Category Archives: Backyard Carnival

The Haunted Fairground

Remember Backyard Carnival? Well, after a bit of Blue Petering and DIY yesterday it became the Haunted Fairground!

Having a kids’ Fright Night has become a bit of annual event after last year when I spooked up the garden for a haunted treasure hunt. The kids were terrified and delighted in equal measure while I thoroughly enjoyed myself cooking the whole thing up and executing it.

Following the success of Backyard Carnival this year I wanted to create a spooky version for Halloween, with the kids performing Crystal Maze type challenges at the carnival stalls.

I set up the stalls and manned them with classic ghouls such as killer clowns and vampires. The playhouse got a spooky makeover (including a Blair Witch stick figure set in a pile of rocks at the doorway, an excellent touch I thought but it didn’t get a second glance from the kids on whom the reference was lost lol). I also placed a few candles on an old piano I’d recently taken outside and scary music played through the outdoor speakers (a mix of Silent Hill soundtrack and creepy child laughter).

The challenges were as follows:

Spooky Snacks1. Spooky Snacks
The kids had to race against the clock to find the talisman hidden at the snack stall. An easy challenge to start them off… and lull them into a false sense of security!

2. Blood Bath
Guarded by a killer clown, this stall featured a bucket filled with blood and body parts, along with two smaller buckets connected by a pulley. The kids had to figure out that filling one small bucket raised the other and revealed the talisman.

“This was the candy floss stall” I told the kids, “until the candy floss maker fell into the machine!”

“It smells like jelly.” One of the kids announced.

“Erm, yeah, blood sometimes smells like jelly!” I answered. 😀

3. Very Bad Piggy
A can from my Angry Birds Tin Can Alley game connected to a talisman via a pulley. The kids had to throw a ball to knock the can off which would pull the talisman into reach.

The THING4. The THING!
Three boxes with a talisman in each. All the kids had to do was reach inside and retrieve them. But there was one catch, they had to search through brains (trifle) and intestines (spaghetti), food left for the THING, which could wake up at any moment. Even worse, the final box had a sneaky back door… When the kids reached inside I was waiting for them and grabbed their hands with my own! Think of the test of manhood in Flash Gordon 😉

5. The Piano of Purgatory
“What you are looking for is D E A D” read the clue. It took the kids a few minutes to figure out that they needed to look at the keys which spelled out D, E, A, D, but when they did they found four further clues that read “I’m… Behind… The… Lid” which led them to the talisman.

Blood Bath
Blood Bath
6. The Witch’s Lair
I’d hidden four bumper tubs of sweets inside the spookified playhouse, all they had to do was enter the witch’s lair and find them. However by this point the kids were pretty freaked out and needed some encouragement! They got in there in the end though and found their prizes! More importantly, they made it out alive! 😀

Backyard Carnival Birthday Party

Yesterday my eldest son turned 7 and we had an amazing carnival themed party. This was an idea I had back in February and after months of conceptualising, planning and DIY it was great to see it come to fruition – and even better to see how much fun my son and his friends had (not to mention the grownups).

Early in the morning I was out back setting up the stalls and giving the garden a fairground atmosphere with some bunting. We had 4 game stalls – Angry birds Tin Can Alley, Space Invaders Roll-a-Ball, Ball & Bucket a Shooting Gallery – a stand alone Hook a Duck game, and a snack stall.

When the kids arrived they dove straight in.

Archery was very popular, and I managed to send the kids home with all the eyes they came with!

Face painting went down a treat!

And candy floss making sessions drew a big crowd.

Kids young and old enjoyed the photo booth 😀

But by far the most popular part of Backyard Carnival was Splash Dunk and the Wet Sponge Stocks. The kids loved soaking the grownups and each other in equal measure!

The evolution of pallet carnival stalls: marks I—III

Lately I’ve been working on a new pallet carnival stall design for my son’s carnival themed birthday party. So far I’ve completed three with another two to go.

