Traveling circuses don’t travel much these days. In fact we’re sure our kids have seen more of a circus from bed-time stories than in real life. If your kiddos dream of the Big Top and her very own circus themed birthday party we’ve uncovered a bunch of tips and tricks to make her dream come true. While your circus party may not include a real life petting zoo, caravan of tigers and display of elephants, there’s no reason to skimp on the details when planning your tot’s very own circus themed party. From “Come one, come all” invitations to rainbow cakes and prizes, we’ve round up a list of inspirations to turn your home into a circus of its own.


Vintage Circus Tickets
If you want to go the vintage route, Caroline Armelle of Armelle Blog created these adorable and stunning “circus ticket” invitations for her tot’s birthday. Included in the envelope was a photo of the birthday boy, a ticket and a balloon with a secret password! What a way to get your guests excited before the big day.

Come One, Come All Invite
If classic is more your style, check out these circus party invitations by anders-ruff. The striped design is eye-catching, but it’s the mini animals that’ll entice the little ones to attend. We love how the ticket is detachable by a perforated line. It’s just like going to a real circus! ($18 for printable files; + $37 for 25 printed cards)


Veiled Doorway
These hanging circles will add dazzle to any door way, and will certainly add an air of mystery as to what’s on the other side. Rebecca of The Crafted Sparrow was extra resourceful by using free paint chip samples from Home Depot and hot-glueing them to a ribbon. Pin up circus posters on the wall for extra decoration points!

Banner/Foyer Design
This banner designs, along with the vintage cut-outs of a circus troupe add a delicate flair to the party. This mom decorated her party using TomKat Studio’s Circus Candy Collection. And yes, having a monkey (or a even clown) does make everything even more spectacular – we’re sure these kids had a blast at this amazing party.

Patterned Backdrop
If you’re up for something more unique, check out Melissa‘s gorgeous backdrop for her Nacho Bar table. We love how the umbrellas and ruffles are beautiful to look at; they aren’t your typical circus design either. They’re fun, creative and make for a great background for taking photos.

Prop Rentals
Did you start considering animals, a clown or magician for your party? Check out prop rental companies or event planners in your area who may have just the goods to make your party perfect. Chakoda Rentals (based in Southern California) had a plethora of props to make this birthday tot a ringmaster!

What to Eat

Healthy Appetites
The show will go on… but not on your tot’s empty stomach! While we all secretly dread (and love) the oily carnival food, making your own healthy snacks is definitely one way to avoid food induced coma. Start with a fresh appetizer of carrot and celery in ranch dip, or some fun fruit pops that the kids will love chomping on. The decorative cards by Annie-Eats do make the food look yummier.

Hot Dogs
Save the hamburgers for family BBQ’s. What’s a circus without hot dogs? These are guaranteed to be a hit with everyone from young to old, and you definitely won’t have to worry about picky-eaters (well, maybe not definitely). A sign might not be needed for delicious hot dogs, but we love how this mom put one anyway.

Popcorn Machine
Suzanne of BeBeh was extra resourceful and found a $10 popcorn machine from Craigslist — what a steal! Kids will love munching on popcorn while waiting for their turn at the games. And the popcorn machine will also add to the circus decor, especially if dad is willing to push it around.

Dessert Table
Amy Atlas featured a great circus themed dessert table with items from Spaceships and Laser Beams. If you’re tired of red and white patterns, these designs are such a sight for sore eyes. With deep blues and rich red tones, this dessert table has a wide range of caramel popcorn to cherry swirls and is definitely the way to go for parents who are worried about sugaring up their (and everyone else’s) kids.

Cotton Candy Buckets
Of course, the kiddos might be satisfied with their own bucket of cotton candy, just like the kids at Tallie’s party were. Buckets of cotton candy may be bought at your local super store like Target or Walmart. Whether you rent a machine or decorate your own buckets, these will be the winning sweets of the day. The labels are Vintage Circus printables by TomKat Studio.

Dumbo-Inspired Cake
This amazing birthday cake comes all the way from Brazil! We love how this party strayed-away from bright reds and blues, clowns and circus tents, and instead, kept the vintage, nostalgic feel of the elephants in cute hats, doing tricks (Dumbo, anyone?).

Three Tiered Cupcake Cake
But that doesn’t mean a classic circus tent cake can’t do the trick either.  This three-tiered cake has all the fixings a party-planning mom would love — from the edible top layer to shareable cupcakes and the fantastic striped design, there’ll be no mistake that this party is a circus party.

Rainbow Cake
Have a surprise for your tot (if you’re feeling extra cheeky, bring out a white cake) when you let them cut the first slice! This rainbow tiered cake is worth effort when your little one bursts into smiles. Besides, there’s nothing more vibrant and happy than a rainbow cake, right?


Raffle Tickets
Remember to buy a roll of raffle tickets to pass out to the winners of the games, or as tokens to play games. It’ll get the kids excited, competitive (in a good way) and absolutely proud when they have enough tickets for the prize of their choice. ($4 on Amazon)

Face Painting Booth
You could hire a face painter… or go with DIY, it’s simple and much cheaper. One Charming Party has figured out an easy trick: Use rubber stamps and non-toxic ink to stamp designs on your kiddo’s check! Pick up paints and stamps at Michaels, or buy a kit online.

Bean Bag Toss
Like any circus, this game will be a hit for kids and adults alike (and without the sneaky tricks that stop you from winning). Award points – or tickets – to certain holes, and your kids will definitely race to win. The Hill Family had the cutest circus party, be sure to check it out!

Ball Toss
simple ball toss can be done with ping-pong balls and candle holders or jars from your own home. Make sure the jars have narrow openings, you don’t want it to be too easy!

Mystery Box
It’s a simple game that challenges a kid’s courage and will have them bursting into giggles. Put a hole in the side of the box and have the brave kiddos guess what’s inside – if it’s a prize, let them have it! Viv from Ish & Chi designed such a pretty box, we’re wondering what was inside.

Photo Booth
This will be the biggest attraction of the entire day — your very own photo booth! Set up a corner (or find a huge cardboard box) and decorate the walls using your party’s color theme. Tori of Thoughtfully Simple provided her guests with props like moustaches, hats, clown wigs and noses – you can even break out the old Halloween costumes!


Animal Crackers
What’s a circus without the classic Barnum’s Animal Crackers? These delicious snacks will find their way into all your guest’s pockets — plus we love how The Sweetest Occasion used decorated brown bags as a treat bag. What a nod to the old days of traveling circuses!

Pom-pom Party Hats
There’s no birthday party without a party hat – these special pom-pom hats with ruffles are really one of a kind. Andrea of Everyday Beauty bought plain party hats and decorated them with polka dots, pom-poms and festoning.

Ringmaster Moustaches
Everyone loves a well-groomed moustache. Hand these forever-perfect moustaches as a party favor, and get ready to snap photos of your guests being silly! Vanessa from Blog 5 to 9 added striped handles to her moustaches, giving them an extra circus kick!

Prize Booth
We had to post this prize booth made by Viv from Ish & Chi. It’s a great way to get around packaging individual party bags (especially if you’re having a huge party), and a clever trick to tie your whole party together. Remember those raffle tickets from before? Let the kiddos trade them in for a prize of their choice – now each party favor will definitely be unique! 

Get ready for the circus show – your own party with the birthday tot as the main event! If you’ve ever thrown a circus party, share your pics, comments and tips with other Red Tri readers by leaving a comment below or sending an email to our editor, Erin (

— Christal Yuen