The answer is No. Most of the Escape Games are Not a good fit for groups of kids 9-14 years old. Because those games are intended to be played by adults or mixed age groups of adults and children and not by kids by themselves. Only games designed specifically for children are good for kids parties.
“Go to Escape Room, they said. It will be fun, they said”.
There is nothing quite like parenthood, from the moment you realize you are about to become one, to seeing your kids grow up.
And now, they are tweens, which means you already have thrown several birthday parties for them.
In addition to that, the average number of birthday invitations received by a school-aged child from classmates, neighborhood, classes, and camps is between six and twelve annually.
Let me guess… Was it a sleepover last time? Camping? Movie night?
The older kids become, the more difficult it is to come up with new ideas for celebrations.
Sure, parenting generation has changed and things did too.
Thrown-together affairs with a handful of folks just don't excite today's tweens and their invited friends.
Nowadays parents make every effort to being on point and are humming along like well-oiled machines to make this day the best one of the year!
There is also a trend towards a more organized celebration featuring entertainment, decorations, and restaurant-quality food.
And the guest list simply doesn’t have a finite number. Gosh, sometimes it seems kids invite all peers they meet.
No wonder parents are looking for fresh birthday ideas to satisfy the beloved child on a special day.
Thus, while searching for a perfect activity, they come across this new entertainment trend called Escape Rooms.
Which are sort of amusement centers with live interactive games.
Games are typically team-based which make them perfect for a birthday bonding. Venues offer a memorable experience that can spice up any party and truly make it unique.
Doesn't it sound like a good ingredient for a kids birthday gathering?
Well, yes but actually no. It can be a bit tricky.
It’s a fun group activity, which takes place in theatrical themed environment.
Most of the time the games are set up inside several rooms which are decorated to fit any specific theme. For example, it could take place in a number of rooms that look like an Egyptian tomb.
The players have an objective to go through a series of puzzles within one hour time frame. The riddles are connected to each other by logic and a story.
The gaming process is accompanied with all sorts of special effects that help to create intriguing and exciting moments.
The concept is still relatively new and attracts new clients, whether it’s with a group of friends, coworkers, or at a family gathering.
Although escape the room games fall under Local Family Attractions, they are a bit misinterpreted by a less familiar public.
They are indeed family friendly but in a specific way.
We’ll get into pros and cons in a minute, but before let`s a get deeper understanding of what they really are.
While you may have heard of this concept before, do not overlook some crucial successful game play moments, such as teamwork, communication, and logical thinking.
Sure, it is fun to be sincerely involved in navigating through a series of interactive actions, but they wouldn't be that desirable without being challenging!
It’s that sweet “A-ha!” moment that makes the players roar of excitement!
When the designers create the games, they endeavor team’s best to elaborate a perfect blend of complex logical correlations that require focus and attention and cool special effects to create dramatic moments.
Now, how good is an army of children at listening to each other, concentrating, summarizing, and all that jazz?
Add the stress from the pressure of time to it and we bet it’ll be a perfect harmony! (Sarcasm alert!)
Now, before you get a bag of rotten tomatoes and aim, hear us out.
Nope, children are not weak-minded, if that’s what you thought. Although, my nephew sometimes makes me doubt it.
Adult and teen brains are physically different. Which makes them think differently.
Adults think with the Prefrontal Cortex, the front part of the frontal lobe. This brain area is in charge of problem solving, rational thinking, logical reasoning, awareness of consequences, and abstract thinking.
Ironically, it’s a brain region that is the last to develop in humans. It primarily starts developing during adolescence and reaches maturity at the age of 25 years.
However, we all know that one person… haha
Children think with the Amygdala, the emotional part. See this almond-shaped dot? Well, duh! It's hard to be a performer, if this is the only tool you have available.
This part of the brain also relies on intuition and instinct. Sudden impulse responses rule in here which makes young kids to be more reactive. They act first and think later and are more likely to make mistakes.
Now that we have figured out how the brain of adults is different from the capabilities of the young adult's brain, let's talk about what else children lack to play adult puzzling games.
