Are you interested in making your own escape room, but not sure where to start? You’ve come to the right place. There are lots of spots that you can book an escape room, but family friendly escape rooms are harder to find and they can be very expensive. Make your own escape room at home with these step by step “How to Make an Escape Room” instructions and ideas.
There are a lot of bonuses to creating your own escape game, including filling the room with puzzles that you know the players will enjoy because it is create for them. You can also save money by using simple materials and supplies that you already have on hand.
As you start your adventure of creating your escape room, my best piece of advice is have fun creating your game. It doesn’t have to be perfect! Some of the clues may not work out the way you had planned. Even though I have done dozens of escape rooms, they never go exactly the way I expect. That’s okay and I still consider all of them a success!
Planning an escape room does take a bit of time. If you are looking to have an escape room ready to play in a matter of minutes, check out my print and play escape rooms. However, if you are ready to organize and plan your own escape room game, you’ll have all the tools you need to do it by the end of this post.
Where to Start…
So, if you’re ready to find out how to make an escape room, check out the steps below.
I have tried to break down the steps that I use every time I sit down to plan an escape room. You’ll need some creativity, organization and time. The more time and energy you put into the escape room, the better your escape room will likely be. That doesn’t mean you need to plan months in advance, but give yourself some time to plan and create.
The instructions and tips below can be used for creating any escape room for any age or group of people. However, I usually create escape games for kids, so the ideas are more geared towards a younger audience.
I have included a free “How to Make an Escape Room” planning template that you can print. The pages lay out exactly what you need to do in order to make your own room. Fill in the blanks to help you plan. More information is at the bottom of the post.
*Make sure that all puzzles are age appropriate and placed in a safe place for children and players. Supervise players throughout play.*
Things to Consider Before Starting
A few things to decide on as you start planning your escape room include:
- The age of players – If players are young, it’s best to avoid a lot of written clues that may be challenging to read. Older players can probably handle more complicated puzzles.
- Previous experience with escape rooms – Have players done escape games before? If they have then they will likely be able to solve the puzzles faster. Therefore, you can add more clues. If players have never done an escape room before then they will likely need more help and support as they complete the escape room.
- Where will your game be played? Will you set up the puzzles in a room, outside or through a few rooms?
- How many people will be playing? Escape rooms can be played independently with one person, but they can also be done in small groups. Depending on the age, six people or less works well for the activity.
How to Make an Escape Room – The Theme
To create an escape room, the first thing you need to consider is the theme. Escape rooms tend to have a general theme that runs throughout them. A few ideas to help you with a theme are:
- Is it for a special occasion, such as a birthday? The occasion can be the theme.
- What is the players favorite video game?
- What is the players favorite movie or book?
- Do the players have any activities that they are involved in, such as sports or special interests?
A few ideas for a theme include:
- Sports Theme (Soccer, Baseball, Gymnastics)
- Holiday (Christmas, Halloween etc.)
- Seasons (Fall, Winter etc.)
- Ancient Civilizations
When choosing the theme, consider what images or characters could go along with your theme. For example, if you choose a birthday theme, balloons, cupcakes, presents and friends go along with the theme. If you choose dinosaurs, eggs, bones, volcanoes, and a safari fit the theme.
These images and character can help you stick to your theme as you choose your puzzles.
How to Make an Escape Room – The Story
Once you have your theme, consider the story that will go along with your theme and your escape room. If you are creating an escape room for kids, your story does not need to be too complicated. Keep it simple.
However, your room needs to have some goal or way to escape the room. Essentially solving all of the puzzles will make players escape, but adding a story will add to the game and keep players engaged.
For example, for a birthday theme, the story or goal, can be as simple as “all of the presents have been stolen and you need to solve all of the puzzles in order to get the gifts back.” There could be a locked treasure box with all of the gifts in it.
If you want to avoid coming up with the puzzles, but still want to do a hands-on escape game, check out the games below for rooms that I have already created that you can easily follow and create at home, without having to come up with the clues. A birthday themed escape room, or an outdoor Summer themed escape room.
Choosing the Puzzles
This is my favorite part! Once you have chosen your theme and the basic story line, you can start to think about what puzzles you want to include. I created a collection of over 40 DIY escape room puzzles, that you can view here. These are puzzles that I often look through for ideas as I plan my next escape game.
As you look through the puzzle ideas, make notes on the puzzles that catch your eye or ones that you know the players will enjoy. Most of the puzzles in this collection are not created for a specific theme, but rather they are ideas that can be altered a bit to fit any theme.
