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The late summer of 2010, just a few days before the first day of school, we had a Back to School Carnival Party.  All the prizes were school supplies, fun pencils and folders, Squishies and erasers.  The kids had a blast and requested to do it again for the start of the 2011 school year.

Most of the games we made ourselves from recycled items or things purchased at Goodwill, thrift shops, garage sales.  This party was put together on a budget.  It did take some time to put the games together, but most cost very little money.

Thank you for looking =)

Step 1: INVITATION:

You can find many, many amazing invitations for carnivals on Etsy, Ebay and online shopping.  Be prepared to spend some money with this option as custom work can be expensive. 

I also like Shutterstock.com if you have Adobe or a similar software.  You can download graphics and then add text.  It is very easy to do and relatively inexpensive.

For my budget idea, I have created a very simple template for a ticket invitation that has many different looks.  You can control the cost by which paper you choose to use.  Construction paper to speciality scrapbooking paper, as an example.  Add stickers or ribbon for a fun look.  I also like that there is a spot to add your child's picture.  For my template you will need a 6x9 envelope.

I also added two invitations that are made with just plain white cardstock.  It costs pennies, but still has a great look.  You could even have your child draw little carnival pictures on them.  Just fill in the information and you are ready to go.

Step 2: DECORATIONS:

The decorations for this carnival party mainly consist of the different booths for the games with a splash of balloons here and there.

I used some colorful twin sheets and curtain pannels strung from the trees to create the back of each booth.  Streamer flags created with scrap fabric were used to mark off the sides.

I had some blanket edging and hot glued triangular shaped pieces of fabric to it.

For each game I painted the directions on an old sheet.  You do have to use a lot of paint for the base coat and I would recommend painting the sheet on top of a plastic garbage bag.  Each colorful sign is made to fit over discarded political signs, the kind that people stick into the ground in thier yards.  I added some balloons to each sign.

Step 3: SNACKS & TREATS:

We set up a small canopy tent that served as a concession stand.  All food or treat items had to be purchased with tickets.  There is a list below of some of the things we served.

SNOWCONES:  Very easy to do, however, you need a machine.  Some blenders can chop ice well, but really you need a shaver.  You can rent these for around $35.00.  I found mine on Craigslist.  A great budget alternative is Fla-vor-ice Pops.  At Sam's Club you can buy 200 for $8.08.

POPCORN:  Always a crowd favorite.  Again, you can rent a machine or borrow one, but a great option is microwave popcorn.  At Sam's you can purchase 28 bags for $6.88.  You can pop as you go or make up a bunch ahead of time.  Even have it ready in lunch bags just to pass out.  Also, CrackerJack is an option.  24 bags at Sam's Club is $6.88.

COTTON CANDY:   This is so much easier to purchase pre-made.  Parade Cotton Candy.  Eight little tubs for $5.58 at Sam's or Wal-Mart.

HOT DOGS:   Here is the thing about hotdogs:  They are NOT supposed to taste like bologna.  I have mentioned this before, but growing up my family owned hotdog/beef stands in Chicago, so I know a thing or two on this subject.   Of course you are not going to go to a speciality meat market for hotdogs for a child's carnival party, but there is a great alternative.  I alway buy Hebrew National Brand hotdogs.  Pure beef, kosher hotdogs.  Check out hebrewnational.com for stores.  By far the best hotdog you can buy at your local supermarket.

SODA or JUICE BOXES or BOTTLED WATER: 

Step 4: GAMES: Treasure Key

The Treasure Key game started out as an old bread box that I found at Goodwill.  I added a simple locking mechanism that I purchased at a home improvement center and then collected every old key I had laying around that house, and a few keys from friends and family.   The lock came with two keys.  The bread box was painted to look like a little door.  I used it standing on its end.

The object of the game is to pick the right key to open the door.  Each child coming up to the game has three chances to pick the right key.  If they choose the right key, they win and are awarded with a ticket.

Step 5: GAMES: Basket Toss

The Basket toss game is made from small bathroom trash cans.  The dollar store is a great place to find these.  I found some woven baskets at a resale shop.  Gave them a nice coating of spray paint.  I screwed them directly on a piece of 2x4 that I had painted black.  I perched this game up on a step stool so that it had a nice angle for the toss. 

The object of the game is to get as many balls into the baskets as possible.  For the little ones that came to the party, if they even got one in they would get a ticket, but the older children had to get in all five for a ticket.  Life is just not fair!

Step 6: GAMES: Alien Invasion

Alien Invasion is a knock-down game. 

The aliens are made from a 4x4 post cut into five equal pieces.  The aliens's heads are fence toppers.  The clear plastic helmuts are upside down plastic icecream bowls. 

Each alien has a spaceship crafted from MDF board and metal cake pans.  The cake pans were from the dollar store. 

The spaceships sit on a small piece of a 2x4 that is hinged onto a base.  When the alien is knocked down, it just tilts backward and can easily be repositioned for the next player.

The object of the game is to take out as many aliens as you can.  Each player gets five chances to knock down at least three aliens.

Step 7: GAMES: Lucky Leprechaun Gold Toss

I managed to turn a hollow core door into two carnival games.  The first is the Lucky Leprechaun game.  First give the entire door a blue background with a generous amount of fluffy clouds.  Paint a vibrant rainbow to streak across the door.  I added some glitter paint to the rainbow for some sparkle.

The gold coins are made from dog toys found at, once again, the dollar store.  I used gold spray paint to add color.  It did take a few coats but they look great.