Having a blast in an escape room does not require special knowledge, but it needs some life experience and ability to perceive relationships between similar things.
For example Analogical Reasoning is often used by adults for problem solving.
It requires to transfer previously acquired solutions from one situation to another, if such situations have general patterns and relational similarities.
Adults identify such connections by means of Abstract thinking.
Young children interpret analogy first in terms of object similarity instead of its characteristics.
They use Concrete thinking which is connected closely to objects. For example, in a metaphor they may take the words literally.
Analogical reasoning responses are increased over age and life experience.
We can mention other qualities essential for problem solving and critical thinking:
Ability to think in a structured way; make systematic reasoning; be able to process spoken and written language into meanings and make conclusions; test arguments for validity and weakness; ability to have a discourse with the mates.
Guess what! Young children are not taught any of it!
We’re aware that most Escape Rooms accept parties of middle school aged kids. But here’s an interesting question…
If the average escape game industry demographic age is between 20 and 40… Do 10 year-olds and players in their 30s enjoy the same type of activity?
No expert needed, you know your kids best!
Those parts of the game, which involve exploring, searching, observing, collecting, sorting, and matching, are great for children! In other words, they do well with tasks that are associated with physical energetic activity.
They are also good at simple one-step logical connections.
However, nowadays, escape games are not just about finding hidden pieces of code under the furniture, or at least the good ones are not.
Top-level adventures are about players following the storyline behind the sets and making complex creative solutions.
It’s time to admit, children are just up for a different kind of challenge.
They are a perfect suit for a mixed group of players of different ages, such as family gatherings, where they contribute THEIR skills and build confidence when they see how it helped the whole team!
We state, “Games that fit both mature adults and young kids are like unicorns. People believe that they exist but in fact, they are just horses with cones on head. From far, you don't see the difference but ones you come closer, things get messy”.
By “Regular” Escape Games we mean your normal local Escape Room facility that accepts both adult parties and parties with just children in a group.
If you call to your local Escape Room center and ask if the games they have are good for a party of children at age between 9-14, most likely they will say Yes.
How kids manage to complete the same game within the same time frame as adults, one may ask.
Well, there are two strategies the companies follow to settle this situation.
First, they may modify the clues and puzzles in the game, as much as it’s possible to do so.
A possibility to such adjustments depends on the design of each particular game.
Typically they will just simplify the puzzles for younger kids to solve.
They apply it to these mental challenges we covered earlier, and as a result, the game looses its insight moments.
If it's impossible to modify the game, the solution would be to walk the players through.
It is when a game master either constantly communicates to the group by providing instructions or simply joins the party to guideline them throughout the process.
Anyway, both approaches are dull. They are false promises of appealing headlines.
Modified games don’t negate the fact that the players still need to track the narrative of the flow.
Kids have a hard time following along with instructions and as soon as the performance stops being entertaining, children are distracted and overwhelmed.
Well-designed games should not require players to request a vast number of clues, not to mention walking somebody through the experience.
It’s like going to Baskin Robbins with someone and buying this person an ice cream to eat for you, so they could tell you how tasty it was.
Game master interruptions usually ruin the immersiveness.
It is a good piece of their revenue pie. The downside is the pressure it puts on the service staff who have to walk a tightrope while juggling with additional duties.
Now, watch what’s happening behind the curtains.
On one side, the game master is not supposed to interfere the brainstorming of the team, unless asked, even if the team is heading in the wrong direction.
And on the other side, if the kids are having a hard time figuring something out and don't ask for help (which young Jedis don’t like to do), they will not manage within the time frame and eventually lose, which will leave them feeling frustrated.
Considering that most popular occasion for a kids’ gathering is someone’s birthday; this is the last thing you want them to feel after the timer goes off. So, the staff starts pushing the players and it's simply wrong.
Oh, and do not forget that games have rules, such as no climbing, jumping, crawling and all that fun stuff that kids like the most.
For the hosting game master, it’s kind of like sword swallowing. Do it right and it’s a big crowd pleasure. Do it wrong and people get upset.
