Escape rooms have taken the world by storm in recent years, offering the ultimate interactive play experience for people of all ages, including escape rooms for families; one that harkens back to the kinds of adventures we all dreamed about as kids – and often still do as grown-ups.
Increasingly, escape room scenarios are becoming more and more accessible, with purpose-built escape rooms appearing in more towns and cities across the world, and “Do It Yourself” escape room games being available for home use in a more varied and interesting selection of styles and templates than ever before.
In some sense, escape rooms serve as the next evolution of the time-honoured tradition of family board games and activities such as charades. Only instead of playing a game of Cluedo or Monopoly, the whole family now gets to become involved in a much more visceral activity that requires everyone to pitch in and be active both physically and mentally.
With the time limits, objectives, and “high-stakes” storylines of most leading escape room scenarios, playing an escape room with your family is likely to be the kind of exciting and memorable experience that you can all look back on fondly, for days if not weeks to come.
Of course, there are certain concerns that you might rightly have about whether an escape room is actually a suitable pastime for your whole family, or whether it’s the sort of thing that is only really appropriate for adult friend groups – as some escape rooms advertise themselves.
Rest assured, there are all sorts of different escape room scenarios out there suitable for the whole family. It’s just a matter of ticking the right boxes, choosing carefully, and modifying your approach so as to ensure that everyone gets the most they can out of the overall experience.
Here are a few tips for choosing escape rooms that are suitable for families…
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An escape room for families shouldn’t be too frightening
When all is said and done, pretty much every escape room has to have at least a slightly “scary” storyline behind it. After all, why would you be trying to “escape” from something that was neither dangerous, nor threatening in any way?
That being said, though, there is definitely a wide variety of differences in the types of escape room scenarios on offer – and while it’s good for an escape room for families to include an appropriate amount of drama and tension, you should be careful that it doesn’t end up terrifying your kids to an excessive and unhealthy level!
Fortunately, it’s almost always the case that you’ll be able to investigate the specifics of an escape room’s theme, aesthetics, and storyline, before jumping in with both feet – and if there’s any ambiguity, you will often be able to contact someone involved with the production and running of the escape room in advance, in order to ask more probing questions about whether the theme is likely to be age-appropriate for your children.
As a general rule, your own intuition and awareness of your child’s sensibilities and sensitivities should serve you well, here. A storyline about escaping from pirates? Probably great fun for the whole family. A storyline about escaping from the torture dungeon of a crazed serial killer? Probably not.
A family friendly escape room should offer an environment that your kids can feel comfortable navigating
One thing about many of the leading escape rooms out there, is that they frequently involve entering highly detailed custom-made environments and settings, which are often excellent for overall immersion, but which might not be the best thing when it comes to ensuring that your escape room experience is suitable for the whole family.
One factor that can come into play here is, of course, the simple fact that certain escape room settings can be frightening for younger children. This point, therefore, overlaps with the previous one. You should be careful to investigate the escape room you are considering, so that you can make sure it will provide just the right level of thrill and excitement, without leaving anyone legitimately terrified.
Even if the particular storyline itself seems compelling and age-appropriate, it might nonetheless be the case that the setting ends up frightening or worrying your child. A big part of this will involve your own awareness and discretion as a parent. For example, a very dimly illuminated escape room is not likely to be a great choice for a child who is very scared of the dark. For that matter, such an escape room may also not be a great idea for an older member of the family whose eyesight isn’t the best!
Beyond the potential of certain escape room settings to be frightening for children, however, there’s a more directly practical consideration as well: some escape room environments might not necessarily be frightening for your child, but might nonetheless be difficult for them to understand, explore and investigate properly, and even navigate in a practical sense. It might be the case, for example, that the escape room has been designed with an adult audience in mind, and so includes tall surfaces that your child will struggle reaching – or certain clues and mechanisms that will be difficult to understand and interpret at their age.
One excellent solution to the potential issue of a frightening or difficult-to-navigate setting, is to buy an at-home escape room kit that allows you to transform a room of your home into the perfect escape room setting, complete with a rich and compelling storyline.
That way, you’ll be able to rest assured that your whole family is participating in the thrill and adventure of the escape room experience, while nonetheless working in a familiar setting – one where you can decorate appropriately, and introduce just enough unfamiliar thematic elements to create the right impression, without making the experience completely alien or inaccessible to younger family members.
