A Circus-Themed First Birthday Party
Throw your little ringleader a circus-themed first birthday complete with elephants, clowns, and even a circus tent—without breaking your budget!
Set the Theme
Yes, invites should tell your guests when and where the party is, but great ones will also embody the theme you’re going with. A printed invitation like this lets guests know they’ll be missing out on a whole lot of fun if they can’t make it. Or try this elephantine freebie from evites.
Under The Big Top
If renting a party tent isn’t a realistic option for your space or wallet, you can still celebrate with one—the DIY way. Crepe paper streamers, painter’s tape, and a step stool are all you need; it helps to have another pair of hands tacking the streamers up to the opposite side of the room.
Photo Credit: Party City
A Ticket to Fun
Make your party guests truly feel like they are at the circus by handing them tickets when they come in to use for games, face painting, and beverages. Pick up a roll or two at any office supply store or party store. You can even set a “fee” for the tickets you hand out to adults by asking them to share knock-knock jokes or a story about the birthday boy.
Face Painting Fun
You don’t need to be a makeup artist to decorate faces. Basic face-painting kits are available at any party supply store; make sure you get the crayon kind if you are a novice. Have baby wipes for sensitive skin on hand to wipe away failed attempts and smudged creations, along with a hand mirror available for little guests. And just remember, the lion on your niece’s cheek will delight her even if it looks suspiciously like a flower.
Step right up, kids, and get the beanbag in the hoop! This one’s super-simple to set up. Make a basic stencil out of cardboard, place on your grass, and shake on flour. Then plop hoops around the letters and invite little guests to start flinging. You can do numbers 1 to 5 and challenge kids to get the highest totals, or spell out the birthday child’s name in letters and see if guests can hit each one.
If outside is not an option, you can still have circus carnival games indoors. Big hint: Use a foam ball to keep this game fun and not too destructive. Little guests will howl with laughter as the cups fall. You can even make your own “high wire” in your living room using masking tape on the floor. Challenge guests to walk, hop, or tip toe without “falling” off.
A circus wouldn’t be a circus without elephants! Before the party, cut out ears, eyes, and trunk from gray construction paper. Set them out on a table along with paint, glue, paper plates, and a finished example so guests can create when the mood strikes. It’s also a good idea to have the kids’ names pre-written out on labels so they can just stick one on and no one will take home the wrong elephant.
Once it’s time to sit down and eat, let your guests know where to go with animal-cracker place cards. Write guests’ names on card stock, use craft scissors to make a fun zigzag border, punch a hole, and attach it to the animal crackers with a fun ribbon. Bonus: Cranky kids waiting for food can snack on the animal crackers.
Serve Cotton Candy
Sure, you can rent a cotton candy machine from a party rental store. Or, make it easy with pre-packaged cotton candy from the candy aisle at your grocery store. Serve it as a treat or, better yet, a cupcake topper. Make your child’s cupcake extra-special by dotting it with sprinkles.
The Birthday Chair
Your child may or may not deliver with a big dramatic face plant into her cake as she squeals with glee, but she is still the star of the show! Give her the recognition she deserves by doing up her high chair tray with ribbons. Loop a piece of masking tape around itself so it acts like double sided sticky tape, stick onto the edge of the tray, repeat all around, then press on the ribbons. Ta-dah!
Send in the Clowns
Let’s face it: Clowns freak a lot of people out, especially babies. So while you probably don’t want to hire one for a first birthday party (or beg your husband to do the deed), it’s a good idea to gather clown props for photo ops. Encourage friends and family to don the clown nose and over-size bow tie and strike a pose; designate a family member to be the shutterbug.
At the age of one, your child’s playmates are too little for typical loot bag treats like bouncy balls and stickers, so get something that they can really enjoy like circus animal bath toys, board books, or bibs.
A Sweet Goodbye
If you’re motivated, send home grown-up guests with retro candy in a popcorn container. It’s the perfect reminder of sitting in the stands as a kid watching the lion tamers and tightrope walkers. And for once, parents won’t have to pillage their kid’s loot bag for the “good” candy.
Allison McDonald is the mom and former preschool teacher behind the popular early learning blog No Time For Flash Cards. She lives in a yellow farmhouse outside of Seattle with her son, daughter and husband Jason.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN