How To Throw an Epic Escape Room Birthday Party

Updated by Sarah Baird

If you’re the type of person who dreams of getting thrown into the middle of a mystery, Scooby Doo-style, and having to use your wits and wiles to get to the bottom of what’s happening, then the rise of escape room birthday parties has likely been a welcome thrill.

For the uninitiated, escape rooms are dedicated entertainment spaces where teams of people play a game that involves solving a series of puzzles and clues within a set time period with the ultimate goal of (you guessed it!) escaping the room. While there were only a couple of dozen escape rooms across the county in 2014, their popularity has ballooned over the past decade, with more than 2,080 escape room facilities currently ready to test a person’s problem-solving skills and teamwork abilities according to the 2022 Escape Room Industry Report .

Sometimes, though, forking over the (substantial) money to an event space for an escape room birthday party just isn’t in the cards, so it’s time to put on DIY detective hats and build a suspenseful, age-appropriate, “whodunit?” escape room birthday party at home.


Commit to a Theme

Just like murder mystery dinners and other role-playing games that require at-home theatrics, an escape room birthday party requires full, complete, and immersive commitment to a concept. Whether you choose a futuristic, sci-fi alien theme; keep it classic with a Sherlock Holmes-style mystery; or get sweetly fantastical with a unicorn thriller, making the experience feel completely enveloping from first party invitation to the last cupcake is, uh, key . Sure, VR special effects and woo-woo pyrotechnics at a dedicated escape room might be eye-catching, but the real fun of escape rooms comes from solving puzzles and working together under the tick-tock of the clock.

You’re creating an ultra-memorable experience, so don’t be afraid to go all out on decorations, setting the scene with music, mood lighting, and theme-appropriate smells. Think about appealing to all five-senses (yes, even taste!) when creating your DIY escape room.

Most escape room plots have four distinct stages, so when developing your story—or following along with a ** pre-bought escape room birthday party package **—make sure to keep that in mind. Additional steps might make the game drag on too long for impatient kiddos, while anything shorter could make the mystery seem a little too easy to solve. Make sure to do a test run before guests arrive to ensure every clue works properly and have a handful of alternative escape room pathways ready in case any stages prove too challenging.

There’s also a fine line between an escape room birthday party that’s challenging-in-a-fun-way and maybe a_ little_ too difficult (or scary) for kids at certain developmental stages. Select a theme and activities that don’t overwhelm any party guests. (If you’re unsure, it’s better safe than sorry to double-check with parents about any secret fears that might pop up!)

Which Room to Escape?

Let’s just get this out of the way: you do not actually have to lock your escape room birthday party guests inside your house. (This seems a little legally dicey.) Instead, choose a series of rooms or a large open space that can be easily partitioned off for the party, like a finished basement or large playroom. The important part is ensuring the room_ feels_ like dropping into the middle of a mystery without the threat of a dog running through or a TV blaring in the background to break the immersive spell.


Get Physical

Now, the fun part: coming up with activities. The limit does not exist when it comes to dreaming up games for an escape room birthday party, so let your imagination run wild. Elementary-aged children will love the physicality of challenges like popping balloons to find clues, bending and turning through crepe paper “security” laser beams, or working together to figure out how to retrieve a key without crossing a “quicksand pit.” The younger the guests, the more important it is to include plenty of activities that burn off energy. At the end of the day, the party is about having a blast, not feeling frustrated by overly-complex clues that feel like schoolwork.

Hiding clues in unexpected places is also a great way to test escape room detective skills, whether you’re dropping a secret note in the bottom of a vase or hiding important messages inside a locket.


Brain Teasers

That being said, puzzles are the foundation of any good escape room birthday party. Popsicle stick ciphers, secret codes written in lemon juice, “before” and “after” photos with items missing, messages on the back of a jigsaw puzzle, morse code, and word searches are classic ways to get the gray matter working in hopes of solving the mystery of the day.

Building an escape room party for an older audience? Consider incorporating second-hand locks of all kinds—bike locks, key and padlocks, old safes—as a way of getting partygoers' brains whirring.

Breakout (the Prizes!)

Minor details make the world go ‘round, and this is particularly true when creating ambiance at an escape room birthday party. After guests have successfully solved the mystery, make sure they’re rewarded for their effort with themed prizes, a photo booth with plenty of on-brand props, and snacks that match up to the mood of the day.

**Want a leg up in designing your escape room birthday party? Try a ** mysterious escape room box !