These active toys, made with easy-to-find items from hardware and grocery stores, are perfect for creating a three-ring show. With colorful painter's tape or sidewalk chalk, make large circles on the floor or ground, then set up one activity in each. Have an adult ringmaster on hand to spot the acrobats as necessary.
Encourage partygoers to imagine they're far up in the air as they navigate this narrow beam. An umbrella adds an authentic aerialist touch and may help with balance (just be sure to keep others at a safe distance to prevent umbrella-
spoke pokes). For extra fun, place a dime on the far end, which the high-wire walker may keep if she retrieves it and returns to the starting point without tumbling off.
You will need:
1. Cover the two-by-four with duct tape, being sure to cover the top edges to prevent splinters. We added a contrasting strip of tape down the board's center to create a tightrope effect.
2. Cover the bricks with duct tape. Set one under each end of the board. Make sure the end rests directly over the brick so that the board won't tip up when a guest stands on it.
Craft a kid-friendly version of the classic plate-balancing act. Holding the balancing stick in one hand, each guest tries to keep the barrel aloft. For a tougher trick, have him balance the stick atop a finger. If you like, time each partygoer and award a prize to the one who balances the barrel the longest.
You will need:
1. Stick a square of duct tape on the bottom of the container and, if the lid is cardboard, stick another one atop the lid (if it's plastic, leave it as is).
2. Make a template by tracing the barrel's bottom on the paper. Cut out and fold the traced circle into four equal sections. Open the circle, mark the center, and draw a line along one fold.
3. Along the line, mark a dot 3/4 inch from either side of the center point. With the pencil point, pierce a hole through each dot. Using the template, mark dots on the bottom and the lid of the barrel, then use the craft knife (adults only) to cut a small X at each dot. Widen the openings with the pencil.
4. Using double-sided tape to adhere the decorative paper, cover the barrel's sides. Decorate the dowels with electrical tape as shown. Wrap a rubber band securely around two dowels, 9 inches from one end.
5. Insert the two dowels through the barrel's bottom holes, sliding them in until each rubber band is flush against the bottom. Slide the lid over the dowels' top ends, then fit the lid in place.
6. Gently twist the lid so that the dowels cross inside the container. Place erasers on all the dowel ends. To use the barrel, set it atop the remaining dowel, which serves as the balancing stick.
This simple device will thrill your little daredevils. Challenge kids to see who can stand on the board the longest without letting the ends touch the ground. Our directions give a couple of sizes for the board and for the pipe, so you can choose the degree of difficulty. (Balancing is easier on a wider board and pipe, harder on a narrower board and pipe.)
You will need:
1. Pencil a line 1 1/2 inches in from each end of the board. Starting at one line and ending at the other, cover the board with duct tape stripes.
2. With a serrated kitchen knife, cut two pool-noodle segments to match the width of the board. Slice open each segment along one side and slip the segments over the ends of the board. Add lines of hot glue where the noodle edges and the board meet.
3. Place the end caps onto the pipe and place it under the board.
To let guests grab the spotlight, hang a festive tablecloth to serve as a backdrop. Add a paper banner cut from computer printouts and taped to a string. Snap digital photos of guests posing with a red nose. Print the shots for kids to take home, or use them for thank-you notes.
For a showstopping party centerpiece, first bake a 9- by 13-inch cake using your favorite recipe or mix.
Cover the cake with white frosting, extending it onto the platter along one short end. Separate red Pull 'n' Peel Twizzlers into sections of one, two, and three strands and arrange them on the frosting as shown. With decorators' icing, pipe a birthday message on a frosted sugar cookie, then frame it with a Twizzler strand.
Finally, cover the cake's top section and the frosting on the platter with caramel corn.
These big top snacks couldn't be easier to make. Simply prepare your favorite corn muffin recipe or mix, add the batter to the muffin tin, and submerge a bite-size hot dog segment in each cup before baking. Let the muffins cool.
Stuff take-home toppers with trinkets and sweets (don't forget the circus peanuts!). To make each hat, trim a 12-inch square of scrapbook paper into a 10-inch square. Roll it into a cone, secure it with staples or double-sided tape, and trim the rim to even it out. Pierce a hole in either side, then insert and knot a length of elastic to serve as a chin strap. If you like, attach pom-pom trim with double-sided tape or tacky glue. Hang the hats from a line with clothespins or just string them on a chair to hand out as each partygoer hits the road.
Originally published in the March 2012 issue of FamilyFun magazine