Free E-book, Carnival Game Ideas, Hints and Tips for your Fall Event
Updated September 2013
Fall carnivals (and Halloween carnivals) are great for schools, communities, churches and congregations - bringing people together to have fun and raise funds. While they are the product of lots and lots of hands-on work from leaders and volunteers, they are an absolute favorite for school families, typically the most kid-friendly fundraiser, and they build a great sense of community.
Carnival games are the key to a fall carnival’s plan to maximize revenues. Some things you absolutely have to rent, like jumpy castles / bounce houses, dunking booths and battling padded sumo suits. For more information on turning your carnival into a seriously profitable fundraiser, scroll down to learn about a comprehensive carnival money-making guide.
But if your fall carnival games are more focused on fun than profit, there are a lot of creative and well-loved activities that can be put together with very little money. The only thing that costs money is prizes -- and even some of those can be free, scroll down to see how. So in the spirit of boosting profits and school spirit, here’s a big list to get started (and check out some of our favorite DIY Carnival Games HERE).
Free or Nearly Free Activities
- Ring Toss – easy to build a ring toss setup with 2 liter soda bottles.
- Tug of War: all this takes is a big length of rope – might even be available from the PE department of the school. Moms vs Dads, Brothers vs Sisters, 4th grade vs 5th grade, boys vs girls are all great ways to drum up fall carnival games enthusiasm.
- Flocking Sales and Insurance – Sell the opportunity to have a flock of plastic flamingos (or 50 pumpkins or scarecrows or potted plants or whatever else you can come up with) placed on someone’s front lawn – and sell insurance policies against being flocked. Also, sell insurance against having your name revealed as someone who’s flocked someone else. It’s like toilet papering someone's yard, but way easier to clean up!!
- Toy Swap – bring a toy and drop it off upon entering the carnival – get one swap ticket for each toy brought. Collect toys up until a certain point in the carnival day. At a designated time, open the toy swap to everyone who’s brought something. This is a great fall carnival game for these tough times, when lots of people have things to give, but not much money.
- Giant musical chairs – Start with 40 people and 30 chairs and work down to one big winner who gets a prize ribbon.
- Guess what?: Have strange substances in containers and participants have to guess what it is either by smell, touch or sound. (Make sure to have allergy information on ingredients at hand.) This is especially fun as part of a spooky fall carnival game area.
- Exile Island – People can buy a chance to send a friend to the carnival's "Exile Island” and while there they can find clues to a mystery prize hidden somewhere in the carnival.
- Beading booth – One roll of thin cord and some creative beading ideas can occupy carnival goers for a long time. Beads can be made ahead of time out of natural materials, rockets tied with wire, clay glazed and fired ahead of time, macaroni for little kids – the beads don’t have to cost much, if anything, and the fun is in putting together your own cool necklace! Sell tickets by the necklace or in 10 minute increments.
- Hula Hoop Contest - Play some fun music and invite kids and adults to compete in many categories such as longest time hooping, most hoops, best trick, holding-hands, etc.
- Karaoke 'Idol' Stage - Decorate a stage like the popular TV show, American Idol, and have kids and adults entertain the entire carnival. Charge a certain number of tickets per song and let the audience vote for who stays and who goes.
Free or nearly free prizes
- Ribbon Rewards – Cut 5 inch lengths of satin ribbon and tie them to a large safety pin. Each time a child participates in an activity, tie a new colored ribbon to the safety pin. Each booth has a different color. The most active and involved (and ticket-spending) kids will end up with a chest full of ribbons, and a pretty neat keepsake from that year’s carnival. You can even add a special prize offering to the kid who collects the most ribbons.
- Fall carnival passports – Each kid gets a passport to be stamped at each activity booth – six or more stamps per card. Once the passport is filled it can be entered into a drawing to win a bigger door prize – another way to drum up more booth ticket sales!
- Lunch with the principal or pastor– A special opportunity to sit down for a meal with the leader can be a drawing prize. It can be a casual lunch or something nicer, donated by a local restaurant.
- Clean out the closet favor bag – Send out a notice asking for parents to donate leftover party favor prizes – this alone can fill up most of the needs of the fair for prizes.
If your carnival goal is profit, check out this comprehensive eBook by the folks at Everybody Hates Fundraising - It's an 180-page Carnival Money-Making Guide! Up to $10 of your purchase supports VolunteerSpot.
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