Step right up to the greatest birthday party on earth! The circus is a wonderfully bold, loud and colorful birthday party theme guaranteed to razzle and dazzle. After all, what child doesn’t love exotic animals, daring stunts, silly clowns and yummy food? If you’d like to bring all of the fun of the Big Top to your child’s birthday, we have helpful suggestions and circus birthday party ideas for throwing a three-ring party their friends will never forget!
Circus Party Invitations
Let your guests know the circus is coming to town with the perfect circus invitations. Choose a mix of vintage typestyles to evoke an old-fashioned circus poster. You can even send personalized photo circus party invitations with a picture of your child dressed as a clown, or with their stuffed animals as a lion tamer! Circus tent invitations are also quite popular.
Be creative when writing the invitation text. Tell your guests to “come one, come all!” to “the greatest show on Earth!” and list the attractions they can look forward to. If you’d like a little inspiration, there are many books and websites with examples of actual circus posters from the past and present to draw from. These can be very helpful when looking for ideas for decorations as well.
Circus Party Decorations
Make your guests feel like they’re under the big top with an abundance of festive balloons and streamers in bright primary colors (red, yellow and blue.) If the party is indoors, cover the walls with red and white striped sheets. If outdoors, hang the sheets from poles and clotheslines to make a makeshift tent.
Put circus posters and cutouts of clowns and circus animals everywhere as well as strings of multicolored pennants and Christmas lights. If you have a little artistic talent you can even make your own specially designed circus signs and posters on large sheets of poster board or craft paper. Circus clip art and old-timey typestyles are easy to find online.
Line the walkway outside of the party with bunches of balloons in various colors, weighed down or tied to stakes in the ground. Cover the doorframe with more balloons and streamers and hang a banner welcoming your guests to the birthday circus. Play circus or calliope music, and you may even consider renting a bubble machine or handing out bottles of bubble solution and wands so the children can shower new arrivals with bubbles. If you want to dress to impress, wear a clown or ringmaster costume to greet them!
A red and white striped tablecloth is great for the circus theme. You can also lay down a bright blue or red tablecloth, sprinkle with confetti and glitter and cover with clear plastic. Napkins and dishes can be found with clown or circus designs, or stick with primary colors. Helium balloons and streamers can be tied to the chairs and weighed down by an animal or clown centerpiece on the table. For a little extra fun, hang a trapeze made from string and a long cardboard tube over the party table. A monkey stuffed animal makes a great trapeze artist!
Circus Party Activities
You’ll want to plan plenty of fun and festive circus activities to keep your guests busy throughout the party. After the guests arrive, let them dress up as clowns, circus animals, lion tamers and other circus characters. Have some kid-friendly face paint ready as well as funny wigs and red foam noses. Raid your closets (and even thrift stores) for tacky old clothes with bright and colorful patterns and shoes that will be oversized and floppy on little feet.
When the children are looking their clownish best, put on a circus parade! Let them pull wagons with stuffed animals, bang drums, twirl batons, waves flags and act like goofy clowns. Lead the parade with a portable music player playing circus tunes and don’t forget to take plenty of pictures and video to share with their parents!
Another way to clown around is to have a race in clown outfits. Divide the children into teams and have them race to the finish line wearing floppy clown shoes, wigs and oversized clown pants over their own clothes. And of course you can play Pin the Nose on the Clown, or take turns swinging at a clown piñata!
Let the kids “walk the high wire” by laying a long stretch of rope on the ground to see who can keep their balance the furthest without stepping off. Paint a large face of a lion on posterboard or foam core ahead of time and cut a circle around its mouth, to let the kids “feed the lion” by tossing bean bags from a distance.
What’s a circus birthday party without performers? Hire a local clown, magician, juggler, balloon animal artist or gymnast to put on a show for the children. You may know a teenage or adult friend or relative who would be willing to dress as a clown, or who even has a few magic tricks up their sleeve! It’s not too difficult to learn the basics of juggling or making balloon animals, why not practice before the party and gives the kids a demonstration yourself?
Circus Party Refreshments
Corn dogs or hot dogs with all the fixings, French fries and nachos are typical circus foods. Sandwiches can be cut in circus animal shapes with cookie cutters. You can also serve animal-shaped chicken nuggets or even pizza with pepperoni and green peppers arranged to look like a clown face. Add some healthy sides like corn on the cob, fruit kebab (sliced fruit on a skewer), pretzel sticks, veggies and dip or macaroni and cheese.
Kettle corn and cotton candy are must-have snacks at a circus party and you may even consider renting an old-fashioned popcorn machine. Peanuts in the shell are authentic as well, also but be sure to check for peanut allergies. Make your own ice slushies by blending fruit juice with ice or snow cones by drizzling flavored syrup over shaved or crushed ice. If you don’t mind the potential mess, serve double and triple scoops of ice cream in sugar cones!
To make a “Big Top Birthday Cake”, stack two round or sheet cakes and cut down the top in the shape of a circus tent. Ice with colorful red, blue, yellow and white stripes and adorn with paper flags. Or, draw a clown face on a round cake with colorful frosting and candies. Bake a second cake to cut in the shape of the hat and ruffles. Add a gumdrop for the bright red nose!
After the Circus Party
When the circus is over let your little performers take their final bow and send them home with goody bags. Old fashioned red and white striped popcorn bags are the perfect containers to fill with boxes of animal crackers and Cracker Jacks, bubble gum and circus peanut candy, Pez dispensers with clown heads, plastic circus animal toys and circus-themed stickers and sticker books. Be sure to take plenty of pictures at your circus party to send with personalized thank-you notes later!