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Why Every School Carnival or Kids Fun Fair Needs a WOW!

Why Every School Carnival or Kids Fun Fair Needs a WOW!

Posted by Katie Knight on Jan 16, 2024

Planning a School Carnival or Kids Fun Fair - Make Sure You Include a "Wow"!

Let's just be honest, impressing kids and parents today can be tough! 

With most adults (and many children) carrying around a cell phone with endless entertainment all hours of the day and night, carnivals and festivals have quite a bit of competition for attention.

Not to worry - upping your game for your School Carnival or Fun Fair can be as easy as a little brainstorming and some simple strategies that we are happy to share!

A couple of things to keep in mind...

In a perfect world, you would want to have an event or activity that is the "talk of the town." (We will share some ideas below - so keep reading.)

Also, in this carnival fantasy, every carnival booth needs to have something special to make that booth unique. We like to call this the "Wow" factor. We will share some details about that in a moment - but let's cover your big event as a whole first.

We have a few simple suggestions below to make sure that your festival is exciting and you are set up to make sure your community is "talking up" the carnival and sure to attend!

You might also like:

large-carnival-attraction-for-school-carnival.jpgThe above image shows a rented rock wall at a school carnival with kids climbing and line with children waiting their turn.  

nb-one.jpg  Add Unique Carnival Activities That Will Interest All Ages For Your "Wow"

You need to give your community a reason why they need to attend your festival or school carnival in the first place. We suggest you choose something that is so exciting that the kids are talking about it on the playground and that they excitably tell their parents - so nobody wants to miss out!

We do recommend having 2 - 3 big attention grabber type activities for elementary schools. One that would interest the younger crowd. For example: preschool thru 2nd grade kids. We find that this age level loves things like pony rides, a trackless train or a petting zoo. You will also want at least one attraction that is geared for the older kids, those ages 3rd grade and up, like a rock wall, giant obstacle course, or zip-line set. 

Having a few memorable carnival or festival booths that make the kids tell their parents "I can't wait for the school carnival!"


The above short video shows an outdoor school carnival rented ride with kids spinning. 

One elementary school in our area has a school carnival with amazing theme park carnival rides rented for the day. This happens only once a year so all the kids are super excited and will ask their parents to save the date to make sure they attend!

If your school PTA or PTO may not have the budget for the more extravagant rides, consider reaching out to local businesses for donations in exchange for advertising their business on a prominent sign for all to see. You can also choose somewhat less expensive activities, especially if this is for a school fundraising carnival.

And, don't forget, kids get really excited finding out that their school carnival has a huge slide on the front lawn, pony rides on the soccer field and Laser Tag in the gym!

Remember, you are looking for activities that the kids don't get to do very often, which makes your carnival really exciting!

If this is your first year doing a school carnival, consider keeping it somewhat simple. The novelty of the carnival will be exciting for your community - so you can highlight some activities like a large inflatable obstacle course or a giant slide, dunk tank, and carnival games with prizes.

One word of caution.... Choose your "Wow" activities carefully!

We have seen schools choose a "unique activity" that was rented from a company at a large cost that could have been done for much less! For example - a photo booth.

Carnival Photo Booth with props 
The above image shows kids posing for a photo in front of a DIY photo Booth in a School Cafeteria.

Most photo booth companies charge a fee to loan all the "dress up" supplies, cute signs and bring a background with a professional photographer. This is great fun, but can run hundreds of dollars - we have seen some that cost $750 and more!

For new school carnivals or church festivals on a tight budget - this booth shown above can easily be done with very little investment.

Most folks have a cell phone camera ready to go in their pocket - simply purchase a few supplies like brightly colored wrapping paper*, photo stick props, a photo sign, a cool carnival themed photo background (as shown in the image above) and simply have a volunteer snap photos for families or friends - all done for a fraction of the price of a professional!

*Quick Tip - Purchase wrapping paper after the Christmas holiday wrapping paper goes on sale or use bulletin board paper in a solid color to save on the backdrop shown above.

We would recommend spending your budget on a big activity that cannot be duplicated easily by volunteers. 

School Carnival Flyer advertisement
The image above shows elementary school carnival flyer design on a desk

nb-two.jpg Get the Word Out to Your Community!