For your first escape room, I suggest choosing 5-6 puzzles. A few things to keep in mind when choosing:
- Would the players enjoy the puzzle?
- Is there a way to make it fit my theme?
- What would the cost be to create the puzzle?
- Am I using a variety of puzzles? (For example, avoid using 5-6 maze type puzzles)
You can alter a lot of the puzzles to fit your theme. Consider the characters and images that you decided went along with your theme. For example, a hidden clue inside a bath bomb can be prepared differently depending on the theme you chose.
For example, if your escape room is birthday themed, then you could wrap the bath bomb and put a bow on it as though it is a gift. However, if you were doing a dinosaur themed escape room, then you could make the bath bomb look like a dinosaur egg.
The bath bombs are really easy to make and include a key, or written clue inside. Instructions on how to make a bath bomb clue are included here, search #36.
Another thing to consider when you are thinking about the puzzles, is to avoid making puzzles that require prior knowledge. Challenging facts that you are unsure if players know will lead players to a dead end and they won’t be able to finish the room.
Connecting the Puzzles
Once you have chosen your puzzles, decide how you want to connect them together in your escape room. Which puzzle will go first? I often start with a welcome to your escape game letter or some written clue.
Each clue needs to lead to the next. Each clue can include a few numbers that lead to a lock or it may include words that sends players to a specific object in the room that holds the next clue.
Decide how you will connect each clue. It is also a good idea to have variety within the clues. Avoid doing two printed clues in a row or two clues with popsicle sticks back to back. There is nothing wrong with doing similar clues together, it just makes for a better experience when there is more variety.
How to Make an Escape Room – Creating the Puzzles
Once you have the puzzles and know the order that they will go in your escape room, it is time to start making the puzzles. Have fun with this step! If you enjoy making the puzzles then your players will likely enjoy solving them.
Also, consider the cost when creating your puzzles. Use materials from around your house. There are a few items that I have purchased over the years, such as locks and keys, that I have now used countless times for many escape rooms. These were a great purchase. Sometimes I will buy one new and exciting material for a game. You can read about few of my most creative puzzles here.
Often dollar stores sell the simple materials that you need for a lot of the hands-on puzzles. Create your puzzles and test them out to make sure that they work properly.
If you are looking for a few (free) printable puzzles, one of my favorite escape games include some freebies – Make your own escape room.
Escape Room Set Up
Once all of your clues are ready, it’s time to set it up. Start by making sure the the place you are doing the game is clear of any extra distractions. You don’t need an empty room, but it is best to avoid a room with a lot of extra distractions.
Some random items are great to have in an escape room because they can add to the challenge, but too many can lead to players unnecessarily searching through random bins and items. You want your room to flow.
Place each of the clues around the room. Before having players solve the room, try doing a run through on your own first. Start on the first clue and ‘play’ the game. You don’t have to fully solve each puzzle, but make sure that everything is in the right place, locks are locked and clues are hidden.
This is also the time to set up any extra decorations to add to your theme. A few standard items that are easy to add to the room include (depending on the theme):
- Table Cloths
- Spooky Music
- A Timer / Countdown Music
- Flameless Candles
- Completion Certificates (Available for free to subscribers, link below)
Ready to Play
Once you are confident the the room is set up properly, it is time to invite your players to play. It is best to talk to players before they enter the room about what to expect and any rules you want to tell them. A few rules or tips to tell players ahead of time include:
- Time limit (one hour is usually a good length)
- Will you offer hints? (You can give unlimited hints, or limit it to 3 or so hints)
- Everything they need to complete the game is within the room (Depending on where all you chose to locate the escape room)
- Nothing needs to be destroyed to find the clues
Stay and supervise players as they play in case a puzzle or clue does not go according to how you planned. Enjoy watching players work through, solve and have fun doing something that you created!
I hope that these step by step instructions for how to make an escape room are helpful to you in creating your own room.
Free Escape Room Certificates and Puzzles
Now that you know how to make an escape game, you can make a few steps easier with some free puzzles and certificates. You will find lots of free puzzles and supplies in Hands-On Teaching Ideas Free Resource Library.
You will also find also find a “How to Make an Escape Room” printable planning template. Print this free file and use it to help guide you through planning your room.
Subscribe to Hands-On Teaching Ideas to gain access to my growing resources for escape rooms and other children’s activities.
More Hands-On Teaching Ideas
For more hands-on teaching ideas and learning activities, below is a collection of my most popular and favorite activities for kids. From scavenger hunt games to classroom escape games there is lots to keep kids busy, engaged and learning.