Escape Room Party
My daughter really wanted to go to an escape room. It's expensive to host a party for kids at an escape room. So, I decided to make my very own at home. I'll show you how I threw an escape room party for a half dozen 13 year old girls. I started getting ideas for it about a month ago, but I really put it all together in one day. It was so fun and a lot of work.
There is nothing quite like the satisfaction of putting together a fun party where everyone enjoys themselves. It makes all the hassle and work before the party worth it. My husband asked me why I keep doing all these fun parties that take a lot of work. I knew the answer as soon as I saw all the smiling faces of the kids as they worked together to solve the puzzles I labored over.
Today I hope that I can make that process a little bit easier for you by sharing my approach to planning an Escape Room Party and then how I implemented it.
Process For Making Your Own Escape Room
This is the part where you jump start the creative process and it's a step I recommend starting well before you plan to create the party. For fun, I decided to take a picture of the paper that I wrote all my ideas on. It's messy and it might not make a lot of sense, but it illustrates all the different things that I had to think about in order to get the end results that I was looking for.
Basically I had to get a general feel for how I wanted the escape room to work and the types of puzzles that I wanted to use. Then it helped for me to write it all out to make sure it made sense and that I didn't leave any loose ends. I started out deciding what I wanted to use as the back story and then researched ideas for different kinds of puzzles.
Know Your Audience
After you begin the brainstorming process, this is the next most important thing to consider. In my situation I knew that I was going to have about a half dozen 13 year old's trying to figure out the puzzles. Since I know the kids really well, I knew their strengths and the kind of puzzles that might be too challenging or even frustrating.
I also had the benefit of knowing their personalities well enough to understand who would be taking the lead and how they would likely interact with each other. Understanding your audience allows you to look at the activity from their perspective and to walk through the experience in a similar way to how they will ultimately experience it.
The top questions you should ask your self are:
How old is my group?
What is their skill level in math, reading, logic, reasoning and team work?
How Many Activities Should I Have Per person?
What are the personality types of the people I am making this for?
In my case the answers to these were that I had a group of 13 year old's that are very good with words, have strong math skills, and are well versed in logic and reasoning. They also mostly knew each other so I knew they would work well as a team. It was a bit tricky trying to estimate how many clues I should have, but I roughly estimated having about two things that each person could work on throughout the party.
Once you have thought through the answer to those questions, you are well on your way to figuring out the kinds of puzzles that you want to use.
Decide Types of Puzzles That You Want to Use
There are really so many types of puzzles that you can use. Considering the skills you want to focus on or know that your group has, you can go in lots of different directions. I knew that I wanted to have a variety of puzzle types ranging from using math, reading, logic, and then plain old foot work.
There are lots of online resources to help you get ideas for the types of puzzles that you want to use. I knew that I was limited in having locked boxes so I had to find ways to make clues relate to each other outside of a set sequence that you can force when the different clues are locked up.
I had to use a bit of creativity, but I figured out some fun ways to make relevant clues that could be found at any time during the process.
Determine A Time Limit
Most escape rooms have a one hour time limit. I decided that I would try to make my escape room about an hour long. Since it was my first time to make a room I didn't really know for sure how much material I should have on hand.
My group finished in about 45 minutes so I could have added a few more riddles and puzzles for them to solve. My advice is to make a bit more content then you think you will need. You can always give them clues if they need help moving the process along. I think it's great if you can make it work out to be the perfect amount, but that can be difficult to determine.
I did feed them quite a few clues throughout the game and they might have gone longer if I hadn't been as generous with the clues. It's hard to say. Having a general time frame that you are trying to aim for will help you to know how many clues and puzzles you will want to have and gives you a good starting point for the overall experience.
Make a Story Line
This is the really creative and fun part for me. I knew that we needed to have something that was relatable to my group and that we wanted to have somewhat of a Halloween vibe (since it WAS a Halloween party). I started with the idea that I wanted them to be in a haunted abandoned house. From there I thought about why they would be going in there, how they were going to get stuck, and then what they needed to do to get out.
I thought about the story line for about a month. Once I had the premise of a haunted house I decided that one of their friends would go in ahead of them and they needed to go in after her.
