UNDER THE BIG TOP – Activity Ideas for July

Step right up for a month under the Big Top! Many of your members will remember the excitement of seeing the Big Tent pop up, signifying that the circus had arrived. From silly clowns to flame-throwing jugglers, and from lion tamers to daring trapeze artists, the circus offered many families a thrilling evening of entertainment that they were sure never to forget. Take your members on a trip down memory lane this month with all things circus.

MUSICAL CIRCUS MARCH – Circus music has a particular upbeat tempo to it that will capture the attention of your members. Do a quick search for circus music on to play for your group. While the songs play, lead participants in a march to the beat of the song. Next, instruct participants to move their arms as if they’re conducting the band. Take a break and distribute drums and other musical instruments. Then, play another circus song and encourage participants to play along with the song. Reminisce with your group about memories the music may bring back to them, such as attending the circus, their favorite circus acts, or their least favorite circus act. Ask if anyone attended the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey circus, or in more recent years, Cirque du Soleil.

BALLOON ART – Teach your group how to make and twist balloon animals and other fun objects. Purchase a twist balloon kit at your local craft or hobby store, or find a twist balloon kit for purchase online. Then, do a quick internet search for balloon art tutorials. (There are a variety of free tutorials available on Once you’ve mastered a few basic shapes, teach your group to make their own balloon art. Be ready to inflate and tie the balloons for participants to use.

MATINEE MOVIE – July can heat up quickly. Keep members cool indoors with a matinee movie. This month, feature The Greatest Showman, an original musical that tells the story of P.T. Barnum.

CLOWNING AROUND – Have fun with members this month through laughter yoga. Warm up the crowd with a few jokes, then lead your group in a few laughter exercises, utilizing the phrases “ho ho ha ha ha.” Theme the session around the circus. Laugh like a clown; mimic a silent, sad, or angry clown. Roar like a lion, laugh like an elephant, swing your hands around and laugh like a monkey. End with a few deep breaths.

JUGGLING ACT – Incorporate juggling into your senior fitness classes this month. Juggling is a great way to increase hand-eye coordination as well as work fine motor skills while improving cognitive functioning. Use scarves to start, and give each participant two. As participants increase their juggling abilities, challenge them to juggle three, then four scarves. For more advanced jugglers, try juggling ping-pong balls, bean bags, or tennis balls.

CIRCUS YOGA – Keep cool this July with this variation of yoga. Poses can be done seated or standing. Here are a few pose ideas; feel free to add a few of your own:

Unicycle – Tree pose: stand or sit with feet together, then balance on one foot while placing your other foot on your ankle or calf, push palms together and reach arms as high overhead as you can while keeping palms pushed together. (Use the back of a chair for balance as needed.)

Lion – Lion’s breath pose: breath in deeply through nose then exhale through mouth, adding a loud “roar” while opening mouth as widely as you can

Elephant – Bend forward at waist while making an elephant trunk by clasping hands together; move trunk from side to side

Circus Performer – Push palms together and bring them to chest level. Make a circle with your palms while pointing your elbows straight out. Come back to center and make a circle in the opposite direction.

Tight Rope – Tandem standing; while standing or sitting, bring one foot in front of the other, try to keep both heels on the ground, hold for a breath then switch feet. (Use the back of a chair for balance as needed.)

CLOWN CUPCAKES – Participants will have fun making these tasty treats. Bake cupcakes with your group, using your favorite recipe or cake box mix. Once cooled, instruct participants to frost their cupcake with white frosting. Then, decorate each cupcake top to resemble a clown face. Use Trix cereal as hair. Purchase squeezable frosting tubes in a variety of colors for participants to add eyes and a nose. Then, use a sour gummy worm to make a smile (or frown).

CARNIVAL FUN – Plan a circus-themed carnival for members and their families to enjoy. Look in your activity closet for games that can be used as carnival games, such as ring toss, corn hole, knock down the cans, bean bag toss, etc. Consider renting a cotton candy machine or snow cone machine. Purchase fun party favors to use as carnival prizes and include a few boxes of Barnum’s Animal Crackers. Set up a fun photo booth that includes a clown wig, oversized sunglasses, clown noses and silly hats. Encourage members to take a group photo. Ask different departments within your facility to sponsor a booth. Go all out and hire a face-painting artist for the children.

CIRCUS SENSORY BIN – Participants will have fun exploring this circus-themed sensory bin while working their fine motor skills. Fill a plastic shoe box container with popcorn kernels. Then, add a couple of plastic popcorn containers, cotton balls, and a pair of tongs. Working one-on-one, instruct the participant to pick up cotton balls with the tongs and put them in the popcorn container. Allow the participant to explore the popcorn kernels with their hands. Add a few plastic animals, such as an elephant, lion, tiger, and bear, and discuss what sort of circus act these animals might perform. Reminisce with participants about attending the circus and what it was like to see the circus as a child.

MAGICAL EVENING – While the trapeze artists were busy wowing the crowds in the Big Tent, many other circus acts competed for the crowd’s attention in their own smaller tents. One such act was the magician. Hire a magician to wow your group this month in keeping with the theme of the circus.

BIG TOP CIRCUS SLIME – Slime is all the rage for many younger children these days, but slime isn’t just for the kids. Make homemade circus slime with your group to promote sensory engagement. Here is a recipe for big top circus slime that your group is sure to enjoy.

UP CLOSE WITH A CLOWN – Go behind the scenes of the circus and invite a professional clown to your community. Ask the clown to tell how he or she got into the business and what training was taken in order to become a clown. Then, ask for a demonstration on how to put on clown make-up. If you have a smaller group, consider purchasing clown make-up so that participants can dress up their own faces, if desired.


  1. What is the name of the tent where the main action of a circus takes place? Big Top
  2. How many rings are in a traditional circus? Three
  3. What was the name of the circus that was staged by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey for so many years? The Greatest Show on Earth
  4. How did early circus performers and animals travel from town to town? By circus trains
  5. Can you name the type of circus performers that fly through the air? Trapeze artists
  6. What is the title of the person who directs the circus acts? Ringmaster
  7. What kind of big cats might you see at the circus? Tigers and lions
  8. Circus clowns often ride around on what type of bicycle that only has one wheel? Unicycle
  9. What cookie treat comes in a box decorated like a circus wagon? Animal Crackers
  10. What is the name of the famous Disney elephant that starred in his own movie? Dumbo



“Life is a ticket to the greatest show on earth.” ~ Martin H. Fischer


“Under the Big Top” was written by Erin McCart. Copyright 2018 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Reprint Policy: To reprint or republish all or portions of this entry, you must acquire written permission and agree to link back to the original source. Please contact us at [email protected] to obtain permission.