An escape room for families requires that every member of the family can pitch in together on the puzzles
It’s no good if an escape room experience features puzzles and a narrative that are amazingly compelling for you, but that are just about impossible for your children – or other members of your family – to engage with, understand, or find compelling.
For an escape room experience to be family friendly, it’s essential that every member of the family is able to pitch in together in solving the puzzles, and to feel involved and valued in the overall problem-solving process.
If your children are just “along for the ride” and aren’t actively participating in the puzzles at all, they will likely become bored and moody in a hurry – and you will likely become distracted and frustrated by the presence, rather than enjoying the adventure together.
Of course, the vast majority of escape room puzzles are designed with adults in mind, and will typically require high level problem-solving that small children won’t be able to master on their own.
All the same, you can still make an escape room family friendly by making an effort to actively involve your kids and the other members of your family in the puzzle solving process, and explaining details to them as required along the way.
It might be, for example, that there is a particular card that you’re looking for in an escape room that has a complex and winding purpose and backstory attached to it. Rather than expecting your children to solve a series of riddles connected to the card on their own, simply explain the story to them, summarise your thoughts on it and what you believe it means – in terms they can understand – and then give them a clear idea of the sorts of things they should be looking out for.
It’s a good idea to factor the accessibility of the escape room into your initial research, too. Higher-level puzzles can be summarised and communicated effectively to your kids, so that the whole family can be properly involved in the process, just as long as the overall story is appropriate and compelling enough.
But, if you happen to choose an escape room where all the puzzles involve complex mathematical formulae, for example, it’s clearly not going to be the kind of thing that you will likely manage to get your kids actively involved with in any meaningful sense.
A family friendly escape room may involve the ability to tweak things as needed
As a general rule, a family friendly escape room will typically be one where you have the ability to tweak things as needed, for the particular requirements of your family – according to age, temperament, and other factors.
For this reason, it may not always be ideal to go to a preset escape room experience that features a rigid storyline, set of props, environment layout, series of rules, and all the rest. While an escape room like this may certainly feature a great sense of ambience, there is nonetheless also the risk that you might hit a particular stumbling block with your family where a small tweak would have made all the difference – but where you will not, in fact, be able to make a small tweak after all.
So, what are some potential solutions?
Well, one potential solution would be to visit an escape room that is actively listed as family friendly, and that tells you up front that you will be able to adjust a few variables to make the experience more suitable for the various members of your family.
Another great potential solution would be to use an escape room kit at home, with one member of your family standing in as the gamemaster, setting the clues, designing and decorating the chosen area, and providing hints and modifications as and when required (or considered appropriate).
Some of the potential tweaks that you might want to consider making to your escape room scenario might include things like: extending the time limit to be a bit more lenient, or else providing certain hints in real time if the action really seems to have flagged. You could also modify elements of the story to make them more age-appropriate.
A family friendly escape room should present an exciting scenario that your kids can understand and feel invested in.
The story of the escape room, in and of itself, should be something that your kids are inclined to find exciting, compelling, and easy to understand – even irrespective of other factors.
While there are many great escape room scenarios with in depth and winding plots that are likely to be compelling for an adult audience, the kinds of scenarios that are likely to play best with kids will typically be those which contain fairly clear and direct motifs and elements.
Pirates, bank robbers, and mad scientists are the sorts of themes that are likely to work well!
Epic Escapes: a great option for the whole family
With the Epic Escapes interactive, at-home escape room experience, you can get all the excitement, drama, suspense, and intrigue of a more traditional escape room – while remaining in the comfort of your own home, and being able to tailor the details and ambience as appropriate to make it just right for the whole family.
A “Hijack” scenario that involves investigating the home of a suspected terrorist to foil an airplane hijacking attempt.
A “Piracy” scenario, which puts your family in the position of a ship’s crew out at sea, trying to escape from the cabin of a suspicious new captain.
A “Crime” scenario that involves you escaping from the safe room of a friend you’ve been house-sitting for, and trying to figure out his connection to the criminal underworld.
Here’s what one of our happy customers has had to say about the experience:
“I came across Epic Escapes while looking for something we could do as a family. I have 3 children aged 11, 10 & 5 and whilst it is a little too challenging for the younger two my eldest son really enjoyed it and was able to actually decipher more than my husband! It was really enjoyable to watch and take part in. Easy to set up, simple instructions and an easy guide for the ‘lead’ if any clues were required. The family managed to complete the beginners in 49:37mins. Really looking forward to trying the Intermediate level with other family members aswell.” – Denise Thompson