5 DIY Carnival Games to Play at Home

Here's your nightly math! Just 5 quick minutes of number fun for kids and parents at home. Read a cool fun fact, followed by math riddles at different levels so everyone can jump in. Your kids will love you for it.

5 DIY Carnival Games to Play at Home

August 4, 2014

We love to visit the carnival for the rides but the cost of tickets can add up. So, we try to hustle the kids past the fast-talking barkers. You know, the ones hawking those games that cost $5 for a chance to get a dollar store piece of junk that will break before you leave the parking lot! We try to skip the pricey games at the fair and make our own fun at home while learning why those big stuffed animals are so difficult to win!

Here are five DIY carnival games to try at home.

Throw in a few simple prizes (maybe their cast off from previous carnivals?) and your kids will be occupied for hours, calculating the odds and learning geometry without even realizing it.

1. Ring Toss

Glue 5-10 cardboard toilet paper and paper towel rolls to a piece of flat cardboard. Fashion some rings out of chenille stems (pipe cleaners). Break out the tape measure and start about two feet away. Try to toss a ring around the cardboard rolls. Older kids who need more of a challenge should move back a foot or two. How does the distance between tubes affect your success? How wide does the diameter of the pipe cleaner ring have to be relative to the cardboard roll before you are successful?

2. Pick a duck

One of the simplest games to set up and play if you have a little one is the Pick A Duck game. Just gather up all your bath toy rubber ducks and put a sticker on each or mark them with permanent marker on ten percent of the ducks. Float the ducks in a baby pool or a clear storage container “pond.” Would you be more or less likely to get a duck with a mark if more of them had marks? Older kids can calculate the exact odds. Another fun variation is to mark pairs of ducks with the same number or color or shape. Try to make a match!

3. Ping Pong Toss (Goldfish Bowl) 

Grab a handful of ping pong balls and a few plastic candy jars. It’s okay, good even, if they are not identical. Please skip the goldfish; you’ll be glad you did. Use glue dots to temporarily stick the jars down to the lid of a large cardboard box or piece of poster board. Keep extra glue dots on hand in order to experiment with difference arrangements. Now, try to toss in a ping pong ball. Is it easier to win if the bowls are closer together or farther apart? How many tosses does it take to score? Is it easier to score with the wider or narrower jars? Does it matter if the lip of the jar curves inward or is straight?

4. Tin Can Knock-Down

Stack a pyramid of clean, empty soup cans in a 3-2-1 arrangement. Try to knock them all down with a tennis ball or bean bag. How many can you knock down? Where do you have to hit the cans to knock them all down? How does the size of the ball impact your success? How about the mass or weight of the ball? What happens if you fill the tin cans with sand or pebbles?

5. Balloon Darts

You’ll probably want to limit this one to older kids and supervise closely. Inflate balloons and use the glue dots to stick them to a piece of cardboard. You can make different colored balloons for different prizes or make a bull’s-eye where the balloons are worth more in the center. Use darts or make DIY throwing darts from paper, toothpicks and a nail or push pin. Is it easier or harder to pop balloons when they are more inflated? How about if there is less space between the balloons? Is it easier or harder to hit the center balloon?

Speaking of fast-talking carnival barkers, check out this Bedtime Math Problem!

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About the Author

Candace Lindemann

Candace Lindemann, of Naturally Educational, is a nationally recognized and quoted educational expert and published children’s writer who holds a B.A. from Yale University and an M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education,

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