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When I asked my daughter Dylan how she wanted to celebrate her 10th birthday – I was thinking, “Let’s take a few of her friends to the movies!” and she was thinking, “Let’s throw a carnival in our backyard.”

“But Dolphin Tale Two is out and it looks adorable!” I told her.

And I must have been very convincing because she responded, “We’ll go see it after my carnival birthday party!”

The whole thing sounded like a lot of DIY work but I’m always overly ambitious in life anyway and if the party bombed I would just say, “Oh this is how we do it in New York!”

So I emailed a friend who had thrown a super adorable carnival party a few years earlier and explained that I wanted to do a very slacker reproduction of her fabulous party and she gave me some websites to order my carnival necessities.

Then my children and I came up with a list of games – and if you ever get coerced into a carnival party by a spirited 10 year old, just do these games…

1. Ring toss (purchased very cheaply)

2. Bean bag toss (AKA corn hole – you own this or somebody you know does)

3. Pop-A-Shot (Basketball net and ball)

circus - pop a shot

4. Ping Pong Toss (Mason jars and ping pong balls)

5. Shoot and Spray (Kids attempt to knock ping pong balls off the top of empty water bottles with a water shooter)

6. Spoon the Ducks (Kids try to pick up mini ducks floating in a baby pool by holding a spoon in their mouths – the party kids LOVED this one)

circus - spoon the ducks

7. Tattoos and Nail Polish

8. Guess How Many? (Kids tried to guess how many Dum Dums were in a vase – the winner won the lollipops.)

I had prizes for each game. I gave away things like fuzzy pens, cool erasers, yo-yos, bubbles and mini notepads). Because I believe in a socialist carnival where every kid is happy, kids won a prize at every game – no matter what their skill level. There is no crying at the carnival!

All the prizes went into their goody bags. (Note: you must label the goody bags with everyone’s individual name before the party starts or else it will be goody bag confusion mania.)

You also need an adult or teenager to work each game or else the whole thing falls apart.

Apparently everyone had a pretty good time at the carnival. I really wouldn’t know because I was busy trying to make popcorn in this old fashion popcorn machine. I just couldn’t get enough popped to meet the demand in a timely manner. Next time, I might use an old fashion microwave.

After about 45 minutes of carnival games, we ushered the kids out to the front of our house for a 30 minute circus act.

circus - woo woo

(Photo Credit: Jessica Herthel)

Now I am lucky enough to have a  15 year old neighbor who spends his summers actually performing IN THE CIRCUS.

For the few of you who do not have a next door neighbor who is a circus performer, find some kind of clown or lion tamer locally. (Note: I would advise against balloon animals because they just pop and make kids cry. See my earlier rule about no kids crying.)

After the performance, we did cake, pizza and then see you later!

I was pretty proud of myself. I mean, no, I didn’t have fancy carnival popcorn cupcakes like this…


(Courtesy: Apartment Therapy &  Lauren Hauser)

And I didn’t have elephant rides.

And I didn’t let people guess my weight or age.

But the kids seemed to really like it.

Especially my girl Dylan.

circus - dylan cake song

(Photo Credit: Jessica Herthel) 

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kelcey kintner