Make Your Own Escape Room Unforgettable

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How to make your own escape room game

I absolutely love escape rooms and scavenger hunt games, and after hosting them for my family for many years, there’s a few things I have learned.

While the game itself matters, there are a few ways to take it to the next level, which don’t take much effort. 

This is my process for creating these games from scratch with little money and a lot of fun.

If you have followed from my other site, InspiredMyLove.com you know I like to share games like these.

An escape room party is a thing right now and they are a just as much fun to make as they are to play. It’s a gift from the heart.

When you put games together like this your family and friends will be begging for you to do it again.

This article covers…

  • Choosing your style
  • Creating an experience
  • Pregame planning and anticipation
  • How to make the actual game
I’ve also curated a list of DIY escape room ideas, people have made from scratch. I like making them from scratch because you make the rules, you can create a whole experience that goes beyond clue cards and timers, and make it for your children’s age.
 

Choose Your Style of Escape Room at Home Game

There all different style of escape room at home games, but I’m talking about going big for an escape room party. Creating something more than a board game, clue cards, and timers that you get in kits.

I’m talking about creating an experience that’s hands on and involves more than just the logical mind. Kids love this!! 

There doesn’t even need to be a time limit, if you so choose. It also doesn’t have to be all about solving puzzles, you can add games and physical challenges too!

If you were truly stuck somewhere, and needed to escape or played a part in a heroic story, then it is likely you would use both problem solving and physical activity.

Kids have wonderful imaginations, give them an opportunity to really dive in and live it out.

Create an Experience

If you can create an experience they will be begging for you to do it again, and be talking about it for years to come. 
 
Elements to Level up your DIY Escape Room Game
  • Create adventure
  • Build atmosphere 
  • Shock or surprise – if you can think of a fun way to surprise them, this will leave them talking about it!
Using these elements will help create an experience that makes your game unforgettable. 
 

Adventure

Adventure makes your game fun and exciting! One of the easiest ways to create a sense of adventure is to scare them. Think about Disneyland, almost every ride even the princess rides are a bit spooky and will often make toddlers cry. A bit of spookiness heightens the senses and makes the kids feel like they are on a real adventurous quest.
 
This isn’t as hard to pull off as it may seem, the unknown is terrifying. Complete darkness is scary, and especially with intense music playing along with it. 
 

Build Atmosphere 

Decorate to make it visually interesting and to build your story. To create an experience think about the senses, make it interesting to hear and see. Decorate and have an awesome soundtrack.

 

Decorate

Decorating can be simple, low lighting and some props that support your escape room story is enough. You can use what you have around the house, dollar store, and the thrift store.

Most all my games are made from stuff around the house and some supplies from dollar store, most of our Carnival Escape Room was sourced from the dollar store and stuff around the house.

Music & Sound Effects

Sound and music are so powerful, it can really intensify the experience. A bluetooth speaker queued with sound effects goes along way, and you can just about find everything for free on YouTube or Spotify. 

For our Carnival Escape Room, I used a creepy carnival soundtrack that was playing loudly as the guests entered the carnival, on a bluetooth speaker inside the madhouse there were spooky noises and scream sound effects from YouTube.

Shock & Surprise 

Make it interesting to see, hear, and even touch. You don’t have to use all 5 senses in your game, but touch/smell/taste is a great opportunity to surprise them. 
 
Perhaps they have to stick their hand into a dark mystery box filled with something gross in search of a clue. This will both shock them and give them something to talk about afterward! Play some practical jokes on them, like the time we filled the pinata with broccoli (hehe!!). 
 

Pregame Stuff – to Make Your Own Escape Room at Home

There is some pregame stuff you can do too, that will make your game even more exciting. It may not seem like much but it goes along way.
  • Anticipation
  • Costumes

 

Anticipation

Is it anticipation makes things grow sweeter. Pump up the kids days or weeks before the big game, this will have their energy level on high when the big day finally comes. You can do this by joking about before hand and handing out invitations
 
I like invitations for a few reasons, it gives a small peak of what’s to come, it could serve as their first clue. It’s also an opportunity to turn it into a costume party. 
 
Don’t underestimate the invitation, I have curated a list of exciting escape room party invitations, including some FREE printables ones too, here.
 
Circus Escape Room invites
 
These are the customizable invitations for our Backyard Carnival Escape Room Party. I wasn’t formal in mailing these out, they were handed out to the guests before the game started, it doubled as their admission ticket along with 2 raffle tickets to play the carnival games. 
 
The kids were heckled at the gate as they arrived, and then the gate was dramatically locked behind them as they entered.
 

Costume Party

It’s your party why not turn your escape room into a costume party too. I like doing this because, any reason to dress up is a good reason!! BUT, it also breaks down people’s walls like an icebreaker. It is hard to be in a serious mood when you are in a costume. 
 
Even the parents are dressed up and more playful! Now your guests can also be apart of your decor if you clued them in on the theme to your escape room. It will take everyone’s energy to the next level, making it all the more exciting. 
 

How to Make Your Own Escape Room Game

Okay, so now how do you build the actual game part of an escape room?? 
This is too wide a topic to give an exact path to make your own escape room game, it depends upon:

  • How spooky you want it?
  • How long you want the game to last?
  • How old are the players?
  • The location you have to work with?
  • The time you want to invest?
 
There’s also no one right way, but I will share my process. It takes me about 2 weeks to make a game from scratch, that’s in between all the distractions of being mom.
 
