Caroline’s Carnival Party

Yesterday we celebrated our Caroline’s 6th birthday, carnival style! It was so much fun, I just have to share some photos! I know putting on a birthday party at home can be a lot of work. I’ve organized many of them over eight years and three children. So, I’m also sharing where I got the supplies and a few thoughts on what I would have done differently. Perhaps I might help some other “mom on the run” out there save a little time racing around frantically trying to prepare for their child’s party. Parties at home are a bit of work. But, they are also a lot of fun! Why DO we do it? Because we love our babies and we want to make their birthday a memorable one. Here’s how this “busy mom on the run” does a carnival party.


I ordered this invitation from an Etsy shop called Little Rose Studio. I’ve made my own invitations in year’s past, but this instant download and print option saves me some time. I buy the thickest card stock I can find and I use my Fiskars paper cutter to trim them up and put them in 5 x 7 envelopes from Michael’s. Caroline loved the rainbow stripes on this one. It made it more of a “big girl” carnival party.


I ordered the adorable little sign above from Oriental Trading. It helped pull together the whole theme. I came up with most of the other stuff myself and with a little help from Pinterest, but a girl needs to delegate a little now and then, right? It would have taken me many nights to create something similar from scratch, so I called in some help on this one.


I hired this adorable ticket salesman for pretty cheap. All he asked for was some candy in return. Just kidding. He had plenty of candy, but he actually wandered over and decided to take on this job himself entirely unprovoked. The stand is a toy we’ve had around the house that the kids received from Santa one year. It is supposed to be for puppet shows, but we have used it for everything from lemonade stands to storefronts and now this. Great purchase. I think it was from Land of Nod. As for the “tickets” letters, I downloaded a free font called “Circus” from and blew up the individual letters on Mac Pages and printed, cut and taped them to the stand… the morning of the party. I always plan ahead. 😉


This fun poster for photos is also from Oriental Trading. I intended to get a photo of all the kids that came to use for the thank you cards, but, well, that didn’t happen. I did enlist my dad to get some. Thanks Dad! If nothing else, it looked really cute hanging next to all the other games. We taped it to the inside of our garden trellis and put a couple of stools behind it. We taped the bottom to some 4 x 4s so it wouldn’t blow in the wind. Thanks Mom! After I finished that I was sweating like a, well, a Carny, on this humid morning. I was really glad I took a shower before I set everything up. Stupid.


We rented the bounce house from Awesome Inflatables Rentals. They were great! What is it about bounce houses that create endless entertainment for children? We even had a little family bounce session at the end! It is pretty fun.


I bought these glass milk bottles on the dollar rack at Target and the rings came from the swimming toy aisle there. I printed up the numbers on some 8.5 x 11″ label paper I had, cut them and stuck them to the bottles. That was pretty quick and painless.


The tattoo banner also came from Oriental Trading. Ok, I guess my secret’s out. Thanks Oriental Trading. I got the cool girly stickers at Party City. I was in charge of putting on the tattoos. I set a two tattoo limit per child so noone’s mom would dislike me too much. Was going well until I went inside for a minute to check on the food in the oven and came back out to discover the girls had put some on their FACES themselves. SO sorry, friends! FYI, baby oil will take them off.


The bean bag toss materials also came from the dollar rack at Target. I mean, what CAN’T you find there? Sometimes I think they know I’m coming, because they always have EXACTLY what I need on the dollar rack. Right?


The ticket roll came from Party City. Honestly, they ended up just being for fun. I originally planned on giving each child a ticket when they got points during each game, but I decided it was too much to manage that and do everything else. The kids ended up playing with them and giving them to me for a tattoo or to play a game and they turned them in at the end for their favor bags.


The duck matching game was a flop, literally. Each duck had a number from 1 to 6 on the bottom. The kids were supposed to look for matching numbers, but the ducks were too little and flipped over giving away the numbers. It didn’t matter. The kids were happy playing all the other games.


The piñata was a “hit”!… Get it? I ordered this one from Oriental Trading as well because I couldn’t find a carnival themed one anywhere else. One thing I wish I had planned better was to have little bags ready for each child labeled with their name so they could put the candy they collected in it.


Here’s the birthday girl with her daddy testing out the bounce house before the party started.



I wasn’t planning to serve snacks other than popcorn and cake and ice cream since the party was after lunch. But the day before the party, I decided the kids would probably be pretty hungry after all that bouncing. When I think of a carnival I think of hot dogs and popcorn. I know from experience to not try to do all the food yourself and get all super creative and fussy. One time for a Halloween birthday party I did for Elizabeth I was up until about 2:00 in the morning making about 50 Frankensteins out of giant marshmallows. I was so tired and grumpy for the party the next day. Wasn’t worth it. I bought these pre-made “pigs in a blanket” from the grocery store and popped them in the oven during the party. I know they aren’t the healthiest choice, but you pick your battles. I balanced it out by using Skinny Pop to fill the popcorn boxes from Party City instead of renting a fancy old fashioned popcorn machine. I asked Andy to bring home some watermelon from his produce market.


I definitely underestimated how many cups I would need because each child must have used about three. We wrote their names on them, but somehow they still went missing. These were some thirsty little girls! If I could do it again I would put a table out by the bounce house with a jug of water with a dispenser they could use themselves along with cups with their names on them. The cups were from Walmart, the straws, plates and napkins from Target.


Snack time! We had 24 kids total so we decided to plate up the food and set it out for them at tables inside and outside to “come and get it!”


Then it was cake time! This is one excited little birthday girl!


In the past I’ve ordered really fancy cakes from high end bakeries in town. I’ve learned that it’s not worth it. Most of the kids eat about five bites and then you end up throwing a full plate of cake away. Lately I’ve been ordering cakes from our local grocery store. This one is from Giant Eagle Market District. I thought it was pretty cute.



I had fun with the favor bags. I bought a variety of rainbow colors and filled them with a paddleball game, a glowstick bracelet, a rainbow lollipop, a sparkly notebook, rainbow pencil, stickers, and of course some Barnum’s Animal Crackers. Our local grocery store, Market District, has a cotton candy machine. Rather than rent one I enlisted them to make favor sized bags for me. They were much less expensive, much less work and definitely much less mess. I made the little labels on my computer using the font I mentioned earlier and free clipart.

IMG_6778We all had a wonderful time celebrating Caroline’s 6th birthday. All the hard work and money spent was well worth the smile tattooed on her face all day long.

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