I have visited and created many escape rooms over the years. I love taking ideas from puzzles, games and even movies and using them to create escape rooms for kids and families. There are certain escape room puzzles and features that work for virtually any escape room. Below I have compiled a list of 15 DIY escape room ideas to consider for your next escape room adventure.
The list is in no particular order and you can use any combination of puzzles and ideas. These are ideas that I have used frequently in the escape rooms that I have made at home. For more ideas and puzzles to make your own escape room, visit here.
Creating your own escape room doesn’t have to be expensive and it can be a great family activity. Escape rooms are wonderful for problem solving, team work and thinking outside the box.
As with any escape room, or activity with children, make sure that all puzzles and materials used are age appropriate and safe for players. Also make sure to place puzzles in a safe and secure location and supervise players throughout play.
#1 Escape Room Theme
Although this is not a puzzle idea specifically, it is something that you need for your escape room. Each escape room starts with a theme. Think of a theme to run through your game. If you are planning for a birthday, something as simple as balloons and cupcakes can be part of your theme.
Other themes could be, a favorite movie, game, sport or even an interest that a child has such as dinosaurs or space.
Below I create an escape room with a sports theme. Some of the puzzles were hidden with sports equipment and the pictures on some of the clues included soccer balls and other sports images.
If you are doing an outdoor escape room, including pictures of leaves or hiding the clues in a tree is an easy way to keep with a theme.
A theme can also help you come up with ideas for your puzzles and it adds to the excitement and engagement of the escape room.
#2 Escape Room Secret Clue Reveal
One of the great things about creating your own escape room is that you can use materials that you already have around the house, like paper, crayons and paint.
Secret reveal clues are common in most escape room. A puzzle that on its own doesn’t look like much. It’s a clue that players need to do something to, in order for the real clue or words to be revealed.
Printing words on paper with a white crayon makes the words invisible to the naked eye. The paper will simply look like a plain sheet of paper. However, if you place paint in the room and lead players to go over the paper with the paint, almost like magic the words appear.
You can even use water in the room and prepare a clue that when dipped in the water, the words are revealed. You can see how to create this clue here.
#3 Escape Room Red Herring
A red herring is one of the easiest ways to add an extra level of difficulty to an escape room. Almost every escape room that you visit will have a red herring, or two.
A red herring is basically something placed in the room that looks like a clue, but isn’t actually a clue. It is simply intended to throw players off as they try to find meaning in the (meaningless) object. Sometimes this is a note, book or object that seems out of place and therefore important.
When playing with older, or experienced players a red herring can be a great addition to any escape room. Players being able to solve what is an actual puzzle is all part of the escape room challenge and experience.
If you are creating an escape room for young children or children who have never done an escape room before, you can choose not include a red herring in their game. That’s the great thing about DIY escape rooms – you can alter and create it specifically for your players.
#4 Escape Room Riddle
Riddles are always a fun part of an escape room. Riddles can be something as simple as rhyming words that suggest somewhere to look.
They can include special features, such as letters in fancy fonts that spell out the next clue, or simply written in a way that players have to read carefully and thoughtfully in order to solve.
#5 Escape Room Magnets
This is one of my favorite escape room ideas! In the escape rooms that I have been to, as well as the ones that I have created, the puzzles that include magnets are often a favorite. Magnets allow you to do things and create puzzles that almost feel like they use magic to solve.
Hiding a key that there is no way to access without using a magnet to pull it into reach is an exciting clue. Especially since players can see the key and know that they need the key, but they have no way to get it, or use it, until they find the magnet.
#6 Escape Room Locks and Keys
What escape room would be complete without locks, or keys? Most escape rooms include locks and keys as part of their challenge and they are easy to include.
Keys can be hidden in plain sight, like the previous escape room idea, or they can even be hidden away in a book or behind a photo.
Finding a key can be very exciting. Players know that they will need to use the key, but then have to find where a lock is to keep moving through and solving the escape room.
Entering an escape room with a locked box or treasure chest is a great way to start an escape room.
For an example of how to create and hide a key, visit escape room for kids.
#7 Escape Room UV Lights
A UV pen was one of the first escape room puzzles that I purchased as a special feature that my kids had never seen before. They still play with the pens constantly and loved this clue.
A UV pen can change an ordinary piece of paper, or puzzle piece, into a hidden clue. Players shine the light onto whatever item they are guided to in the room and a word or number is revealed.
#8 Escape Room Glow in the Dark
Along the same lines as the UV pen is using glow in the dark paint to hide a clue in plain sight. The glow in the dark paint that I used required light before it would glow, but then when the lights were turned off, the clue become clear as the paint shone bright!
For one DIY escape room that I did, I painted a number lock code on the ceiling in glow in the dark paint. When the lights are on in the room, you can’t see the number at all.
However, once players found a clue saying to turn off the lights, the glowing number becomes very clear. It is an exciting and easy escape room idea to include in any escape room.
You can also put a bit of paint on a specific item in the room, such as a coin. When players turn off the lights, the glowing coin, or item will hold information for players to move onto their next clue.
#9 Escape Room Unique Items
Since we have done many escape rooms over the years, I am always looking for new, unique escape room ideas and items that my kids have never seen before. It is a great way to add to the challenge of the room and it is also a fun way to introduce kids to really exciting materials.