The pot is my candy Halloween cauldron.

The object of the game is to fling as many gold coins into the Leprechaun's pot as you can.

Step 8: GAMES: Revenge of the Little Orange Fish

I love how this game turned out.  All of the fish are made from a 2x4 that I cut with a jigsaw.   The hooks on the fish are garden stakes used to hold down landscape fabric.

The pond is a scrap piece of linoleum painted many colors of blue. 

Fishing poles are crafted from dowel rods and the top of a hanger that I cut off.

For this game you have a 50/50 shot at a win.  You get three tries and if you get a fish with a ticket marking on the bottom, you win.

Step 9: GAMES: Ring a Bottle

For the Ring a Bottle game, I saved some soda bottles for a few weeks.  Clean off the labels and fill them with colored water.  Any rings work.  I found some bangle bracelets at a garage sale that I use.  They do sell rings at Oriental Trading as well.

Step 10: GAMES: Groovy Tree

The Groovy Tree is one of two games in the Carnival where the player has to pay to play.  The reason for this is that a winner on this game gets a bigger prize.  We purchased some pencil cases and spiral notepads to give out. 

This game is painted on the back side of the hollow core door.  Each flower has a magnet in the center and a removable disk.  The centers are made from buttons, but the pins were removed. 

The spinner is made from an old stool that I got at Goodwill.  Cut the legs down.  The arrow is cut from MDF.  I just used a bolt to attach it. 

The object of the game is to spin the arrow and then you get to pick as many centers as your spin awarded you.  On the back of just a few of the buttons there is a star which indicates a winner.  The person manning the game will have to keep mixing up the centers so the players can't figure out which flower is a winner.

Step 11: GAMES: Pull a Sucker

The Pull a Sucker game is made from another Goodwil find.  Two small stools where I cut the legs down.  I drilled holes into the wood to insert the sticks and gave the whole thing a coating of paint and sealer.

This is the second carnival game where the players have to pay with tickets to play.  The prizes were a pack of markers or crayons or folders or spiral note pads. 

Even if you lost, you still got your sucker =)

Step 12: GAMES: Soccer Smashdown

I used 4x4 posts to make the Soccer Smashdown game.  I topped it with a fence cap.  We have a net goal, but you don't have to have one.  The object is to get the soccer ball through the posts for a win.

Step 13: GAMES: Cover the Spot

I really wanted to have a challenging game for adults and Cover the Spot is just that.   I purchased this game online.

The object of the game is to use the metal disks to completely cover the spot.  You have to drop the disks in place and then once they are on the board, you cannot touch them to adjust the placement.

This game will drive you nuts =)

Step 14: PRIZES:

For prizes we gave away school supplies.   A little boring, but practical. 

Try orientaltrading.com for fun pencils, erasers and sharpeners.  They have small stuffed animals and pencil cases.  Frankly, just about everything you can think of.

Also, I found this great site, candymachines.com where you can purchase Squishies - pencil friends.  These little  items are quite the hit with school aged children.  They sell all kinds of items, the type of thing you would find in the quarter machines at the grocery store.   Inexpensive prizes.

***  For each win on a game, the player would get a ticket.  Tickets could be cashed in at the prize booth.  10 tickets for a Squishies, as an example.

I had a bag that I labeled with each child's name for their loot.

Step 15: CARNIVAL PARTY PART 2:

We had some game failures and I plan to revamp them for the next party.

OOGIE BOOGIE MONSTER SLIME:  For this game you have to use a Super Soaker to shoot water through a monster's nose.  Attached to the nose is a plastic tube that goes into a clear bucket.  The bucket has a ping pong ball painted a boogie green color.  The first person to fill the bucket with enough water to make the booger fall out wins.

BEAN BAG TOSS:  This is a possibility for a future game.

PENGUIN PLUNGE:  A spin on the floating duck game.

BALL MAZE:  A tiltable maze where you start with the ball at one end and have to tilt the maze to move the ball to the winning spot.

DRAGONFLY FLING:  Launching dragonflies into a frog's mouth.

I plan to document my progress on these games and will made a second Instructable to compliment this one.

Thanks =)

Cute :3
I did a carnival themed party but it wasn't as cool as this
<p>Very cute.</p>
Didn't the county fair borrow the alien invasion game
your party rules sincee I'm your duaghter you have to let me use your prizes <br> <br>I MEAN IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ;)
I agree... Well im not your daughter, but im your daughters best friend.
MY little 7 year old sister's birthday is coming up, i this is soooo helpfull
wicked awesome! good work. i love all your painting. how long did this all take you, and do you know, roughly, how much it all cost?
Thanks. This was a family project. We worked on it nights and weekends. We spent much more time than money since most of the games were recycled items.
IMPRESSIVE! Big CONGRATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This is amazing - you definitely win the Most Creative Mom award!<br />I bet everyone <i>loved</i> it.
Thank you. The party was a lot of fun. The neighborhood wants to make it a yearly event. I get tired just thinking about it.
Kids always love themes like this. Great idea of giving out school supplies.
Thanks =)
Very cute and creative. I am planning on a carnival party for my 4 year old this summer. Nice ideas.
Thank you. Good luck on your party.
I love the aliens! They look fantastic.
They did turn out cute and were quite the hit.
looks like a very fun time for everyone, Im going to spread the idea to my daughter and her friends
Thanks so much.

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Bio: My life is busy. My days are full. I go to bed at night tired. I am HAPPY!
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