Having three children means having three birthday parties every year. I don’t mind as I really like organizing those. I’m not a cake baker though that’s for sure. I think working with a theme for a birthday makes things funnier and easier to organize. My kids love choosing the theme. They start thinking about it like months beforehand. I always buy the cake and order it as to fit with the theme.
I remember when we moved to this little village in France and it was my daughter’s birthday I asked one of the other mothers where she bought the birthday cakes. There is nowhere to buy a birthday cake she said. I was like “what???” and went in panic mode thinking how to solve this catastrophe. I looked at her and asked her where all the other mothers of the village then got their cake. She answered “we make the birthday cake ourselves”. I think that’s one of the moments in my life I realized just how much of a spoilt brat I am. In Amsterdam you’ve got like a cake shop around every corner of every street so to speak. I ended up making the cake and I messed up big time. I’m not made for making cakes.
So anyway, when my little Max had his 6th birthday he wanted a circus birthday party. After all these birthday parties every year I came to the conclusion that it works best if the children play “freely” whatever they want like ¼ of the time and get entertained the other three quarters (including cake eating, games, etc etc). I usually prepare games within the theme the kids chose and have a list of back up games. If I see the kids are getting bored I do some back-up-list-games with them.
For the circus birthday party of Max I decided for bright vibrant colors in the decoration. White and red with yellow accents are good circus colors. They set the tone right away. Hang loads of red and white balloons and streamers you’re already half way there. I looked through the toys of the children and used anything that could add up with circus in the deco., like the Playmobil circus of Max and the stuffed wild animals of the children. We had a lion, a parrot, a monkey and two tigers. Also had two books about the circus which we just put standing on the buffet table. It all looked real nice and cute.
We had the usual carnival foods like popcorn, hotdogs and cotton candy. Also loads of strawberries, banana’s and cherry tomatoes for the red and yellow (and healthy) touch! The, not homemade, birthday cake had an image of a clown and some circus animals on it. As for candy, we played candy Memory. Just put twice the same candy under plastic cups, count 4 cups per child. It’s just like the normal Memory game, every time a child finds two pairs of candy, he can keep them. Do check though that all the kids win some, otherwise you’ll end up with a crying kid with no candy and a kid with belly ache. I had bought lovely vintage circus themed party paper plates, cups and napkins online on Etsy.
I also bought some inexpensive fabrics from the market. One black one with colored stars which looked great as a backdrop for pictures with the kids during the party and some fabrics with an animal pattern which we put on the furniture. We also made a Pinata in the shape of a weird clown elephant. Actually it started out as an elephant but then he lost his trunk so we transformed him into a yellow clown with big ears. Go figure. It was fun making it with my children, they painted and decorated it. It added up to the fun of preparing the party. That’s one of their favorite parts of a birthday party: the preparation. They helped making the invitations as well. The invitations were admit one circus tickets we personalized and printed out.
We also made dumbbells with tape and balloons and all the children during the party got to be the strongman. We had put a long piece of wood a bit above the ground and the children could walk on it balancing and try not to fall. Even though it’s not actually a game, it was one of the favorite parts of their day. All the kids wanted to walk around with the dumbbells!
Throughout the day the children prepared some circus acts and all got a circus character role like the ringmaster, the clown, the acrobats, the juggler, the magician, the animals etc etc. We provided the children who felt like dressing up with costumes and we did some face paint.
We then played some carnival games like Hoop Toss and the Can toss game (just start collecting cans months before hand and decorate them with your children before the party). We also had three old cereal boxes that the children had decorated with a lion, a monkey and a seal and cut their mouth out. The children could throw bean bags in it at the party. We also played freeze dance. We put circus music on and the children had to dance. Every time I stopped the music they had to freeze. The ones that moved were out. The last child wins.
There is this one traditional Dutch game that is always a big success at the children’s birthday parties and we do it every time. It’s called koekhappen. You hang as many cookies or marshmallows on a string as there are children. The children then have to eat without using their hands. For the older children one can use blindfolds to make it more difficult.
Other games that the children always like to play are pass the parcel so we always do that and we also did charades this time. The thing with these games is you can adapt them to any theme so for example you only use circus characters and animals for the charades. You can adapt a pin the tail on the donkey to any theme as well. Pin the nose on the clown, the trunk on the elephant, the hat on the magician. Well, you get the idea.
We also made flames with orange paper which we glued on a Hula Hoop and that was the lion tame act. They had to throw the lion through the Hula Hoop into a basket on the other side. They ended up jumping themselves through the Hula Hoop but hey as long as they have fun, that’s the main thing! Another small game we played was find the animals. We divided the kids in three teams. Each team got a small plastic circus animal and had to hide it. The team that found the animals first won.
If you can find somebody to give a little show half way the birthday it’s nice, a clown or a magician for example. It calms the children down a bit after all this play and gets them ready for the cake eating part. We had a nice friendly lady clown. I was scared of how expensive something like that would be but it was ok as I just booked her for a short time, 45 minutes and it was nice cause she brought loads of circus stuff along for the children like spinning plates, juggling balls and diabolos. So after she gave the show they could play and try out different things she had brought along. The kids loved her!
The favorite game of the day was throw the pie. We had hung some cheap plastified red and white fabric I found on the market and cut two rounds in it. Me and my eldest daughter took turns and put our heads through the holes. The children got to throw “pies” at us. They actually were not real pies but plastic plates filled with whipped cream. The kids got to decorate their “pie” with sprinkles before throwing it at us. They loved throwing cream at our heads!
After the show they ate the cake and opened the presents. I wrote down the names of the children and put the pieces of papers into the balloons with some confetti and then inflated them. The children took turns and popped the balloons. The name that came out could give his present and pop the next balloon. It’s a good way to do the presents as you see who gave what present and the unwrapping doesn’t happen too fast.
The children all got a goody bag with a clowns nose, a certificate (most courageous lion tamer, best trapeze artist, funniest clown, etc etc), balloons, a circus themed tattoo and some candy. They had a great day and I, as usual, enjoyed seeing them all happy like that!