How to Throw a DIY Carnival

DIY Carnival Tents

Throwing a DIY carnival is a great way to give kids and adults alike a fun day, whether it is for a birthday party or to raise money or awareness for a charity. Throwing a carnival does not have to be expensive and it does not even have to be complicated. We’ve got a checklist for you to make the carnival-throwing experience almost as fun as the carnival itself—okay, that’s a bit of a stretch. But it will be fun, we promise. Use your creativity and make the carnival your own!

1. Enlist some volunteers.

You’re going to need help manning the booths and managing the food areas. You can start by nailing down some people who can help you do all of this. Some other parents/community members is a good place to start. If no one seems enthused about the prospect of spending an afternoon running a carnival, you could always throw a little money in the direction of some responsible neighborhood teenagers, who would be more than happy to hand out corndogs and man the milk bottle toss for a couple bucks an hour—or even just a pizza when it’s over.

2. Rent a tent.

Luckily, you don’t have to spend hours running around to every party store in order to find decorations. Bucks-Mont Party Rental has plenty of rental tents to get you started. You’re going to want a tent, for starters. Renting a tent is easy, no matter what size you need. This tent can act as your food court and/or as a place to get out of the sun for a moment. You can put the cotton candy, hot dog, and popcorn machines under the “big top,” along with some tables and chairs.

3. Pick up some decorations.

Decorations for a carnival should be fun and colorful. Go for bright, primary colors to festoon your space. Streamers and balloons are both welcome. Your local or online party store is bound to have plenty of carnival-themed decorations, but just in case they do not, you can always just look for bright colors and make your own theme and color story from what they have.

4. Build the booths.

This isn’t as daunting as it sounds! You don’t actually have to build anything. The booths could be as simple as a sign strung between two trees. You could make the sign and hang it from the front of a rented table, and the activity will go on behind the table. Make use of what you have! Tent poles, volleyball poles, etc. can all act as stands for the booths themselves, whether you want to create fabric walls with blankets or sheets, or whether you just want to string up a sign and let the participants use their imaginations.

5. Come up with the activities.

Coming up with the activities may seem a little difficult too. It does not have to be! If you have ever been to a carnival, think about what activities you loved best of all. If you’ve never been, here are a few well-loved favorites: milk-bottle toss (the kids try to knock down a stack of milk bottles with a bean bag), rubber ducky fishing (try to get a ring around a rubber duck, which is floating in a kiddy pool with lots of other ducks and prizes), clothespin drop (from a certain height, kids try to drop a clothespin into a narrow-necked glass bottle, ball-toss (trying to land a ping pong ball in a certain glass, which is closely surrounded by lots of other glasses), and temporary tattoos. Whatever activities you choose, you want them to be inclusive, so that everyone gets a chance to play, and not so difficult that no one will ever win. There are plenty of games that you can rent, along with your tent, from Bucks-Mont Party Rental, like beanbag tosses, bingo, and mini hoop games.

6. Stock up on prizes.

Go to your local or favorite online party store and you will find a section that sells extremely cheap party favors, ranging from candy, to erasers, to kazoos. For each game that the child beats (or just for any game that they play), give the child a ticket. They can then redeem those tickets at the prize booth. Line up your prizes in jars and let them choose their own. Alternatively, each prize could be worth a certain number of tickets and they “pay” for what they want with tickets.

7. Rent food machines.

Authentic carnival food will really set the mood for the entire event. Start with a hot dog cart or rotisserie. Don’t forget a cotton candy machine. A popcorn cart or machine is a great way to include a snack that’s a little bit lower in calories than hotdogs or cotton candy. For summer parties, a snow cone machine is a great way to go—or you could opt for a slushy machine. A nacho cheese dispenser lets kids cheese their own chips.  Plenty of options for carnival supplies are available.

8. Go all out.

If you really want to kick your party up a notch, why not try a dunk tank? You can rent a dunk tank for less than $200 and let kids sit in tanks and throw to dunk one another. How about a mini golf course? All you need is a few putt-putt holes and some clubs, and you can keep a whole group of children busy in the course while the rest enjoy the games. Set up the holes in a random order and add some simple obstacles.

The last step is to send out your invitations! If the carnival is for a charity, you can set up your admission process just like a real carnival, letting each person pay for tickets at the entrance, which they then exchange to play the games. If it is for a birthday party, just let the kids in and start having fun!


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