Ages: 5+

By the editors of Parents magazine
October 05, 2005

Invitations & Decorations

Create the magic of a circus right in your own backyard. From clown cakes to animal charades, this party will pack in the fun.

Clown Invitation

Draw or create a collage of a clown head on lightweight card stock; cut it out and cut a slit in its mouth. Unfurl a party blower and write all the information along it; insert the end into the mouth of the clown. Deliver by hand or mail them in padded envelopes.

Pennant Garland

Set the theme with a flourish of felt pennants.

What you need:

  • Card stock
  • Scissors
  • Several colors of felt
  • Pinking shears
  • Fabric glue
  • Fabric scissors
  • Animal templates
  • Yarn
  • Hole punch

To make:

Draw triangle with sides measuring 12"x 9"x 12" onto card stock, and cut out to make template. Draw slightly smaller triangle with sides measuring 11"x 8"x 11" onto card stock, and cut out to make a second template. Trace outline of large triangle template to felt, and cut out using pinking shears. Trace smaller triangle template to a contrasting color of felt, and cut out using straight-edge scissors. Enlarge animal template, trace to felt, and cut out using straight-edge scissors. Punch holes in two corners (the ones bordering the shortest side) of each finished scallop-edged triangle. Thread yarn through holes. Layer triangles, placing the straight-edged triangle on top, and glue together. Glue felt animal to top of straight-edged triangle. Repeat until you have enough triangles to fill the length of your garland.

Craft supply sources:

Yarn from Coats and Clark; call 800-648-1479 for stores. Felt from Kunin; call 800-292-7900.

Carnival Buckets

The perfect centerpieces, our decoupage buckets hold a ton of treats.

What you need:

  • Mod Podge
  • Quilling paper
  • Metal buckets
  • Metal paint
  • Patterned paper
  • Circle craft punch
  • Scissors
  • Paintbrush

To make carnival buckets:

Cut triangles from different colors of quilling paper to fit dimensions of bucket. Adhere to bucket using Mod Podge, alternating color and direction of triangles. When finished, seal with layer of Mod Podge.

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Animal charades

Pair up kids, and put a hat with an animal picture taped to it on each child's head. Don't let the wearer see the hat. Children act out their partner's animal, while the partner guesses what it is.

Clown Pinata

Older kids will have fun taking a swing at these cheerful papier-mache pinatas.

What you need:

  • 16" diameter balloon
  • Newspaper cut in strips
  • Papier- mache (In a large bucket, mix 3 parts water with 2 parts flour)
  • Masking tape
  • String
  • Crepe-paper fringe
  • Mod Podge
  • Paintbrush
  • Felt
  • 1 ½" diameter wooden dowel to crack open pinata

To make:

Cover most of papier-mache form with yellow crepe-paper fringe, leaving space for a face. Cover facial area with white fringe. Fashion nose from rolled red crepe-paper fringe and other features from felt. Top off with a colorful party hat.Craft-supply sources: Colored crepe-paper fringe from Party City; visit for stores. Decorative paper and ribbons from Midori; call 800-659-3049.

Lion-Face Bag Toss

Children will line up eagerly for a chance to toss a beanbag through this smiling lion face.

What you need:

  • 30" Styrofoam wreath form
  • Mod Podge
  • Paintbrush
  • 2 or 3 rolls of orange crepe-paper fringe
  • 1 roll yellow crepe-paper fringe
  • Kraft paper (to enlarge face template)
  • Pencil
  • Foam-core board
  • Yellow, orange, and white felt
  • Box cutter
  • Scissors
  • Fabric glue
  • Heavy-duty staple gun and staples
  • Hammer
  • Eight 2" nails
  • Heavy-duty fishing line

To make the mane:

Use paintbrush to apply Mod Podge to a small section of the Styrofoam wreath, and cover with orange crepe-paper fringe. Repeat until the entire form has been covered in orange fringe. Finish by layering yellow crepe-paper fringe over the orange in a swirled fashion, gluing in place with Mod Podge.

