Our previous article talked about how fun escape rooms can be to do with kids. If you’re ready to give it a shot with your kids/ nieces or nephews/ local youth group/ entire elementary school, here are some suggestions on how to make sure the kids have a great time and want to come back.
6 Top Tips
Pick a kid-appropriate theme.
Sometimes escape rooms are specifically designed with kids in mind: Bernie Block at Escaparium Laval–which basically puts you inside The Lego Movie–is a good example. But even when a room isn’t deliberately kid-focused, you can often find a genre your kids can engage with, like pirates or space or magic. Escape rooms publish descriptions of their rooms and sometimes will even list suggested age ranges. That said, you probably will want to hold off on the haunted cabins and serial killers until they’re older.
Assuage anxieties early.
Even when themes aren’t scary, kids can take things more literally than you expect. For example, if the premise is, “You have 60 minutes before the teacher comes back,” your child might think an actual stranger is going to show up and get them in trouble. Occasional reminders that this is pretend and you’re not really trapped, etc., can be helpful when things get tense.
Play to their strengths.
A big turning point for our younger son came shortly after he did an after-school chess program. We then did an escape room with a chess puzzle, and he was SO excited to contribute. Look for similar opportunities. There’s almost always something a kid can help with: a jigsaw puzzle, a riddle, etc. Even if they’re not great at assembling puzzle pieces, they can be in charge of collecting them!
Give your kid space to try the puzzles!
One of the worst things you can hear leaving a room is “No one let me do anything!” Especially early in a room, when there’s less of a time concern, give kids space and time to try to figure out a puzzle on their own for a while before taking it over. Similarly, encourage older kids not to get impatient and grab things out of younger kids’ hands if they take too long (or vice versa).
If you’re not sure if a room is a good fit, talk to your gamemaster or the owners.
Is your kid afraid of thunder? Check with the owners to see if there are loud sound effects. Our older child wanted to do a zombie-themed room, but he was worried there would be a jump scare. We talked to the owner beforehand, who told us there was one jump scare, but volunteered to tell Peter where and when it happened. Peter was able to warn our kid in advance and make sure he was watching from a safe spot. Our kid loved the room and the adults did too. (Bonus: While you’re making sure your child isn’t in front of a jump scare, you can also make sure your unaware adult teammates are in front of it! 😈)
Finally, debrief after you’re done!
Most gamemasters offer some sort of debrief after the game. You should encourage your kids to ask questions or make comments. Our kids really love the opportunity to interact with the people who made the magic happen behind the curtain.
But also have your own discussion! Ask the kids what their favorite part was, and if there was anything they didn’t enjoy. Then take their feedback to make adjustments before your next room, like “Remember not to push each other out of the way,” or “Emma loves number puzzles” or “What can we do when someone feels like no one is paying attention to what they’re saying?”
Actually, that last suggestion is a great idea for adults too!