DIY School Carnival Games

Do you remember growing up and having the Penny Carnival at school? This is one of those memories that has really stuck with me through the years. Not only did we get to play lots of fun games and have an incredible end of year celebration with my friends, but we also got to set up and even build some of the games. This was such a great learning experience and created some profound memories. Whether you are looking for ideas for an end of school year penny carnival, fun summer STEM camp ideas, a really unique take on the Science Fair, or looking for really cool ideas to run a fundraiser, these DIY interactive carnival game ideas pack a powerful punch! Your kids will learn valuable STEM skills, plus have incredible fun playing their games and sharing them with others.

Build Your Own Carnival Games – STEM Fair

Build your own games and gamify learning with these DIY Carnival Game ideas

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I love the idea of making learning fun and exciting. Teachers around the world will tell you that when we can make learning engaging, interactive and exciting, the lessons stick better.

What better way to make learning fun than to organize your own carnival or festival with games built by your students?

Picture a science fair, but instead of boring boards and aisles of volcano projects, you have interactive stations where students encourage people to come and play and learn and discover? That is the idea behind this interactive carnival games project. We want to encourage students to build incredible games, that also teach powerful lessons.

You could also turn this into a fundraiser event (we used to call them Penny Carnivals), a celebration, or make it a theme for an after school club or summer camp with the final carnival as the unveiling of all the kids’ hard work.

Are you excited yet? Because this is going to get your kids so excited to create and learn!

Tips on a DIY Carnival Game Program

Before we share some ideas for Carnival Games, here are some tips to help make yours a success.

Consider your group of kids and decide if it would be better to work in small groups or individually. Depending on the skill levels, it may help to have a variety of minds working on a project. But for older, driven kids, you will want to challenge them to tackle these games individually.

Stockpile those recycled materials! Most of our carnival game builds use recycled materials. Save the cardboard, paper, bottles, straws, paper plates, etc. We love to make these builds out of recycled materials to help promote reusing with our students as much as possible. Making our carnival environmentally friendly too!

Let kids experiment. Although we have our own ideas we are sharing here, let kids take them and put their own personal touch on a project. This is the perfect time for kids to really indulge in a Passion Project concept. Maybe instead of Basketball Game, they want to take the idea and turn it into a Tennis Game that requires two players. Or instead of a small catapult bowling game, they want to upsize it and make it giant! Let your students have some creative rein and have fun with this!

Carnival Game Ideas

With that, let’s get to some Carnival Game ideas! All of our games have a STEM foundation. We want to encourage our kids to develop those STEM skills in science, technology, engineering and math while building the games. Then everyone can have fun, be curious, embrace discovery and most of all learn through playing the games!

3 Pointer Basketball Game

My son loves basketball! He is completely obsessed with the game. So it only makes sense to tap into that interest and turn it onto a passion project by creating a Basketball Game. Not only will he have fun building it, his excitement and passion when he shares the game with others will be contagious!

Marble Run Game

We love the TV show Survivor. One of our favorite parts is all the really cool challenges and games. This multi-level marble run game reminds us of the types of games they play on the show. People will love testing their skills with this game!

DIY Pinball Game

Inspired by Newton’s Laws, we created this really cool Pinball style game. It is a lot of fun to play and although it looks complex it’s actually really easy to build!

Whack a Mole Inspired Reaction Game

Who doesn’t remember playing the iconic Whack-A-Mole game at the fair or carnival? When we built this game we were looking for ways to test reaction time. Not only can you challenge people’s reactions, but you also build incredible STEM Skills with this game!

Buzz Circuit Game

Do you remember playing Operation as a kid? It required a steady hand and a lot of patience to successfully maneuver through the challenge without getting the dreaded BUZZ! In our fun adaptation, we built a Buzz game as we try and get our dog into the dog house. This is a great circuit building STEM challenge for kids.

Binary Code Game

Ready for a head to head binary battle? This Binary Code Game is a fun game for students to test their attention to detail and gain an understanding of binary coding.

Catapult Bowling

Love bowling? Give it a crazy twist with this Catapult Bowling Game! Build a variety of catapults, then challenge people to take out the pins for points! You can have a lot of fun with this game and even upside it and turn it into an epic schoolyard game.

For a twist on Catapult Bowling, you can also build a Candy Catapult or Snowball Catapult Game. In both of these games, the goal is to hit targets worth different points.

Origami Frog Leap Game

Leap for the win with origami frogs! In this game, you can either prebuild the frogs, or set out instructions for game players to make their own frogs. Then have them leap their frogs at a set of targets! Land on the right target and win!

Fishing Game

Many years ago when I attended the Penny Carnival at my school I vividly remember playing a fishing game. In our game we had magnets on the end of the fishing line and metallic items in a play pool that we had to “fish for”. In this version, we are using salt and ice to try and catch the fish! The magnet version might be easiest as part of a Carnival, but both versions are a lot of fun and definitely memorable as I can attest.

Grabber Game

Have you ever played with one of those machines where you have to try and control a grabber arm and pick up a prize? Why not build your own version of this fun game? We built trash grabbers which you could easily use in a carnival style game where people need to pick up as many items as possible to win a prize.

Paper Airplane Launch Game

In this game, people are challenged to fold a paper airplane (you can provide instructions), then attempt to launch it to either hit certain targets or fly certain distances. This is a great game to do in the schoolyard, but maybe not on a windy day!

Off to the Races

This game is a little different. The way I would set up this game is to challenge the students to prebuild their own car. They could be balloon powered cars or water powered cars. Then on the big day have then race head to head to see who has built the fastest car!

Nerf War Battlefield

Lately at our local festivals we often have games that challenge kids to run and duck and play. We have seen laser tag versions and archery (using nerf arrows). We loved them so much, we built our own with our Nerf War Battlefield. Build one in your schoolyard, and watch the fun! This is a great heavy lifting engineering challenge for kids.

Egg Drop Challenge

Gather up all of those materials in the recycle bins and a whole lot of eggs, the carnival can be a great time for a classic Egg Drop Challenge! Keep your egg in one piece and win a prize!

Balloon Race Games

In this physics challenge, we are inspired by the idea of the carnival games where you use a water gun and the horses race to a finish line. But in our challenge, we have a series of balloons on a string. Blow them up and let them lose to see which one reaches the finish line first.

Marshmallow Engineering Challenge

This game is a fun one to do indoors or if you have smaller spaces. The game is simple, who can build the tallest structure in one minute using toothpicks, skewers, and marshmallows.

Paper Challenges Game (No Prep STEM)

Similar to our marshmallow game, you can also set up a bunch of our simple, and budget friendly, paper STEM challenges as part of your game day. Again, these don’t require much space and can make for some fun, quick games.

Build a Water Clock for a Timer

Want a really fun way to countdown things like the Marshmallow Game or Paper Games? Why not build a Water Clock? This is a really cool feature that will have your game players in awe!

OK, this list got a little out of control! But, I have so many really cool ideas for interactive games you could do as part of a fun school carnival. Whether you are doing a student led carnival, inspired by the STEM/Science Fair, a penny carnival as a fundraiser, an epic schoolyard carnival, or a small, classroom games day, there are so many ways to gamify learning and make it fun!