One material that I used in my last DIY escape room is color changing paper. It goes on clear/white and changes color when cold water is added. You could have a water bottle in the room filled with ice water that players have to figure out to pour into the jar, with the paper on it, to reveal the new color.
Sometimes it is not ideal to have water in an escape room, so I have also used an ice pack that players twist to activate and make it ice cold. This way there is no mess or concerns with water getting split.
To be honest, I had a blast playing around with the paper and experimenting to see the different ways I could use it. It is a really interesting escape room idea that I feel adds something special to an escape room.
Unique Recordable Speaker Clue
Another unique item that I used that my kids loved, was a recordable speaker. This escape room idea came to me after I went to an escape room that had a clue that came through a speaker into the room. Hearing another voice in the room adds to the feel of the escape room.
You can record any voice and leave a riddle or simple clue on the recording device. When players press the button they hear a voice and clue. I also like the idea of recording a little bit of a song that has a clue in the words.
There are so many possibilities with this escape room idea! For an idea of how to use the speaker in the escape room, visit DIY escape room for kids.
#10 Escape Room Ideas – Puzzle
Puzzles are a great addition to any escape room, especially for kids. Even for young players, puzzles are familiar for children and they are simple for kids of all ages to complete. There are a few ways you can use puzzles in an escape room.
You can hide each puzzle piece in a different place in the escape room. Players then have to find every single piece before they can solve the puzzle. This can be challenging and great for older and experienced players.
You can also place all of the pieces together for players to find at once and put together.
The puzzle can include words that spell out the next clue when each of the pieces are properly together. You can even use the puzzle pieces and glow in the dark paint or a UV pen to hide a clue on the pieces.
One escape room that I did used the puzzle pieces for a clue, however, there was an extra puzzle piece included. This extra piece was the odd one out and therefore held a number code that unlocked a lock in the room.
#11 Escape Room Map
Add a map to any escape room. The map does not have to be a perfect map of the room players are in, it simply has to have a few distinguishing features, such as a bed or computer. Players can be directed to the specific feature from the map to then search it in the room they are playing in.
For the example below from a DIY escape room, I used a piece of parchment paper that had an X marks the spot on it. Once the parchment and the map were both found, and lined up, the X covered a picture of stuffed animals. Players quickly then knew to check their collection of stuffed animals in the room.
#12 Number Code Combination Lock
Number codes are common in most escape rooms. Since combination locks are often used, players have to be given the number code in order to open the lock. There are countless ways to hide the number code for players to solve or find.
Scrambling the actual number, such as this twist code below, is a fun and easy puzzle for players to solve.
In this example, the strips of paper need to be lined up and twisted until a three digit number is revealed. This type of puzzle is easy to make and can be used for a three or four digit number code.
#13 Alphabet Code
Try using an alphabet code in your escape room.
An alphabet code can be made from anything you have on hand. I used plastic building blocks in the example below and then built each letter of my clue from the letters from the alphabet board.
To make it more challenging don’t include the letters of the alphabet below each image. Let players figure out what 26 different images could stand for.
If you create a printable escape room, or use my free printable escape room, you can use different shapes, or other images that fit your theme, to represent each letter.
Players then have to find and put together the alphabet code and the written clue in order to solve the puzzle.
Depending on the age of the players doing your game, a pair of locked scissors can be an interesting clue. I like to leave this clue out in the open from the very beginning when players enter the room.
Players find the scissors and assume that they need them and they are important to solving the room, but the fact that they are locked and cannot be opened until the key is found is a great challenge.
You can use layers of tape to secure a box with a clue inside or the scissors can be used for a paper clue that needs to be cut in specific places in order to solve the clue.
An example of how to use locked scissors in an escape room is available here.
#15 Treasure Chest
I like to include a small prize or gift at the end of my escape rooms. A treasure chest is a great way to do this. Any box that can be locked works well.
If you are creating a birthday party escape room for kids the treasure chest can be a great place to hide a gift or even treat bags for players.
#16 Certificate of Completion
You don’t have to include a prize or certificate for players; however, it is fun to give some recognition for players, especially children. Whether you do the escape room at home or in a school setting, a certificate is a great way to celebrate solving the puzzles.
A completion certificate is also an easy way to show players that they have found their last clue and solved the escape room.
A collection of FREE escape room certificates are available to subscribers from Hands-On Teaching Ideas Resource Library. You can print and use these certificates today! Link and more information is included below.
Free Printable Escape Room Game – Play Today!
If you love the escape room ideas and want to plan an escape room, but you don’t have the time to spend creating and planning the puzzles, you’re in luck!
I have created a Free Printable Escape Room game. Everything you need to do the escape room is included. You don’t need any locks, keys or any other supplies. You can simply print the puzzles, spend a few minutes preparing and hiding the clues and then play!
The free game can be used for parties, playdates, babysitters, classroom use and even for a fun family game. Try it out today!
Click the link for more information on how to download the game today.
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More Hands-On Activities and Escape Room Ideas
If you are looking for more learning activities and escape rooms, below is a collection of my most popular and favorite activities for kids at home or at school.
From over 40 escape room puzzle ideas and a How to Make an Escape Room template, there is lots to explore and to keep children busy and learning.