Tag Archives: teens

Escape Room Tips

If your teens are anything like mine, every escape room you plan gets filled in minutes and it is a perennial request during JTAB (Junior Teen Advisory Board) and TAB (Teen Advisory Board) meetings. 

The problem is, escape rooms can be labor intensive to plan and are really only fun when it is a smaller group solving the puzzles. And while there are a lot of escape room plans and packages that you an buy, they aren’t always able to be adapted to your room space or your teen’s interests and can get really expensive. So, to help save monies and because my themes always seem to be weird I opt to plan my own running the same room multiple time in a week. 

Here are my top tips, tricks, and cheats for help with escape rooms:

Crowd source your themes

You do not need to be the one that comes up with the fun theme of the room. in fact, they are better when the idea comes directly from your teenagers. Do they like Stranger Things or Riverdale or Sherlock? Now, you not only have permission to binge watch all the TV (in the name of research of course), but also have a LOT of solid and identifiable resources for clue plants or Easter eggs.

Round out your story

Regardless of where you start in the escape room planning process remember that you need to have a set story line for it to make any sense. Why do you need to get out of the room? What happens at the end of the time limit? How did the group of people escaping all wind up here to begin with? These are all important parts to address before you begin to build the fun puzzle parts.

Map it out

The most exciting part of building an escape room is creating puzzles and clues, but before you start buying and building all the locks and ciphers that you’ve seen on Pinterest you need to map out what steps your players are going to need to accomplish in order to escape the room. I like to keep it as a simple flow chart with 3-5 steps.

Do this > then this > then this > then do this thing > and now you escape!

This same step should be used when you decide what puzzles you are creating to make sure that they flow into each other well. Unless your goal is see how fast people rage quit your escape room, you want your puzzles to make sense with the story and how they should be progressing in the escape of the room.

Invest in your stuff

Do you see yourself running more than one escape room at your library? If you do put the time in to buy some items that can be reused. Buy some locks that let you reset the combination or pattern, get some that have keys and ask around for a whole bunch of random keys as well (co-workers are great for keys of no known origin or use). See a cheapo toolbox that has a latch? Nab it! Quality pieces that can take a lot of wear and tear or a little bit of a beating are your best friend for clues and puzzles.

Speaking of puzzles…

Everyone has a few that are beat up and can’t circulate anymore or maybe are missing a piece or two. Recycle that puzzle! Cover the top with a new picture or clue that can only be solved when put together. Put a whole bunch of numbers on the puzzle backboard and when the pieces you have are placed the missing pieces highlight certain numbers needed for a code.

Be vaguely specific

Keep in mind that most escape rooms run for an hour. That means that they need to feasibly be solved within that hour, so the more obscure your puzzles are the harder they become to solve and more time is taken off of that countdown. Puns, double meaning words, or even a bad descriptions of how to accomplish the puzzle are great ways to be vaguely specific. And remember to practice and time completions for puzzles and clues before you open it up to the public whenever possible. The number of problems to solve and how they link together is just as important as how difficult they are.

Get crafty and make your own props

Some clues you just need to create yourself. If you are like me and those weird themes just keep getting inspired by your teens or popping into your sleep deprived brain there are not going to be easy to change up clues that others have already created and given up to the library collective or Pinterest. But even if you aren’t a crafty person by nature there are a few websites that I love that help you in creating the props that you need.

  • Festisite – update a template or create your own IDs, money, credit cards, or concert tickets. You can even edit company logos to become clues or better fit your themes
  • Fantasy Map Generator – randomly created maps for your fantasy and sci-fi needs. Easily customize your map
  • Newspaper Clippings – create a quick newspaper article and have it actually look like a newspaper
  • Receipts – spend some of that money you made on Festisite and buy some cool items…or at least create a basic receipt for that hoverboard
  • Phone Conversations – create a fake text conversation and attach it to a toy phone from Dollar Tree. Fastest prop ever!
  • Blueprint Creator – there are tons of opensource materials for building floor plans for rooms and buildings, but I really like the simple click and add function that this one allows.

Mix up the challenges

Not everything needs to be a thinking puzzle. The fun of escape rooms is the overall experience so throw in some physical challenges with your puzzles. Things that the players will need to DO to solve the problem. Getting through a maze, moving an obstacle in their path, and retrieving items from other areas of the room are easy ways to incorporate a physical challenge in your escape room.

Note: My current work in progress escape room is Schrodinger’s Nyan Cat. Nyan Cat has been captured and placed in Schrodinger’s Box and only by solving puzzles and challenges can Nyan Cat be freed before the universe implodes in Pop-tart rainbow-ness. I have 2 days of escape room fun using this as my theme and slowly driving my kids nuts by playing the Nyan Cat song on a loop for the hour that they are finding their locks, combinations, and clues. Oh yes, there will be pictures.