It wasn't until the day of the party, when I put together all the clues, that I had the entire story firmly pieced together. It wasn't a perfect story line, but it was enough to get their imaginations going and to set the mood.
Basically I told them that one of their friends wanted to make a scary haunted house in an old abandoned home. She had gone in to set things up and then she was going to come get them. She never came back out so they went in to find her. When they got in the haunted house they saw that she had left clues to help them find her.
They had two tasks that they had to complete in order to "escape". They had to find the key that got them out (since the doors had all locked when they went in) and they had to figure out where their friend was.
For this phase of the planning I went around my house and thought of all the items that I could potentially use to hide things in or to make clues. I spread everything out on the counter and started getting to work. Since we were having a Halloween themed party, I was able to repurpose some of my decorations for the room.
Since they were supposed to be in an old house, I also tried to create a bit of a vintage feel with some antique looking items.
These are the key items that I ended up using for the clues.
This is a locket that I found at the craft store on clearance. At $3 it was the most expensive item that I bought for the room. It was perfect for adding the antique vibe and providing a place to hide something. I found a similar one on Amazon for $12. It could double as a gift for the birthday child once the party is over!
And I decided to hide a coin that they would use for the scratch paper that is pictured below.
This is a scratch card that I made from the cardboard paper that the locket was on when I bought it. The paper was already creeping looking and it was sturdy enough for me to paint on. To find out how to make a scratch card, you can see the tutorial here.
I found this creepy vintage picture on A Well Crafted Party I printed it out and then cut it into twelve pieces. On one piece of the puzzle I asked how many puzzle pieces there were.
Here is a little wooden treasure box that I have. I put a math clue inside this box. I got this a long time ago but I have seen similar items at Michael's craft store for about $3.
Then I covered it over with another paper that fit over that to hide the clue underneath.
And finally I hid one of the puzzle pieces in it so that there was a red herring for the secret underneath.
And just for fun, I made this little sign that says BEWARE on the top of the treasure box.
Here's a scrolled up paper that I made look old by burning the edges. I also wrinkled the paper up.
I had a code message that was written in Leet (a language that is a combination of letters and numbers). That gave a clue about the secret compartment in the treasure box.
A secret message that helped answer where the friend had disappeared to. Make sure that if you use this "invisible ink" method that you put it on sturdy paper. The first time I just used a regular piece of paper. It was so think that the ink bled through and stayed visible even after it dried. The second time I used a piece of white cardboard and it actually disappeared once it was dry.
It was written using the good old standby of lemon juice, water and an ear swab. Squeeze the juice from a lemon, add a few drops of water and then write your message on with an ear swab.
These keys locked one of the desk drawers so I was able to lock up one of the final clues they needed to solve the mystery.
I also had a glass jar (not pictured) with a lid that I put a combo lock ($1 at Walmart) on to hold the key that they needed to escape. After I did this I learned that they sell locks at the Dollar store! They have padlock's with keys and wire combo locks.
I framed the scratch paper so that it looked like part of the decorations.
The riddle that I used to help figure out where the friend had disappeared to.
I used my basement office for the escape room so I had to work around some of the existing furniture and equipment. The bookcase was a great place to hide a few clues and to set up some decorations. The desk was covered in Halloween decorations that were left by the first friend who went into the haunted house.
In another corner I hung the stuff on the walls that held some of the clues and also hid some behind the bookcase.
I added a few more decorations to give it a spooky feel.
I got a couch cover and draped it over some of the furniture. I also placed a small table lamp in the room to give them some light. I hid the treasure box behind the blinds and closed them most of the way.
I set up the room and turned off the lights. I told them the story and then led the girls down to the spooky escape room. I left the lights off except for the lamps in the room. I stood outside the room and watched (we have glass sliding doors) so that I could give them hints as needed. I told them to tap on the door if they wanted a clue. Since only one of them had ever been to an actual escape room, I was lenient about giving them clues.
The girls had a blast and so did I. In fact, I think I had even more fun creating it and putting it all together then they had doing it!
Have you ever made an escape room or wanted to? Tell me your thoughts below. I hope this sparks your imagination and gives you a good starting place to create your very own escape room party!