There are escape rooms created specifically for kids!
There are few of them in general, and as far as I know, none in Washington DC metro area.
However, they do exist at other places. As an alternative, you can send kids to “5Wits” instead - entertainment venue with simple hands-on action games.
As a major thumb rule, they are designed to provide a safe environment with games that are playable and appropriate for children.
The good ones have specialized party hosts who have skills to deal with kids, know how to touch their personality, and make sure everyone is involved in the process and no one is going to feel left out.
Let’s reveal exactly how you can still utilize all amazing advantages of this great experiential activity and avoid the down sides.
Initially, escape rooms were created for gathering, uniting, and team building purposes where people enjoy the company of one another.
So, use it the right way - come with your family!
Most games are kid-friendly, but adults are still the main players.
However, children can be a good addition, if not an advantage to the game. It’s the moment when everybody can put their phones aside and have memorable family time.
It's truly a good way of teaching and providing a good example how to rock it in a stressful situation, how to overcome the challenges and work together.
How to Play Escape Games with Young Children
We’ve already learned that the ability to understand the information requires thinking critically about it.
Critical thinking does not develop by itself at a young age.
Because critical thinking is a skill, it needs training and constant practicing.
Teaching kids to think logically on their own, be resourcefulness and creative in problem solving is not integrated into the curriculum.
It may not come along without a deliberate practice that specifically focuses on development of such skills.
But you as a parent can provide your child with an opportunity to practice applying different thinking principles.
Provide children with deliberate real life practice exercises.
When you go to Escape Room with a family, take on the role of a team leader and brain center who will process the information extracted by the team.
And let your kids be your arms and legs.
If you play with young children ages 6 to 12, you must break down the information for them to make it simpler to understand.
You must remember that they think in concrete ways.
So explain the logic to them for each decision first and then provide instructions for further actions.
Describe them things like what to look for, where to look for it, and etc.
If you come with children between 12 - 15 years of age, you can try to delegate more complex formal logical operations to the teens.
But still guide them to make the correct conclusions by asking them questions, such as:
“What are we looking for?” and “What does the previous clue say and how it can help us?”
This will teach them how to think systematically about all logical relationships within a problem.
Over time, after kids put that knowledge to work through, they will establish and strength their investigative skills, resourcefulness and creativity in problem solving.
Use Escape Rooms as an activity that provides an opportunity to practice utilizing critical-thinking principles to answer questions and solve problems.
Here are more with your family.
Well, blogging’s all about being helpful and it's a good way to reach out or share your opinion.
Did you have a good experience doing other activities with kids?
Great! Tell us about it in the comment section!
It could be of good value to other parents who are looking for new ideas to try for their child's birthday.
Fun Activities You Can Do with Younger Kids in Fairfax/DC Area
Other local parents recommended these places to us for this Post
- Paint your own Pottery in Fairfax
- Cookology Cooking School in Arlington - "My daughter (11) had her bday there and the kids had a great time".
- Sportrock indoor Climbing Center in Alexandria
- Shadowland Laser Adventures and Laser tag of Manassas VA - "Well organized and clean laser tag and arcade. For the last 3 birthdays that’s what my son wanted. 8-10 years old".
- Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Springfield - "You can book everything online and all you have to do is bring the cake!"
- Virginia Academy of Fencing - "It is great for tween parties. It’s an equalizer too because everyone can do it - size and age don’t matter".
- Tom's Laser Tag - "You rent the old school laser guns and they bring everything to you. You can book a guided party or do it on your own. My kids had a blast!"
- Jefferson District Park - "Birthday parties at Jefferson Falls Mini Golf are fun in warm weather."
- MedStar Capitals Iceplex - "I’d recommend ice skating at Ballston or bowling (especially if there’s “cosmic bowling” with glow-in-the dark stuff)."
- The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring - "If the birthday is between Mar.-Nov. and you don’t have a huge group, the Adventure Park at Sandy Springs (Rockville) zipline course is fun for about 3rd grade on up."
Check out our other blog posts with more valuable content.