Carnival stall mk1The original stall I made back in April was more of a fascia than an actual stall. I used a full pallet and fastened two posts to the side which supported a small marquee made from small pallet pieces. The two problems I encountered with this design were stability (the stall had a tendency to topple over, even when I attached feet to it that could be pegged in the ground) and painting (the gaps in the pallet boards were very awkward to paint).

Carnival stall mk2The next stall I made was for a local youth centre who wanted a carnival style snack stall for their birthday celebration party in June. This time I completely dismantled the pallet and built it up again from scratch, making sure the boards were flush together to facilitate painting. I also included small sides to give it a more authentic stall look and added stability.

imageFor my third effort I had bought a £3 striped table cloth to try as an alternative to painting the stall (undercoat and gloss are both time consuming and costly). With this method I didn’t need to worry about gaps in the pallets as the table cloth would cover them. I spent a couple of weeks bringing home the pallets I needed, some of which were used in full, others dismantled for the sides and marquee.

First I attached a couple of feet to a full pallet. Then I made the stall sides from pallet boards and blocks. Next, the marquee went up, using long pallet boards for the posts and shorter ones for the marquee frame. Then I painted the posts and finished off by stapling the table cloth (in two parts) to the fascia of the stall and marquee.

I’m really pleased with the end result – it looks much more like a bona fide carnival stall, and it’s much sturdier than the previous designs, plus it’s already proving popular with the kids! 🙂

Backyard Carnival Game 4: Hook a Duck

The Backyard Carnival birthday party draws nearer and as well as working on more stalls (of a new design) to house carnival games, another game is ready to sit beside ‘Angry Birds Tin Can Alley‘, ‘Ball & Bucket‘ and ‘Space Invaders Roll-a-Ball‘.

Bucket and rubber ducksThis was as easy as it gets really since nearly all the components were bought (for next to nothing) from either ‘pound shops’ or eBay. There was just a small amount of Blue Petering, ie. fashioning a rod from one of the pieces of an unwanted play pen (a garden cane was my first thought and would work just as well, if not better, but I had this to hand).

Hook a duckAt first I screwed small hook eyes into the rubber ducks but this made them slightly top-heavy and prone to tipping over mid-game. I also had some reservations about the difficulty of hooking the ducks like this as the hook eyes were very small.

Magnets, rubber duck, super glue With that in mind I recalled the magnets I’d bought earlier in the year for a shooting range carnival game and decided to put some of them to use here. A few drops of super glue later and we were ready to play! See the video below of my son (whom Backyard Carnival is for) giving it it’s first test drive.

DIY Roll-a-Ball Carnival Game Made From Scrapwood

The latest addition to the Backyard Carnival project is this Space Invaders themed Roll-a-Ball game. This was a very quick and easy project to complete. The most time consuming aspect of the job was waiting for the paint to dry!

The last time our family went to a theme park my son spent hours at one of these stalls so I knew it had to be a fixture at Backyard Carnival. After acquiring an old furniture board that would serve as a base I got a few other pieces of scrap wood together and got to it.

Putting it together was just a simple matter of cutting a few pieces of pallet wood to size and fixing them to the base once everything had been painted. It’s worth mentioning that the base is slightly warped due to being left in the rain for some time, but this simply adds an element of classic carny rigging! 😀

Another step closer to bringing the carnival to the backyard! That’s three games completed now.

Vid-Post: Ball & Bucket Carnival Game

    Yesterday I made this quick and easy addition to the Backyard Carnival project and my son and I gave it a test drive. Happy days 😀

DIY Crazy Golf with Reclaimed Materials

A few weeks ago I saw a post on Pinterest that planted the seed of an idea to create some crazy golf holes in the backyard.  Since then I’ve been mulling it over, letting the idea grow and keeping my eyes peeled for scrap or bargains that could contribute to the project.

Before too long I had some multi-coloured golf balls and a couple of putters my dad spotted at a second-hand shop. Then I found some rolls of green matting on offer at Lidl for a very reasonable £3 per metre. I even found myself in possession of a miniature windmill!

