to take hilarious photos. Do you remember them too? Of course you do! 

Well, now you can recreate those hilarious moments at your own carnival party! That’s right, we’ve found a carnival backdrop prop that works exactly like the cardboard cutouts used to. If these hilarious snaps aren’t perfect for social media, we don’t know what are! 

Bring some props too

Of course, whilst everyone is queuing to get their photos taken at the carnival backdrop prop, you can also hand out some circus carnival photo booth props so you can snap some pictures of everyone having fun. You can expect everything from clown rainbow hair, circus cannons, showman hats, and ever a jester’s face! Trust us, these are the sorts of props that the kids at the party will just love making hilarious combinations with for the camera! 

Carnivals NEED carnival games

Alright, so that’s the invitations, the outfits, the decorations, and the photos all sorted. Now let’s get to bit the kids are going to love the most, shall we? We’re talking about carnival games! And if you’re anything like the secret big kids we are here, then you’ll love every one of these games too! Ready to get your game on? Then let’s go! 

Oh! And at the end, we’ll even tell you about our prize ideas for the winners of each game, so you’ll want to pay close attention to this section if you want to be the one to come out on top! 

Toss games 

First up is an oldie but goldie, the classic carnival toss game! Unfortunately, we won’t be able to give you the one where you hit the red button, and it drops someone below into a tank of water, but we’ll give you an excellent alternative. 

This carnival toss game is simple. There’s a banner, which can be hung up from anywhere – a washing line, over a tree branch, whatever you’ve got, really. Then, the banner has four cutouts for people’s faces. 

The throwers have four bean bags to throw at the faces of those in the cutout. Personally, we recommend the adults get behind the banner, and the kids have fun throwing beanbags at them, but we’ll leave that part up to you. 

We also have another idea, but you didn’t hear this from us, ok? 

Do you remember the old pie trick, where you fill up an empty pastry case with whipped cream? You see where we’re going with this one already, don’t you? Well, we think it’d be hilarious if you prepare a pie or two for the birthday boy or girl’s parents, and then let the birthday boy or girl take a shot. 

Sure mum and dad might not love it, but the kids sure will!

Hit the tin can games 

Next up is another classic – the hit the tin can game. 10 tin cans, 3 beanbags, and every kid gets a turn. Is it simple? Yes. But it’s also one of the most fun games kids can play anywhere, and especially so at a carnival themed party where there are prizes to be won! But more on that later!

Potato sack race 

This game is probably something you’d see more at a kids’ fair hosted in their school, but it’s still a lot of fun and it fits the theme well because fun is what we’re all about here at the backyard carnival! 

Yes, it’s the humble potato sack race, but you’d be surprised by how much fun a bunch of kids can have with 4 burlap sacks and a finish line. If your party is going to be huge, then you can have a different adult stationed at each game too, so the kids always have something they can get on with. If we were there, we’d definitely be fighting to be one of the adults in charge of one of these fun-filled carnival party games, so you shouldn’t struggle to find volunteers amongst the kids’ parents!

Target practice games 

Everybody remembers going to the carnival and giving some target practice games a try, right? Well, we have two suggestions today, and depending on how big your party is, you might even consider picking them both up. 

First, we have a traditional target practice circus game. For this one, though, you’ll need a moving shooting target Nerf gun game. The aim is simple, the kids load up their Nerf guns with ammunition and try to shoot down each of the moving targets. For added pressure, set a time for 30 seconds. Not only does that make it more exciting for the kids, but it also means you can move the game along quicker so everybody gets a turn! 

A similar target practice game, but with a slightly unique twist, is this dart balloon jumbo fun set! You just take some of the 500 balloons in this set, stick them to the back wall of your house, and hand the kids the darts. You can play this game in lots of different ways, but as a giant group relay game is our favourite way to play. Just split the kids into two groups, and have each person pop one balloon before the next person runs in, picks up the dart, and pops another one of their own. The winning team are the ones who all pop one balloon each first. Sounds fun, right? Heck, we might even have this at OUR next birthday party! 

And the winner is…

Before we talk about the final game (one for the little ones) let’s sort out this whole business about what you get if you win your carnival game, because you always win a prize at carnivals, and so you should at a backyard carnival too! 

For us, colorful carnival party favours should be about one thing, and one thing only: the kids. So, you have to find them a prize they’ll love. Well, we’ve found an amazing collection of carnival party favor fillers that have everything from fidgets to pop-its, and all of those other whatchamacallits (no, that isn’t their official title, we just genuinely don’t know what you call it). 

Basically, the winners don’t need anything too fancy. Some little toys like these will do just fine!

Circus ball pit for the little ones

We know not every kid that comes to the party will be at the age where they’re able to shoot down Nerf targets or take part in a potato sack race, so this one is just for the little ones! 

A beautiful circus ball pit is a brilliant idea. It’s very relaxed, but a lot of fun for little ones, and it still fits the theme too. What’s not to love?

Parents, it’s time to perform!

Dear parents,

We’re sorry. 

That is all.

Seriously though, we are sorry, because we’ve had an amazing idea and once you read it, we’re fairly certain you won’t be able to skip it. And it kinda-sorta-definitely involves you performing. Whilst dressed as a clown. But hear us out first! 

Every great carnival has a performance. Clowns come out on stage, act silly for a minute or two, and then disappear. It doesn’t have to be a HUGE performance, or even the most hilarious performance of the century – we’re fairly certain your kid and all their friends will already be laughing just by looking at you in a clown costume. 

But we also know not everybody is going to be comfortable with that idea, but somebody – an uncle, an auntie, one of the guest’s parents – will be up for it. All you need to do is purchase the clown costume, who ends up actually performing in it, well, we’ll leave that one up to you!

To top it all off, we need carnival food

This has already been such a fun carnival themed party, and all we’ve done is spoken about it! Imagine the thing in real life! But guess what? We’ve still not got to the best bit: carnival food! So, we’ll talk about it now to finish on a high. 

For a carnival party, you don’t need fancy food. In fact, it shouldn’t be fancy at all! Hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches, and cakes are what you’d eat at a carnival, so why shouldn’t you eat them at your party! And to serve all these tasty treats, just grab some carnival themed tableware, so it still fits the theme. This set has everything you need – plates, cups, napkins. It’s perfect! 

Oh, and you’ll need a cupcake stand too, of course. And what better way is there to serve cupcakes at a carnival themed party than with a Ferris wheel cupcake stand? Exactly, there isn’t a better way! We have a feeling the kids will be pretty impressed by this one.

Before we leave, though, we wanted to go out with a bang – an idea so suited to a carnival themed birthday party, that we even managed to impress ourselves, and planning parties is what we do for a living! Are you ready? 6 words.

Pop corn machine.

Cotton candy machine. 

We know, pretty amazing, right? The kids will love seeing you make their favourite treats right in front of them, and we think it’s the perfect way to round off a carnival themed party that everyone will love!

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