Monday, July 25, 2011


I was going to title this post with something trite, like "everybody loves a carnival," but then I remembered how I used to hate those affairs. I thought the workers were nasty and I was scared to death of the rides - even the ones that stayed close to the ground. And never did I see anybody actually win one of those tantalizingly huge stuffed animals that lure people to unwinnable games.

How my attitude changes when I get to be in charge of it all! No creepy people among us, game booths safely made of cardboard, and best of all, lots of prizes for everybody, even if you somehow, some way, still manage to find a way to be a "loser!" 

I had the best time planning and constructing the games, allowing about four months lead time to work everything out with my oldest daughter, Mary Jo, the mother of my twin grandsons. 

We negotiated a date of Saturday, July 9. 2011 for our event, hosting it on the spacious front lawn of her home. 

A total of nine families were involved with a "kid-count" of 17 - plus a handful of sibling babies.

Lots of work? Oh my, yes! But sooooo worth it! Everyone had lots of fun, mostly, I think, because it was so kid-friendly. I am not a fan of early age competitions that clearly identify "winners" and, by default, "losers." My grandchildren are not "losers" and neither are yours! Dollar stores are full of enough cute prizes for everybody and I say buy them! Send every child home happily tattooed, clutching fistfuls of candy, a tote bag brimming with prizes and fond memories to revisit many, many times!

I chose not to open this introduction with a cliche, but I am going to conclude with one. "A picture is worth a thousand words!" Here's the story of our first annual family carnival!

As children arrived, they were handed a welcoming program  describing games, a handful of tickets, and a cute paper bag to stash prizes in.

Our staff included both aunts and faithful family friends, Elise, Beth, and Judy. All of them cheerfully wore aprons, each adorned with a crazy squirting flower!

The aprons were simple to make with iron-on letters and bias tape edging. I found the fun flowers at the dollar store. Those were for squirting husbands - not the kiddies!

I admit to copying the "welcome" sign design from the Oriental Trading catalog.....hope they don't mind! (I spent hundreds with them!)

MONKEY SMACKDOWN is my favorite of the game booths. The idea was born after I "went bananas" over these cute inflatable monkeys at Wiley and Company - a great local store where I found lots of wonderful things for this event! 

Kids were invited to knock down the decorated oatmeal cans by tossing plastic bananas at them. We were surprised at how well they did! Staff was kept very busy restacking the cans!                                                                  
One of the best things about having grandsons after a family of all girls is shopping for toys. Oh, the enchanting world of dinosaurs, pirates, firetrucks and...ALIENS!

We invited "boys only" to our ALIEN INVASION booth. They were to choose an alien, either by number or favorite character. Everyone paused expectantly while Beth cautiously lifted it up to see if a "little green man" was hiding beneath! If he was, the player was a WINNER!  (um, I think you may have already guessed that a little green dude lurked beneath every number!)

When the grand kids are older, they'll be helping grandma make things for the annual family carnival,
such as these paper cup characters!

Initially, Nick and Sae approached this booth with caution!
I think it was their first encounter with alien life!

And this is only the beginning! See Family Carnival, Part 2  Part 3 and Part 4 !


  1. J,
    Your party looks AMAZING. Do you have a tutorial for the booths? They are exactly what I have been looking for.

  2. Hi Kim! Thank you! If you would like me to, I can email basic info on building the booths. From there, we can communicate further if you need any extra help. I have never published a tutorial but am glad to help anyone who would like to make these. We are having a second family carnival in August and I'll have a few new ones then. Please send your email address to Jserialmom at aol dot com. I will get you started and be here for you every step of the way!

  3. My oh my!!! You have out done yourself!! You know, you may as well plan on adding a tutorial on everything because I think you are going to have LOTS of request for how you did it! I think I want to fly you here to do our Family Harvest Day, you are amazing! I also think you could make some big bucks as a kids party planner! Thanks for linking up with me you busy girl you :)

  4. You really are amazing and I so wish I lived down the street from you -- if you just didn't live *there*!!! I can't wait to read parts 2 and 3! Your grands are going to have such wonderful memories of all the fun you have created for them -- plus all the amazing things you have taught them! Happy Saturday!

  5. What a great idea. I'll be pinning this post to my family reunion board. Next year is our turn to host. I think I can use some of your ideas for kids activities.

  6. Ladies, thank you for all your lovely comments!
    Vicki, I was wondering if a good carnival theme family reunion idea might be to have each individual family bring one original home made game to play. Combined, everyone could enjoy an entire event without one person having to do all the work. Even a pile of tin cans and a few ping pong balls would count as a game, but I'll bet people would really challenge themselves to do something extra cute!

  7. That looks like such a fun and different family party! The work, er I mean Love, involved in creating this...must have been fun arranging it all. My family is spread out over the country, the ones left close mean a small gathering, but what a fun, cute idea for any size!
    Debbie :)

  8. What a fun event to have for your grandchildren!

  9. Oh. My. Goodness! What a memorable event. You did an awesome, admirable (and enviable!) job. Congratulations on pulling it off in such creative fashion. You are one very cool and crafty grandma!

    Thank you for linking this great post to the GRAND Social!

  10. Wow, that looks all SO GREAT!! Must be one big party for your grandchildren to go grandma!! Liz

  11. Love how creatively you work a theme into the simplest of materials, like the oatmeal boxes and bananas to throw at them.

  12. Hi my daughter is having a carnival themed b-day party. Can you please also email me the tutorial on how to make the booths? I love these and would love to make them for the b-day party. Thanks!

  13. Hi,

    Can you please email the booth tutorial. I am having a carnival party for my daughter

  14. Hi, can you email me instructions for the game booths my email is

  15. Can you please give me instructions for the booth construction. I'm planning carnival party for my son this year. Your ideas are the best.... fabulous!

  16. Replies
    1. I made the aprons myself using striped cotton fabric with iron on letters.