A carnival is often the highlight of spring for many families—and it takes a big effort to make that happen. Here are 5 ideas for PTOs and PTAs to do now so their carnival is a runaway hit! Click on any of the images of flyers and graphics below to download.

1. First, let’s talk money.

Carnivals can be hectic, so plan for ways to reduce the amount of cash transactions. Consider doing a flat-rate entry fee for kids or entire families. You can purchase inexpensive wristbands for the kids to wear—or try hand stamps (even cheaper!). Not only does this give kids unlimited access to activities and games; it also means volunteers won’t be scrambling to keep track of cash while also running games. 

If you do a flat-rate system, set it up so parents can pay ahead of time. This wristband preorder form may come in handy!

It’s also a good idea to offer some kind of per-activity pricing system using tickets. You will have families who can only spend a very short time at your event and don’t want to pay the full price of a wristband. 

2. Figure out your prize system.

Kids love little trinkets, and there are plenty of online options and discount stores to make those purchases. If you want to offer special prizes, reach out now to area restaurants and stores to get $5 and $10 gift cards for the kids. 

Determine if you are going to go with per-game winnings or a system in which children can score points throughout the day and redeem one big prize or an assortment of smaller prizes.  Either way, it’s best to have a prize redemption table away from the main game and activity area to reduce chaos at game stations. 

If you go with a point system, try a punch-card approach. One option is to download this template from our File Exchange. Your best bet is to print these on cardstock so they hold up throughout the carnival!

3. Add at least a few new games to your event.

You want to keep your carnival fresh and fun; kids will notice if you have the same activities year after year. The good news is you can put together a few new games without much hassle. Head over to our Spring Carnival board on Pinterest. We’ve collected lots of game and activity ideas that won’t break the bank and are easy to make. 

Here are just a few examples: 

Sticky tic-tac-toe 

FrugalFunBoys.com 

 All you need is a foam board, duct tape, blue felt pieces, glue, a few ping-pong balls, and Velcro!

Pool noodle race track 

 

ramblingsfromutopia.com

Cut a few pool noodles in half. Use toothpicks to hold them together to create side-by-side race tracks. 

You can also try putting a new spin on a traditional activity, like turning a cake walk 

into a cupcake walk, or even better, a book walk. Use the same setup and rules, but offer winners smaller cakes or books as prizes. We have a refresher on cake walks if you want to review how run this event. 

4. Go big on promotions.

Use all your channels, including your website and social channels (Facebook, Twitter, and Integra), along with email and flyers to get the word out about your event. Ask parents and volunteers to share the event date. We have several templates on our File Exchange that you can use as flyers and customize for emails and Facebook.

You can also create your own flyers and social posts using our clip art like this item: 

 

5. Look forward.

Think about next year’s carnival as you work on this year’s event. During planning and preparation, take notes on what’s working and what isn’t. Those notes will be tremendously helpful next spring, when you might have forgotten some details about this year’s event (or if a new volunteer will be running the show). Also, download this survey now to share with parents and volunteers after the event. Getting good feedback will help you tweak your plans for the next carnival!