Sharing your plans for your big event is paramount!

Let's say you have arranged to have a company add a zip-line at your school grounds for the older kids and you have a petting zoo scheduled for the younger crowd.
Fantastic, but if the community does not know about the plans - you will likely have less families attend because they are now aware of the excitement that is waiting for them!

Getting the word out at school is pretty easy! Most teachers are happy to talk up the carnival and the exciting entertainment planned.

In addition, the information can be shared on the school's website, social media pages and even posted on the doors at local businesses with their permission.

school-carnival-signs-designed-by-kids.jpgThe image above shows elementary carnival flyers (designed by children) on a school fence

One school in our neck of the woods has the kids design their own carnival advertisements -we think this idea is brilliant! 

Carnival planners at this school add some details about their carnival above and below the artwork, laminate the pieces and post them around the school (see the example above). As a fun bonus, the artwork is judged and one piece of artwork from each grade is chosen as a winning design and the artist is given 20 free tickets as a reward for their creativity!

What a great way to get everyone involved and encourage event attendance too!


 All Carnival Games Should Have a "Wow" Too!

Now, we would be remiss without mentioning how important it is to have some unique and special games at each carnival game as well.

Whether you are planning for a fundraising school carnival, a church festival or a neighborhood event your carnival-goers may not stick around to try out the games and activities at each booth if they all look pretty much the same.

What gives carnival game booths the "Wow"? That's easy... the carnival prizes, of course!

Above short video / gif shows plush dogs as a top prize hanging at at the back of a carnival booth outdoors.

If you have ever been to a professional carnival or theme park, one thing you surely noticed were the prizes on display that could be won by playing the game. As a matter of fact - the large colorful stuffed animals hanging up most likely lured you in to take a closer look and maybe even enticed you to play the game! 

It's easy to mimic that at a school carnival or church festival too.

Your games will look much more fun and enticing if the kids can actually see the prizes they can win!

We recommend hanging your prizes if possible, (see image above) such as stuffed animals on a clothesline at the back of a carnival booth. But, for some games, just placing all the top prizes overflowing in a large bucket is enough to get the kids excited about winning! The image below shows some plush dogs as a top carnival prize displayed in a basket.

The above image shows a multi-colored tablecloth for a fall festival game with carnival prizes on a table.

Also, we also recommend adding some simple carnival decorations, such as a colorful tablecloth (if using a table) and some simple decorations to each game - that really make a huge visual impact as well! (See our example image above for a fall festival lollipop game that is sure to catch attention with the bright colors and awesome prizes!)

Note - if you are looking for carnival game ideas - check out our most popular page on our website for all types of game ideas!

One More Important Note: Please AVOID this Carnival Prize Mistake...

Sometimes carnival planners buy a bunch of bulk carnival prizes (which is great) and mix them together in a jumbled mess (which is not so great) and divide them out at each carnival game booth.

Although this saves time it's a very bad idea. Now, we are shouting from the rooftops on this one...


Why? In a nutshell, it makes each game seem the same and, quite frankly, boring for the kiddos when prizes are given out in this manner.

In truth, there are actually 5 reasons why mixing up prizes is a bad idea for every carnival whether you are planning a school fundraising carnival, a church festival or a community fun fair.

(You can read our blog post about carnival prizes to learn all the details and some other alternatives!)

But for this post - let's just agree that the carnival games will not have a "wow" if all games have the same "mess of toys"!

Small prizes in buckets - divided for carnival booths
The above image shows two colorful buckets each with a different carnival prize.

This is so easy to fix - simply use colorful pails, or baskets to display different prizes grouped together as shown above. If you are worried that one booth will run out of the consolation prize, we recommend having backup prizes and choose a new prize for the one that ran out during your event - the kids won't mind - we promise this is true based on almost 20 years of school carnival experience!

In summary, we hope that this has helped to stimulate your brainstorming and looking in your area for some unique and exciting activities to add to your carnival that is sure to get the kids really excited about your big event and give you the big "Wow"!

Thank you so much for visiting - we feel confident putting a few simple principles into place will go a long way at helping you to have a successful community kids carnival!