DIY escape rooms are the perfect mix of adventure and messy fun. It’s no wonder that kids love them! In escape rooms, everyone works together to solve puzzles and beat games, all before the clock runs out. They’re a great group activity that’ll get everyone talking, which is why escape rooms are the perfect birthday party game! We’ve created a list of puzzles and a step-by-step guide so you’ll have everything you need to make your own escape room for kids.
The First Steps For A Homemade Escape Room: Keys, Lockboxes, Plans, and End Goals
When making a diy escape room for kids, you have to create clear goals for them to find. Even if birthday party chaos erupts, they need to know where to go and what to look for.
In real escape rooms, the goal is to find keys or codes to open doors. For our homemade escape room, we created a lockbox that kids can place the keys they find inside. That’s why the first steps for making a homemade escape room are:
- Creating a lock and set of keys. We normally use 3 keys.
- Deciding where the end goal is. The front or back door are great options because they’re easy to spot.
You can use real locks and keys, such as locks meant for bikes and lockers, but these are often difficult for younger kids to use. They can also be scary, so it’s important to know what’s appropriate for your party attendees.
You can make your own lock and keys for an easier, cheaper, more kid-friendly game. There are lots of options for the lock– shoe-boxes, tuber-ware, plastic cups, even a giant bowl. You can decorate it like a real lock, make it match the birthday theme, or leave it as a simple container for keys. The important thing is that it’s noticeable and that kids can easily put keys inside of it.
You can be as crafty or as simple as you want with the keys. You can make them of cardboard, clay, pipe-cleaners, straws– you could even make them out of paper. Just make sure the kids know what they’re looking for!
Create A Clear End Goal For Kids To Find!
The same goes for the end goal. All party participants have to know what it is. The front or back door works well because they’re often in the center of the house and easy to find. You can decorate it with streamers, banners, and balloons so it’s even more obvious. When you’re done, place the lockbox near it.
To add even more fun, place prizes on the other side of the end goal. Goodie-bags, piñatas, little toys, and candy, are great options! The prizes are one of the things that make diy escape rooms better than real ones!
Rule Time! Know Them Before Kids Come to Party
There are two things you need to decide before you unleash the children upon their escape room:
- How many hints do they get?
- How long do they have to finish the escape room?
Both of these will depend on your kids and how competitive they are. Most escape rooms give participants an hour to escape and three hints. While we normally give the kids three hints and an hour limit, what matters most is that they’re having fun. If their happiness means an extra hint or couple more minutes, then we give it to them.
This is a great time to decide on a time monitor and where non-participants should sit while the game is in action.
Hiding Keys: The Key to Every DIY Escape Room
Where you place the keys will determine the types of puzzles you use and the answers to those puzzles. If you hide a key inside the closet, then a puzzle’s answer needs to lead the kids to the closet.
Because diy escape rooms will most likely be at your home, most of your puzzle answers will be household objects. Vacuum cleaners, fridges, TV stands, book cases, window sills, fish tanks, shoe racks, flower vases, and fruit bowls are all great options! For birthday party specific fun, try leaving keys by presents, cakes, cupcakes, piñatas, birthday banners, and goodie-bags!
Because this escape room is for kids, make sure the hiding spots are where they can reach!
Remember where you put the keys, these locations are going to be the answers to your puzzles,
An Example: How to Make an Escape Room for Kids
Now that you’ve made a lock, keys, chosen the end goal and hid the keys, it’s time to creates puzzles and games that will lead the kids from puzzle to puzzle!
We’ve created a step-by-step example to show you how to link puzzles together so your diy escape room will flow together smoothly. After the example, there will be a list of puzzles and games for you to choose from. This way you’ll be able to craft an escape room that’s perfect for your house and kids!
For the first example, we’ve hidden the keys in three locations: a cupcake, the freezer, and a piñata. Our goal is to lead the kids from one of these locations to the next. This example will show you one configuration of puzzles that would work!
The First Puzzle: How To Connect It To The Next One
- Choose the first key that needs to be found. This comes down to preference and what kind of puzzles you want to do. For this example, we’ve chosen the key hidden inside the cupcake. Whatever our first puzzle is, it needs to lead the kids there.
Jigsaw Puzzle Balloon Pop Game
- For our first puzzle, we’ve chosen the balloon pop jigsaw game! This game needs lots of balloons, confetti, and a paper jigsaw puzzle. Before the escape room starts, stuff the balloons with jigsaw puzzle pieces and confetti, then blow them up. When completed, the jigsaw puzzle needs to show a picture of the first key‘s location. You can print out a cupcake jigsaw puzzle and a blank puzzle below!
- Gather the kids in room or small area and free the balloons! Kids need to pop the balloons, gather the pieces, and put them together to figure out where the first key is. After seeing the cupcake jigsaw, they should be led towards the cupcake table where the next puzzle awaits!
