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 nine or ten-year-olds, which means you already have thrown several birthday parties for them.
Let me guess… Was it a sleepover last time? Camping? Movie night?
The older they become, the more difficult it is to come up with new ideas for celebrations. 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!
Thus, while searching for this perfect activity on this special day, they come across this new entertainment trend called Escape Rooms. Which are sort of amusement centers with live interactive games, which are team-based, and super entertaining. It is a memorable experience that spices up any party and truly makes it unique.
That sounded like good ingredients for a kids birthday gathering, didn’t it?
Well, yes but no. It can be a bit tricky.
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.
Ever imagined yourself breaking into an ancient tomb or being taken aboard the Nautilus? Now, you can escape from your ordinary routine and dive into fantasy. You can become one of the story line characters seeking adventures, facing creative challenges, and interacting with cool sets, while living each scenario, as you work to escape. It’s a fun group activity, which takes place in theatrical themed environment with special effects that create intriguing and exciting moments.
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 we create the games, we endeavor our 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.
We’re aware that most Escape Rooms accept parties of middle school aged kids. But here’s an interesting question…
The average escape game industry demographic age is between 20 and 45.. So, 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.
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”.
So, how do companies manage to feed two birds with one seed?
There are two strategies.
First, they modify clues and puzzles in the game, as much as it’s possible to do so, based on the design of each particular game, simplifying for younger kids to solve. They apply it to these mental challenges we covered earlier, and as a result, they lose brain 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.
Why do companies still do it?
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 it’s 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.
The good news?
There are escape rooms created specifically for kids! There are few of them in general, especially as long as Washington DC metro area, but they do exist.
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.
Just remember, having a blast in an escape room does not require special knowledge, but it needs some life experience and so games for kids should be based on the kids’ difficulty level.
Even better news?
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. If you need more tips on how to have a blast in an Escape Room with your family, we have another blog post dedicated to it!
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.
Here is a list of fun activities you can do with younger kids in Fairfax/DC area that other local parents recommended 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.