The project was definitely starting to come alive, but I still had no materials for the construction of the course itself. The trouble was I needed some very strong and sturdy sheet wood that would provide a smooth, flat playing surface and be able to take foot traffic. Thick chipboard or hardboard would be ideal, but that stuff is expensive!

imageThen I hit the jackpot, and it had been under my nose all along. At the industrial estate I visit when looking for scrap wood I saw a huge pile of sheet wood and pre-made wooden frames. I must have driven past it a dozen times, at least, but I’d always been so focused on sourcing pallets and cable reels that I never thought about it’s potential utility. When I saw it a few days ago I got that lightbulb moment and realised how great it would be for crazy golf.

As soon as I got home that day I set about turning the raw materials into a crazy golf hole. I kept the design simple for my first attempt (oh yes, there will be more): a bog-standard rectangle with the windmill to navigate around.

Scrap wood was used to raise the frames off the ground, then the sheet wood laid on top of this and fastened down with screws. I cut out a hole for the hole cup (half of an empty shampoo bottle) and then attached the “grass” with staples.

Crazy gold hole cupAttaching the hole cup to the underside of the base turned into a bit of a bodge job! It’s functional but I could do with coming up with a better solution for my next attempt. I drilled a few holes into the bottom of the bottle to prevent it filling with rain water. As an aside, my youngest daughter wasn’t too impressed with my bottle washing prowess when she stuck her hand in to retrieve her ball and it came out covered in shampoo! 😀

For the edges I painted some pallet boards in white (or rather, Cuprinol’s Pale Jasmine) and screwed them onto the sides. For the finishing touch I fashioned a flag out of an empty lawn feed container and attached it to a bamboo cane. The end result looks great and has proven very popular with the family! We’re all very excited about making some more!

Crazy Golf Hole #1

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Upcycled Pallet Carnival Stall

You may remember how I’ve been rather enthused about making a carnival themed party for my son’s birthday, and how I got all crafty and recycled some empty tin cans into an Angry Birds carnival game. Well, I recently finished one of the stalls which that game, along with a few others (fingers crossed), will occupy.

Carnival stall pre-build

I started off with a small pallet (60cm wide by 70cm tall) that I had reclaimed and put aside for this project. It’s the perfect hight for a stall facia and the boards are nice and close. I ran 6ft beading up the sides to support the marquee that would be positioned above the stall front. The marquee itself I made from scratch, attaching pallet boards to smaller pieces of beading.

Carnival stall post-build

Once it was put together I had to wait for a dry spell to paint it (one day for undercoat and one day for gloss).

My son is really excited, and well, I am too! Hopefully I can knock a few more of these together before his birthday in late July, and of course make a few more games to go with them.

Lessons learned: it would probably be easier to build from scratch, simply because trying to paint alternating colours onto a pallet with close boards is quite fiddly and time consuming, and getting your brush between the pallet boards is next to impossible. Next time I will try painting loose boards and then put them all together when they are dry.

Completed carnival stall

Angry Birds Tin Can Alley Carnival Game

If you read the first post on Backyard Carnival you’ll know I’ve been pretty excited (too excited maybe) about recycling things into carnival type stalls and games.

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been saving empty tin cans for a “Tin Can Alley” game but a visit to Pinterest led to me giving it a modern twist. The Pinterest version I saw used painted cans but I went for the easier option of printing glossy wraps which I just sellotaped around the cans.

Angry birds tin can alley

The end result looks great, and although they won’t be weatherproof the ease with which they can be repaired or replaced makes this method a winner in my opinion.

The wraps I used are all here on Dropbox so if anyone wanted to they could make their own. They’ll need to be cut down to size as they are oversized in order to allow for different sized cans and for a bit of overlap when wrapping them around.

The kids tried ours out last night and absolutely loved it! 🙂

  • You can read all my posts on Backyard Carnival here.