The end of the school year party is the last hoorah, a day of celebrating and saying goodbye for the summer. But if you’ve been planning events all year, you may be feeling a bit of room parent burnout at this point. So we’ve done the party planning for you on how to host an outdoor class carnival, including ways to get other parents—and the kids—involved so that everyone will have a fun time at the fete.
The easiest way to organize this party is to delegate a booth to each of the parent volunteers. You can assign each parent a concept, and they will be responsible for organizing all the aspects of the booth, from what it will look like to gathering the supplies needed. You can suggest ways that the kids in the class can be involved as well. For instance, see if the teacher can spare an afternoon for the kids to paint and decorate signs for the carnival. This type of activity not only helps offset parent prep time, it creates hype and buy-in from the kids for the event itself. Older kids also can help at the booths on carnival day.
Once the booths are all assigned, create a carnival ticket packet for each child. The packet will include specific tickets (“admit one to the egg and spoon race,” “good for one drink at the snack bar”). If the children are too young to read, have a graphic on the ticket that matches the graphic on each booth’s sign. The tickets prevent anyone from going wild at the snack booth and ensure there are enough supplies on hand for each child to do each activity.
So, ready to start thinking about the carnival booths? Here are some suggestions. Some of them are the type you’d see at a regular kid carnival, some are more directly tied into the end of the school year, and some were devised to make sure the kids take a break now and then too. And while school might almost be over, we’ve snuck a few educational twists into the games as well.
Classic Carnival Ideas
The ideas for carnival booths are endless, and will vary by the grade level. Here are a few that all ages will enjoy. Remember to not have too many booths; part of the fun is watching fellow classmates as kids wait their turn.
Bingo: Make this game the most popular at the carnival by asking parents and local businesses to donate the prizes for the game. Educational Twist: Use sight words or new vocabulary to fill the squares instead of the standard numbers.
Duck Pond: Write a number on the bottom of each rubber duck and set them in a wading pool or galvanized tub filled with water. Have prizes sorted by number so that the kids select a prize from that number’s reward section. Educational Twist: If the kids have been learning addition, subtraction, multiplication or division, you can write a problem on the base of the duck. So instead of the number “5” you would write “7-2” or “3+2.” The kids must then solve the problem to get the correct number to win their prizes.
Beanbag Toss: Paint a plywood sheet and cut out a hole in the center for the beanbag to go through. Educational Twist: Have the kids take a step back after every time they get a beanbag through the board. When they do miss, have them measure the distance between where they were standing and the board. The kids can then record the results on a piece of poster board and a special prize can be given at the end of the carnival for the child with the greatest distance between themselves and the game.
Jelly Bean Jar: Fill a glass jar full of pre-counted jelly beans. The kids then guess the number of candies in the jar. Whoever gets the number right (or is the closest) wins the jar. Educational Twist: While this game already utilizes their estimation skills, you can add another jar where the kids must figure out a word problem to answer correctly. For instance: “Mrs. Brown added 20 jelly beans to the jar. Mr. Brown added 40. Mr. Brown then ate 5. Mr. Green added 33. Mrs. Green added 10, but then took 6 out of the jar to eat. How many jelly beans are in the jar now?”Kids who answer it correctly would win a portion of the contents of that jar.
Snack Booth. What is a carnival without watermelon? For the menu offerings at the snack booth, think classic carnival food. Popcorn can be served in retro bags, hot dogs in buns (and have a vegetarian version on hand too), watermelon slices and root beer floats for dessert. If you’d like to serve a vegetable, corn on the cob is easy to prepare and eat. Educational Twist: Instead of tickets for this booth, the kids could be given faux cash, and then count out the correct amount to “buy” their meal.
End of the Year Booths
Frame painting: Have a parent take a class photo at least one week before the carnival. (Be sure to do so in advance-- if there is an absence you can try the next day, so all kids are in the photo.) Develop as many photo copies as students in the class, plus one for the teacher. The kids can paint and decorate wooden craft frames at this table. Once the frame is dried you can insert the class photo.
Class Gift: With the end of year crunch, it can be difficult to organize things like a class gift to the teacher. So make the gift one of the activities at the carnival. Students could make paper flowers that are then put in a ceramic vase, write in a memory book for the teacher with photos of the class throughout the school year, or sign their name on the matting of a large display frame that holds the class photo. Even if the kids just make cards, it’s a great way to let the teacher know her time and work was appreciated.
Memory Lane: Tie a piece of twine between two trees at eye level for the class. Older kids can sit at a table and write down a few sentences about their favorite experience in class (Younger children can dictate sentences for adults to jot down). Once they are done, use clothespins to attach the papers to the twine. The kids can then “take a walk down memory lane” and read what their fellow classmates had to share.
You want to plan a few low-key activities so the kids rest now and then. Here are some ideas to consider:
Face painting: Expect a long line at the face painting booth. Set up a table with at least two parents in the shade for this activity. It’s a good area to have a water cooler set up for the kids while they take a break.
Storytelling: A parent can set up camp under a shady tree with picnic blankets set out to sit on. Educational Twist: Design a sign with what stories will be read at what time and a pretend clock with moveable arms. The parent can then integrate a little time telling review before the story telling begins.
Yearbook Signing: A table and plenty of pens is all that is needed for this activity. If your child’s school does not offer a yearbook, you could always make a class yearbook on the computer and print out inexpensive booklets with a few photos of fieldtrips and events with a few blank pages at the end for signatures.