10 Carnival Games for Family Festivals

African American woman popping balloons with dart
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Carnival games are a hit at family festivals, but they can be expensive to rent from an event company. Plenty of popular carnival games can be made inexpensively, however. From trunk or treat events to school fundraisers, these homemade carnival games are easy to make, easy to win, and fun for all.

  • 01 of 10

    Pick a Duck

    In this game, a contestant selects a rubber duck out of a pool of water and turns it over. If there's a colored dot on the bottom of the duck, the participant wins a prize.

    In order to set up the game, you'll need a bunch of small rubber ducks, permanent markers in various colors, a plastic swimming pool, and water. Fill a small plastic swimming pool with water. Mark the underside of each rubber duck with a colored dot and wait for the marker to dry. Once the ducks are dry, add them to the water.

    The different colors represent the type of prize the participant will win. For example, a red dot could mean candy, while a blue dot might represent a small toy. If you have one large prize to give away, mark one of the ducks with a green dot.

  • 02 of 10

    Water Coin Drop

    The concept of the water coin drop is simple: Place a glass on the bottom of an empty aquarium tank. Fill the glass with water and a few coins to anchor it and then fill the aquarium with water.

    To play, participants place in the water and let it go. If the coin lands inside the glass, they win. Have enough coins on hand to last you throughout the event. Provide the same type of coin to make it fair to everyone who plays.

    Tip

    To make the game more difficult, use a shot glass. For an easier game, increase the size of the glass.

  • 03 of 10

    Balloon Pop

    To set up this carnival game, you'll need index cards, balloons, pins, darts, and a wall for this game. Start by thinking about how you would like your balloons arranged. It's easiest to line them up in rows, but they can also be arranged to depict an image. For example, if the game is played at a fall festival, use orange and green balloons to create a large pumpkin.

    Don't arrange them yet, though—you need to get their prize cards attached first.
    Once you know how many balloons you will use, write out your prizes on index cards, using one card per prize. Pin each index card to the wall with the prize facing the wall so no one can see it. Place a balloon over each index card, pinning the base to the index card, so you don't pop the balloon.

    To play, participants will throw the darts at the balloons and attempt to pop one. If they pop a balloon, the index card will be revealed. Remove it from the wall, turn it over, and show the winner what they won.

  • 04 of 10

    Gone Fishing

    For this game, you'll need a child-sized fishing pole with a binder clip attached at the end instead of a hook. If you don't have a fishing pole, make one with a stick with thin rope and a binder clip attached.

    The object of the game is very simple and guarantees a prize, which makes it an instant hit with younger children. The player will cast a line over a wall where an adult is hiding on the other side. Watch your head! Clip a piece of candy or a small toy to the clip and give the fishing line a pull as if the kids have caught a fish. The player pulls out the line and takes their prize.

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  • 05 of 10

    Dino Dig

    This homemade carnival game can be a bit messy, but kids will love it. To create the game, you'll need sand, plastic shovels, plastic "dinosaur eggs," and a small container, such as a kiddie-sized swimming pool.

    Put stickers and other small prizes inside the plastic eggs. If you have larger prizes, write the name of the prize on a slip of paper and put it inside an egg. Place all of the eggs in the small container. Fill the container with sand, making sure all of the eggs are completely covered.

    Hand out plastic shovels and let participants start digging. To minimize the chaos, only let one or two people dig at a time. The game is over when they find an egg and receive their prizes.

  • 06 of 10

    Bobbing for Apples

    One of the most popular fall festival games is bobbing for apples. However, if having children stick their mouth in a tub of water grosses you out, try this old British take on the game. Hang the apples from strings instead of using a bucket of water, and only allow one child to try for one apple, so other kids' mouths aren't going for the same apple.

    Another hygienic option is to catch apples with small nets. Use the bucket of water and stick the apples in for bobbing. Instead of kids using their mouths to get the apples out, they'll have to use a small net instead. This is perfect for smaller children who are working on their coordination skills. For older children, make it more challenging by blindfolding them.

  • 07 of 10

    Bean Bag Toss

    Make your own bean bag toss game, in which a bean bag making it in the hole means the participants win a prize. If you would like to give players more than one shot at winning, add more holes to the boards and paint rings around the different holes to represent prize tiers. For example, the hole at the top center is the hardest to get the bag through, so paint a red ring that signifies that the winner gets a big prize. Paint blue rings on the second row to indicate a medium-sized prize and yellow rings on the bottom row, which are the closest and easiest to hit, so the winner gets a small prize.

  • 08 of 10

    Spin the Wheel

    There's something about a spinning wheel that draws a crowd of young and old. Additionally, you can theme the wheel for the festivities—for Halloween, you could put ghost and pumpkins on a wheel and ask the player to choose one. If the wheel lands on the one they've chosen, they win a prize. Alternatively, if you want players to try for specific prizes, put pictures of the prizes on the wheel.

    if you're using candy as the prize, put numbers on the wheel and have participants guess which number the wheel will land on next. If it's not the number the player has called, that number of candy pieces goes into a pot. The next player then calls a number. Repeat until the wheel finally lands on a player's number and they win the candy loot.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Find the Ball

    This classic homemade carnival game is one of the simplest on the list. You only need three plastic cups and a small ball to play. Show the ball to your player, then put it under a cup, and switch the cups around. The player tries to follow the cup that has the ball underneath. When you're done moving the cups, the player taps the top of the cup they think the ball is in. Lift the cup, and if the ball is there, they win a prize.

    Another option is to use a piece of cardboard to hide all of the cups from your player. Place the ball under any cup and then remove the cardboard. Instead of moving the cups around, the player will guess which cup is hiding the ball. This version is easier for smaller children, especially if you increase their odds of winning by hiding an extra ball under more than one of the cups.

  • 10 of 10

    Lollipop Pull

    To set up a lollipop pull, buy a large number of lollipops and use markers to color the bottom of the lollipop sticks. You'll also need some hay. Place all of the lollipops into the hay, colored end side down. Participants come up one by one and pull a lollipop. Hand out the prize you've designated for that color lollipop stick.

    Make the game hard by only coloring a few lollipop sticks and leaving the rest white. Only players who pull a lollipop with a colored stick will win. For an easier game, color the bottom of every lollipop stick, using different colors to indicate separate prize tiers.