Look for invitations that include such recognizable circus-related images as clowns, a circus tent, elephants, a trapeze, or a lion's cage.
Turn your party room into a circus under the big top by tacking up striped sheets on the ceiling from the center to the corners of the room, letting them hang down slightly to create the tent-top effect. Place chairs in circles to create three rings. Blow up plenty of colorful balloons and cluster them around the room -- adhered to the wall, tied to chairs, and strewn around the floor. If using helium balloons, be sure to keep balloon weights tied to the end of the strings to prevent runaways.
Try traditional party games -- with a circus-themed twist. Play pin-the-tail-on-the-elephant. Use circus-sounding music when playing musical chairs. Line up chairs and play circus train. For outdoor play, set up an area where kids can tumble and do somersaults like circus acrobats. If your budget allows, hire a clown to entertain partygoers with jokes and magic tricks (but beware: some small children are afraid of clowns!).
What’s fun to eat at the circus is tasty at parties, too. Serve plenty of hot dogs, popcorn, and ice cream ... and don’t forget the peanuts!
A clown’s face makes for a great birthday cake, too. Simply bake a round cake (any flavor), and create the clown face with plenty of icing and sprinkles. For the clown’s hat, an ice cream cone -- also decorated with icing -- does the trick!
For a goody bag that partygoers will enjoy long after the party, let cone-shaped paper party clown hats do double duty. Simply turn the hat upside-down and fill with such treats as a whistle, circus-themed stickers and/or rubber stamps, and animal-cracker cookies. Be sure to send each child away with a balloon, too!
Adding a drawing of a circus animal, such as a lion or elephant, is a good way to dress up your thank-you notes. Teach your child good manners by allowing him or her to sign their name to each note. Also, don’t forget to mention what the gift was that you’re thanking the person for -- and how much your child enjoyed it!