Games, balloons, and bright colors -- a carnival is just like a birthday party, but better! So why not invite kids to a carnival-themed party in your backyard or at a local park? Any supplies you don't already have at home are inexpensive and easy to find. For the booths, raid your linen closet for colorful sheets and lightweight blankets; hang them from ropes or clotheslines suspended between trees.
If trees are scarce, stick volleyball or tent poles in the ground (in a public place, check with officials first). Older siblings can don utility aprons and man the booths, or you might ask a few of the other parents to help. At day's end, each child will leave with souvenirs and memories of a great day at the fair.
Convert your patio furniture into a carnival "food tent": Cover the table with bright cloth, and string small balloons (water balloons filled with air work well) from the top of the umbrella. Tie the balloons to twine and anchor the twine to the ground with a golf tee. To brighten seating, knot scraps of colorful fabric to chairs.
Kids can fish with a homemade pole: Tie a magnet to one end of a piece of string and a yardstick to the other. The magnet catches construction-paper fish fitted with metal paper clips. The challenge? Kids are blindfolded. They get three turns to win: three tickets for a shark, two for a red fish, one for a boot.
Tossing ping-pong balls into tumblers takes skill. Set up drinking glasses in a triangle formation on a low table. Inside each glass, place a cutout (easily made with a craft punch) in one of four colors: blue (worth four tickets), yellow (three), red (two), and white (one).
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