But, this is roughly the order in which I start to begin planning my DIY escape room games
  • location – consider the space you have to work with
  • theme – choose a theme that your kids are into
  • activities – choose fun activities appropriate for your age group
  • narrative – build your story
  • riddles – create riddles to link it all together
  • reward / escape – I like there to be a reward for finishing

 

Location

Choose an area where you want to host the game. A lockable location is ideal, a room, backyard, etc..
 
You may have to set boundaries if you have too many entrances. In this case, let the guests know which exit they must upon to solve the DIY escape room challenge. 
 
Our carnival escape room, was set up in the backyard. The kids were told they could only exit out the gate in which they entered if they hoped to escape the travelling carnival. We had more entrances like the back door and the side gate, but those areas didn’t count as solving the carnival escape room game.
 

Theme

After you have selected your location, then choose a theme. Pick something that works with your space and that the kids are into, to make it extra special for them.
 
Perhaps it’s a spooky mansion, you must solve its history to find the way out, base it on a favorite show, a murder mystery in an attic, an inescapable carnival once you arrive you become a part of the freak show.
 
For more ideas on DIY escape room ideas for kids from scratch, check out this post.
 

Activities

This is where the magic starts to happen. I aim for roughly 10 objectives the kids must complete before they can escape. 10 objectives depending upon the complexity generally takes about 1.5 hours of game time.
 
Find a combination of games, activities, puzzles, and riddles that add up to 10 objectives that you think the kids will enjoy and tweak it to fit into your story.
 
You can turn anything into an escape room clue!
 
For example, they could discover a letter opener to only later learn they need it to pop balloons with scrabble pieces inside to spell out their next clue.
 
Not all the objectives need to brain teaser codes to decipher. Those are fun too, but mix it up for the kids.
 
In our carnival escape room, the kids had puzzles to solve but they also had to win a can of silly string from carnival booth games, in order to enter the adult vs kids challenge. The kids had to face off against the adults in a silly string war to obtain a needed key from one of the carnies (adults).
 
Mix it up, some clues can be brain teasers, some may be more physical like the silly string war, keep them on their toes. Some people enjoy the physical and others enjoy the mental challenges, I like to try and use both to give everyone the opportunity to shine.
 
To find activity ideas Pinterest is a great resource. Again, it depends upon your age group, but you can turn just about any game into a way to obtain either a written clue or riddle or a needed item. You are welcome to check out my Pinterest boards curated for escape rooms and scavenger hunts.
 
 

Narrative

By choosing a theme and 10 activities, make up a story as to the reason they are trapped, what is their main objective to escape?
 
Once you have a theme, activity ideas, and a reason for their being trapped, use these items to build your narrative.
 
Build a story to lace the 10 objectives together. You don’t need to thoroughly explain everything, too much writing is boring! 
 
For example, in our superhero hunt the kids needed a blueprint of the city. I had choose to incorporate an obstacle course as one of the objectives. To tie in an obstacle course, I made the course out of string and told them it was laser beams. They had to break into the bad guy’s vault without tripping the alarm to steal back the blueprints.
 
Start your game by introducing the narrative, explaining their objective in a creative way. For our carnival hunt, I made a spooky video that explained they were new recruits of a travelling carnival and no one has ever successfully escaped, it was laced with a few clues, spooky music and voice over.
 

Riddles 

Not all games need to have riddles, but riddles can be used to help bridge the gap between activities and lace them together.
 
They are an opportunity to build your narrative and to go deeper into the story.
 
This is the carnival escape room video prop, used to help set the narrative as to the reason they are trapped. 

Reward – Ending the Escape Room Game

I like to add a reward at the end for a sense of accomplishment, especially if you are planning the escape room for kids. The reward can be your 10th activity. All my games are a bit of a treasure hunt too!

It’s satisfying for the kids to have a sense of completion, with the carnival escape room the last event is a pinata, so not only do the kids when their freedom but also a bag full of candy!!

BUT, again don’t forget to tease them too, one year the pinata was filled with broccoli (don’t worry they eventually found their candy), you can imagine the shock and horror on their poor little faces. I still get a chuckle out of that moment and they still talk about it!

Recap: 10 Things to Know to Make Your Own Escape Room at Home – Memorable

  1. Choose your location
  2. Pick a theme the kids are into
  3. Find age appropriate games & activities
  4. Outline a list of 10 objectives
  5. Create a rough narrative
  6. Write riddles and clues leading to the next objective
  7. Find a reward that make sense with your theme for completing 
  8. Build anticipation with invitations to get them pumped!
  9. Create a sense of adventure
  10. Get them in the mood – turn up the silly and excitement with a costume party!!

Conclusion

Be sure to share your escape room ideas and experiences. If you are short on time to create your own from scratch, give the backyard carnival escape room a try, it’s kid approved! 
 
It includes ….
  • customizable invitations 
  • spooky video prop
  • complete step by step
  • materials list (most from around the house and dollar store)
  • printables
  • Fun memories
  • set up not included 😉
 
You may also want to check out 7 DIY Escape Room Game Ideas made from scratch!
Make an escape room party for kids

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What Other's Say About Our Games

Christina Roberts
Christina Roberts
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What an amazing and creative idea that my family, friends and I were able to enjoy together. With simple instructions and with everything to do and get, made all the guesswork taken care of. It turned out perfectly! I highly recommend! I can’t wait to do another scavenger hunt. Thank you Ultimate Scavenger Hunts for doing all the work so we can enjoy!

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