The Second Puzzle: Cupcake Surprise
4. This puzzle requires a bit of prep and is a little messy, but kids are sure to love it! On a tray far away from the real birthday treats, have a set of cupcakes you’ve made specifically for the escape room. Inside one of them, hide the first key. Inside another, hide the puzzle that will lead them to the next second key.
5. After party-goers have torn the cupcakes apart with their hands (and you’ve cleaned everything up!), the first key and the second puzzle should be found.
6. The second puzzle can be anything that fits inside a cupcake– riddles and secret codes hidden in plastic bags or tiny objects from the next second key‘s location. In the second example, we’ve used a color-by-number that reveals a vacuum cleaner.
The Third Puzzle: Where is the Second Key?
7. This should lead the kids to the next puzzle, which is tucked away inside the hallway closet. You can download a color-by-number vacuum below!
Birthday Banner Tangle!
8. Inside the closet, the next puzzle, the birthday banner tangle, awaits. Prepare for this puzzle by purchasing multiple banners and writing the next clue on the back of one. These free decorative banners are printable and easy to make! We want to lead the kids to our second key, which is in the freezer. A clue such as “cold,” “ice,” or “I scream for ice cream” would do. After you’ve written the clue, tangle the banners together so that the clue is unreadable until the kids have separated the banners.
9. Our last key is hidden inside a piñata. Inside the freezer, kids should find the second key and their last clue. For our last example, we’ve written the letters for “piñatas” on different pieces of paper. To figure out where they have to go, kids have to unscramble the letters!
The Fourth Puzzle & Last Key
10. If your end goal is the back door, then the piñata needs to be in the front yard. If it’s the front door, then the piñata should be in the back. With adult supervision, let the kids go nuts on the piñata until the last key is found!
11. After all of the keys are placed in the lock, open the last door. The kids have won! It’s prize time!
Pick And Choose Puzzles To Make Your Own Escape Room
DIY escape rooms depend on the objects in your house, the activities you’re willing to do, and, most importantly, the kids themselves! Making sure you pick puzzles that are the right difficulty for your kids is important. It’s just as frustrating to fly through an escape room as it is to get stuck in one! This list of puzzles provides options. Hopefully, you’ll find puzzles that fit your house and kids perfectly!
Instructions For Birthday Themed Escape Room Games
- Pin-the-Hand-on-the-Key: A fun birthday themed game! All you need is a big piece of paper, a small paper hand, tacks, tape, and the key. Tape the key onto the sheet of paper, then roll it up and hide it. Once found, have the time monitor or hint-giver tack it up and moderate the kids as they try to pin the hand on the key.
- Puzzle Punch: Another messy one, but what kid doesn’t love to get messy? Get some plastic bags and the paper jigsaw puzzle of your choice–our free printable cupcake jigsaw and blank jigsaw will be below. Our favorite birthday punches are made of Sprite and Sherbet, so they’re green, foamy, and mysterious. Place the puzzles pieces inside the plastic bags, then put them in the punch. Let kids use their hands or a set of tongs to fish the puzzle out! The completed puzzle should lead them to the next clue.
- Present Jumble: Get some extra boxes and make sure they’re clearly separated from any real presents. Next, place the key in one box, and objects of different weights in the others. Objects with drastically different weights work best, such as a rock and feather. Place a riddle or instruction card in front of the presents. It should tell kids that they’re allowed to shake, throw, and bang all the gifts, but they can only open one. Once they’ve opened a present, that’s their guess!
Riddles, Mazes, and Codes– Oh My!
- Color-by-numbers are scary at first glance, but easy to do. We recommend using the resulting picture to lead kids to the next clue. They’re great for young escape room goers!
- Popsicle stick puzzles are easy to make. You can put whatever picture you want on them, so they’re a great way to complete your diy escape room.
- Riddles are an easy answer if you ever get stuck making an escape room. If you’ve hidden a key in an obscure location, making that location be the riddle’s answer is a great solution. You can always make them harder by putting it in code!
- These secret codes are a great way to spice up an escape room.
- If the birthday is around New Year’s Eve, these free secret code printables are an easy puzzle to include.
- Create a maze. When completed, the line drawn should reveal the next key’s location. This work’s best with simple images, such as fish bowls, vases, or cakes.
- If you have younger kids, letter mazes are a great escape room option! You can use multiple letter mazes to spell out a clue!
- Word scrambles are quick and easy to make, but are still lots of fun for kids to solve. Take separate pieces of paper and put one letter on each piece until you can spell out the name of the next location. Mix the letters up, and let the kids un-scramble them!
- If you don’t want paper jigsaw puzzles, here’s some tips for making your own cereal box puzzles.
More Ways To Create A Mysteriously Puzzling Birthday Party
- If you’re in a birthday party rut, check out these kids birthday party recipes, decorations, and crafts for fresh ideas.
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