To make the face:

Enlarge and trace face templates onto kraft paper and cut out. Trace kraft-paper pieces to appropriate felt color, and cut out. Trace outline of Styrofoam wreath to foam core, and cut out using a box cutter. Arrange face pieces on foam core, and mark opening for mouth. Remove face pieces, and cut out mouth using box cutter. Cover foam core with pale yellow felt, and secure with staple gun to back of foam core. Recut opening for mouth, folding felt to the back and stapling to foam core. Arrange face pieces over covered foam core, using fabric glue to hold them in place.

To assemble:

Tie two lengths of heavy-duty fishing line around wreath form (at top of left and right sides). Nail foam-core face to wreath form using eight 2" nails. Hang.

Craft-supply sources:

Colored crepe-paper fringe from Party City; visit for stores. Felt from Kunin; call 800-292-7900. 30" Styrofoam wreath by Floracraft; call 800-253-0409.

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Clown Cake

By Wendy Smolen

This delightful-looking cake is a cinch to make. Be sure to make room in your freezer before you start.

Prep & decorating time: 40 minutes.

Bake time: 30 minutes.

Freeze time: 1 hour.

Yield: 12 servings.

  • 1 box (18.25 oz.) yellow cake mix, plus ingredients listed on box
  • 5 round (about 3"-diameter) cookies with scalloped edges
  • 2 cans (16 oz. each) vanilla ready-to-spread frosting
  • Green, pink, yellow, and orange sugar crystals
  • 5 ice-cream cones
  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream
  • Yellow liquid food coloring
  • 1 tube (4.25 oz.) orange decorating icing, fitted with a star tip
  • 1 tube (4.25 oz.) blue decorating icing, fitted with a writing tip
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Prepare batter, bake, and cool cake layers according to package directions for two 9" round pans.
  2. Spread cookies with a layer of frosting, then press into green sugar crystals. Place in a 9"x 13" baking pan; set aside. Spread a thin layer of frosting on ice-cream cones. Roll each cone in a different-color sugar; set aside.
  3. Place five scoops of ice cream on a plate. Freeze until very firm, about 30 minutes.
  4. Tint second can of frosting bright yellow. Fill and frost cake layers. With orange icing, pipe a pattern of wide X's around side of cake. With blue icing, pipe dots where X's meet.
  5. Top each cookie with a scoop of ice cream, pressing down gently to make scoops adhere. Top each scoop with an ice-cream-cone hat. Freeze 20 minutes, or until ice cream is very firm.
  6. Remove from freezer. Working quickly, pipe an orange ruffle around bottom of each cone and a pom-pom at top. Refreeze 10 minutes.
  7. With blue icing, pipe eyes and mouths on clown faces and buttons on hats. (Ice-cream clowns can be made up to two days ahead.) Immediately before serving, arrange clown ice-cream cones in a circle on top of cake.

Carousel Cake

Decorated Animals

  • ½ recipe royal icing (see Little-Fish Cookie recipe, step 5)
  • Black, blue, brown, grey, orange, and yellow food coloring
  • Animal crackers


  • 1 box (18.25 oz.) cake mix, any flavor
  • 2 cans (12 oz.) soft whipped white frosting
  • Green, orange, and yellow food coloring
  • Green, orange, and yellow jelly beans
  • Orange candy sticks
  • Paper canopy (see note, below)
  1. Prepare royal icing following directions for thinning to consistency of heavy cream. Divide icing among seven small bowls. Tint one bowl each black, blue, brown, grey, orange, and yellow. Leave one white. Decorate animal crackers. Let dry completely. (This can be done a day ahead.) Store cookies in an airtight container.
  2. Prepare cake mix according to package directions for baking two 8" round cakes.
  3. Divide 1 cup frosting among three bowls. Tint one bowl green, one orange, and one yellow. Place each frosting in a resealable plastic bag, and snip off one corner. Place one cake layer on serving plate; spread with ½ cup white frosting; top with remaining cake layer. Frost entire cake with remaining white frosting. Alternating colors, pipe stripes of colored frosting on side of cake. Place jelly beans along bottom of cake. Insert candy sticks on top of cake and attach animal crackers. Top with canopy. Serves 12.
  4. Note: To make canopy: Trace around a dinner plate on heavy paper. Cut out circle, then make a cut from the edge to the center of the circle. Overlap edges, securing with glue, to make cone.

Copyright© 2004. Reprinted with permission from the April 2002 issue of Parents magazine.

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