At the beginning of last week I had a random-middle-of-the-night idea to make a DIY escape room for my kids.
I’m not normally big into planning activities for my kids, Raeca often asks for a scavenger hunt for her birthday and that’s about the extent of it. But for whatever reason the idea came into my head and I got really excited about it.
I searched on Pinterest for ideas and of course I got a few ideas but there was no ready-made escape room, it was a lot of getting little ideas here and there.
I wanted to keep the escape room simple (for me) and didn’t buy any materials. The only real “necessity” for the room I made was some kind of lockable box/cupboard/etc. We have a lockable medicine box with a three digit lock that I used. Though if you want to make your own escape room you could use a combination lock or even make your own faux lock, kids just love the idea, they can use their imagination if needed.
I just used our small office as the escape room, not much space is needed for this.
Of course an escape room needs a purpose, and since I was listening to the first book in The Land of Stories at the time I decided to use a general idea from there (though I did have to switch it to fit what I had available).
To set the mood I had an app running for sound effects. The app is free and one we use for the game Fuse, it is a 10 minutes countdown timer where you are on a ship and you need to defuse the bomb before it blows. I made sure to tell my anxious girl that we weren’t paying attention to the time, it was for effect only, after it went off at 10 minutes I just restarted it (which is how I know this room took them approximately 45 minutes to escape from).
When the kids entered the room they immediately saw this written on a paper that gave them their instructions:
You’ve just broken into Queen Snow White’s Royal Room of Display and the alarm is going off. The room will self destruct (aka BLOW UP!) if you do not deactivate the alarm within 30 minutes.
You’ll need three numbers to turn off the alarm which you’ll find hidden in clues around the room, their decoders are hidden here as well.
Once you have deactivated the alarm grab Snow White’s famous apple and get out of there!
In the room I had taped up some yarn to act as the “lasers”, they had a lot of fun trying to not touch them but had they been real they would have been in pieces within a few minutes. It was a fun added element for them though.
They also quickly saw the locked box with “Snow White’s apple” – because the goal was for them to find the clues for the lock box digits I didn’t feel the need to hide the actual box (plus there weren’t really any other places where I hadn’t already hid the clues and decoders).
CLUES & DECODERS
So, then it was time to start finding the clues and decoders (there were six in all; three clues and three decoders).
I just hid these around the room, one in a drawer, one taped to the bottom of a table, one was put inside a balloon I blew up, one was under a keyboard, one wedged between two objects and the trickiest one was on my husband’s computer screen – the screen was on when they came in but they didn’t realize it was a clue and then the screen went to sleep as they searched so they needed some help finding that one.
It didn’t matter what order the papers were found in because each clue had a different decoder and I purposefully didn’t put the numbers in order, after they got the three numbers they needed to figure out the order.
It didn’t matter what order they found the clues and decoders in, each clue had it’s own decoder and I thought they could figure out pretty easy which ones went together.
The first one they found was a number line decoder. I got the printable 1-20 number line here (though you could easily make your own) and then made the clue using addition and subtraction questions (sneaking a little bit of math in there).
The first clue read: Rhymes with you. The number for that was 2.
The next clue I wrote in pigpen code that I got here. This was a fun code they enjoyed.
The clue I wrote for this one was: The number we were before R2D2. The answer is 4.
(For the record, R2D2 is our currently little foster boy.)
This one was not only the hardest clue to find it was also the hardest for them to decode. I used the binary alphabet for the code (I found an image here), but in the future I would skip the binary alphabet and probably use Morse code (here’s a printable).
This clue read: The number of one of your ages.
So, for this one they had the option of either 6 or 9. But once they realized the other numbers were 2 and 4 it was easy for them to quickly jump to 6.
OPENING THE BOX
So, once they had the numbers they decided right off the bat that 2, 4, 6 seemed like the best order and they were able to open the box! Under the apple I had put some extra secret code papers I thought they would enjoy. They were Star Wars themed, I found them on this site, though just a heads up: one of them has an error as Raeca figured out, so watch for that!
All in all the escape room probably took me about two hours to plan (from scratch) and put together. Next time it will take me way less time since I have a bit of an idea how to do it. I thought it would take them less than 30 minutes to do the room but it ended up taking closer to 45 minutes so that was a bit of a bonus.
The kids had so much fun looking for clues and doing the decoding we are totally going to do it again! The plan was for them to invite a few friends over and I would make a bigger one but now with COVID-19 changing life that will have to wait for a bit. I’ll definitely be making another one for them again soon, I may actually plan one and then save it for a day when we’re all feeling a little cooped up.
Have you ever made an escape room before? If so, I would love to hear how you did it! If not, I hope this will help you plan yours out!