Circus Party -4yr- Musical Tightrope
Melissa in Livonia, Michigan, USA
My daughter loves Jo Jo the Clown so for her fourth birthday party, we went with a circus theme. I didn't want it to be just a Jo Jo party, so we expanded it to all things circus. I started planning the big event six weeks prior to her birthday. After settling on the theme, one of the first things I did was hire a clown. I searched www.craigslist.com in our area and found one that charged $60 for 1/2 hour of games, magic tricks and dancing. She also brought Mia a stuffed toy and each child was given a circus-themed animal balloon to take home.
Next, I settled on the guest list. My daughter's birthday is at the end of October, in Michigan, so we had to keep it indoors. As space was limited, I made it a drop-off party. That way, we could invite all her friends, including her entire preschool class. It alleviated a lot of my stress as I didn't have to feed or host all of the parents and could focus my energy on making the party fun for the twenty or so kids we wanted to include. I recruited family and friends who wanted to help and put each in charge of a certain task and it worked out very well.
INVITES - I looked online and found personalized invitations to be quite pricey for as many as I needed (25), so I made my own. By luck, I found a clown outfit at a garage sale for $3 and ended up getting the cutest photo of my daughter in it. I used yellow postcard stock and glued her photo on one side (cut into an oval). Running across the top, I cut out and glued on a red scalloped piece and put blue star stickers in between each scallop. On it, I used our computer to print: Hey, Hey...It's Mia's 4th Birthday. In the body of the invite, I wrote: Come Join Our Circus! plus the time, date, and Big Top location. I also wrote that it was a drop-off party with a special visit from Joyful the Clown, carnival snacks and loads of fun and that there would be plenty of ringleaders" on hand to help out. I put red so I bought rolls of red blue and yellow plastic tablecloth when it went on sale.
I took round wooden embroidery hoops and tied six long sections of the tablecloth to each one alternating the colors. I hung three of these in row down our basement ceiling. I then tacked the plastic cloth up to the walls so that they draped across the ceiling to the wall and then all the way down to the floor. It really felt like a long circus tent and came out better than I had envisioned! I made two signs for the front of our house. The one hanging in our picture window read "Welcome Clowns and Friends" on the outside and "Happy 4th Birthday to the Amazing Spectacular Mia Grace - Featured act: turning another year older!" on the inside. I put a photo of her in the clown outfit on it as well. The other sign had Jo Jo on it (which I cut out from one of the goodie bags) and said: Follow Jo Jo's Footsteps. I put this on a stake in the ground by our front walk.
The children then followed clown footprints I made out of red poster board and flower stickers and had "walking" up our sidewalk and into the house. There they were greeted with a Jo Jo and Goliath doll. Upstairs in our living room I set up enough children's tables (some borrowed)for all the little guests to be able to sit. I also put weighted balloons in some of the popcorn bags as centerpieces. I velcroed some of her small circus-type stuffed animals to small balls and hung them up. In the kitchen leading down to the basement I hung a huge curtain made of the red blue and yellow tablecloth. I put out any Jo Jo or circus playthings I had around the house. Then the big day came. I scheduled the party from 2-4:30.
FUN CRAFT IDEA: When the children first arrived I wanted to have something planned while we waited for everyone to show up. My niece and a friend did face paintings which were a huge hit while another friend worked with the kids on their clown hats. For these I bought two sheets of white poster board and cut them out in advance using a party hat from a previous birthday as a template. Then I attached elastic and one red pom-pom to the top with a stapler so that at the party all we had to do was let them decorate and staple them together. I provided the kids with glittery markers and colorful foam shapes to decorate making sure they wrote their names on the back. I put out bowls of Elmer's glue with Q-tips. The cutest thing was that they also glued on the animal crackers I'd set out on the table for them to snack on. It was adorable! The kids were very creative. After everyone arrived we went downstairs to play games under the big top.
GAMES: I only had two group games because I know kids that age just like to play. The pin the nose on the clown game was $20 plus shipping online so I made one of Jo Jo. Her face is very easy to draw. I used felt for the entire face and shirt and glued it all on a big poster board that read Happy Birthday Mia. I put velcro on the nose. I didn't know if preschoolers would like being blindfolded but they ended up loving this game more than any of the others. They all lined up and took a turn and everyone clapped. The other group game was Musical Tightrope. My husband made the tightrope out of a two by four and I spray-painted it red. I rented a children's circus song CD from the library and had that on during game time. Mainly the kids just took turns walking the tightrope. I also made a "tower of fire by taping red felt flames to a poor-man's golf game. The kids could then try to throw stuffed circus-type animals through the rungs and into a basket. My daughter has a large puppet hut where I put some clown dress-up items for the kids to play with, along with a big mirror so they could check themselves out. One of her friends really clowned it up. A friend of mine volunteered to take photos and was able to get some great shots of the kids to put in the thank you cards.
CLOWN TIME: I scheduled the clown to come around 3 o'clock. She invited Leah and several other kids to help with the magic tricks and everyone, adults included, danced to songs like the Hokey Pokey and YMCA. The clown ended up being a huge hit with the kids and my daughter said it was her favorite part of the party. After the clown handed out the animal balloons, it was time for carnival snacks.
FOR FOOD: I wanted to keep things simple which is why I scheduled an afternoon party and served carnival-type snacks including mini hotdogs made of 'lil dogs wrapped in Pilsbury dough, nachos, and fruit which I arranged in the shape of a clown face(grapes for the hat, apples for the face, strawberries for the nose, etc.). I also ordered a Jo Jo cake and made bags of popcorn for the kids to take home. I found small popcorn bags at century novelty.com. I had the kids take their seats while a few of us put the plates together and took them out already made up, which made things go a lot quicker. I also had the juice boxes all set out by the time they came back upstairs.
After cake and opening presents, I had my daughter hand out the gift bags as the parent's arrived to pick up their kids. GIFT BAGS: With so many kids coming, the gift bags could have been very pricey. I found most of what I needed at Century Novelty's website at a very reasonable price. Each Jo Jo bag had one red foam clown nose, a clown puzzle watch, a party bubble, cotton candy bubble gum, dixie stix and circus stickers that I printed from familyfun.com. I spent around $30 total for all 20 gift bags. Another way I kept things economical was to make sure all the banners, plates, etc. were basic blue, red and yellow so the left-overs could be used for our next party. This circus party was sooo much fun to plan. Mia won't have a big party like this every year as it is a lot of work, but it was worth every minute just to see my daughter's face. She was smiling and laughing the entire party. I'm still getting emails and comments from friends about how much fun their kids had, which is all I could have hoped for.