10 Best Escape Room Ideas using Keys


A great collection of keys can make an amazing escape room! We love going to escape rooms in our area and solving new puzzles, but creating one at home can be equally memorable and fun. For this collection of escape room ideas, I’ve used a collection of keys for the puzzles.

I purchased these keys a few years ago to add to my DIY escape room materials, but I wanted to find more ways to use them and have them as the focus for an escape room. Below you will find 10 DIY Escape Room Ideas using keys.

You don’t have to have these specific keys to create your own escape room. You also don’t need as many keys as shown in the puzzles.

To create an escape room using the ideas below, simply decide on a way to connect one puzzle to the next. For more ideas and puzzles to integrate into your room, check out, 40+ Escape Room Ideas and the second edition, 49+ DIY Escape Room Puzzles.

If you love the idea of creating an escape room, but don’t have the time to design and plan, check out a Free Printable Escape Room and a Free Printable Escape Room for Kids. These games can be printed and quickly set up around the house.

All of the clues below are simply ideas. You can use all of the clues, or simply a few of the ideas that you love and incorporate them into your game.

Escape Room Ideas – Shadow Clue

This is such a fun clue! The set of keys that I used had what looked like letters as part of the key. If your keys don’t, you can always draw keys on paper that have letters and simply cut them out for players to use.

Use the letters you have to create a word. In the example below, the shadow from the keys creates the word “Tree”. This tells players to check for their next clue in a tree, or fake tree/plant in the house. You can create any word you want, using the keys you have.

You can set up dough and a spot for each key. Players find a clue directing them which key to place where. You can also give players a flashlight, or have one in the room to then shine on the keys to reveal the clue.

escape room ideas shows keys creating a shadow on the wall.
escape room ideas shows a shadow from keys making the word tree.

Escape Room Ideas – Floating Key

This clue leaves a key in plain sight, but water must be used to obtain the key.

Grab a jar with a small top. Ideally this jar is clear. Place a key attached to a wooden block, or something that floats inside the jar.

Players should not be able to reach into the jar and grab the key. You place a note that says the jar cannot be moved and players cannot put their hand into the jar. You can also put a cover on the jar, like aluminum foil, with only a small hole in the top. A hole too small for players to reach in, but big enough that the wooden block can come out.

escape room ideas shows a key floating in a jar attached to a wooden cube.

A bottle of water is placed somewhere in the room. Once a clue leads players to the water they will pour the water into the jar and the wooden block, along with the key, will float to the top.

Once players retrieve the key, they can unlock the lock and move onto their next clue.

Hidden in Plain Sight

I used this clue in an escape room game and worried that it would be too easy. Turns out it was a favorite clue!

Players unlock a box in the room, get a clue and think they’re done with the box. However, you can include a second clue, a key, hidden inside the box. Players will assume once they find their first clue that the box is no longer needed. \

However, you then direct players back to the box later in the game where they will have to thoroughly search the box, and find the key, in order to move on.

escape room ideas shows a key attached to the inside of a box lid.

Escape Room Ideas Color Coded Key

If you are using several keys, and locked boxes, you can color code them. This is a great escape room idea for younger children. They have to find the correct key and lock and then match them in order open the box.

escape room ideas shows a locked box with a blue painted lock and blue key.

Escape Room Ideas Alphabet Keys

Upon first glance of these keys, they appear to be normal keys. They’re fancy keys, but the letters on them are not apparent without looking closely.

On some of the keys, you will print the letters of the alphabet. If you have a limited number of keys, you can just print the letters you need for the next clue.

escape room ideas shows three keys with the letter A,B and C printed on the key.

Before writing the letters on the keys, line up the keys and take a picture. Then print the letters on the keys and place the keys in the room.

The picture of the keys is the clue for players to solve. Players will look at the picture and find the exact keys and put them in the correct order. Once in the correct order, the letters will spell out a word, leading players to the next clue.

Follow the String

Grab a piece of string for your next escape room idea! Attach the string to a key and hide the key somewhere in the room. You can also use fishing line to make it even more challenging.

Trail the string around the room. If you have young players, you can make the string easy to see and follow. If you want to make the room harder, the string can be short and not visible when you enter the room. Perhaps opening or moving another clue can reveal the string and players have to figure out to follow it to find their next key.

escape room ideas shows a key attached to a long string.

DIY Escape Room – Model Key Clue

This is my new favorite clue! Using a piece of clay, or playdough, press a key into the material to make a print. Place the clay, with the print in it, somewhere in the room along with a huge pile of random keys.

break out room shows the imprint of a key in dough.

Players have to sort through the pile to find the matching key from the print.

Depending on the material you use, you may have to keep the key in the clay/dough as it dries. Some materials will shrink when they dry and then your key will no longer match.

escape room ideas shows a key surrounded by a bunch of other fancy keys.

DIY Escape Room Puzzle

If you have a collection of keys for your escape room, write a description for the one of the keys that players need to use to open the lock. The example below shows eleven keys and they are all different. Players follow the clues and eliminate a key(s) each time.

The key does not have a circle or oval on the top.

The key Does not have a heart.

It is not the biggest or smallest key in the group.

The key does not have a skull image on it.

breakout room shows a line of keys.

These clues will lead players to the third key in the image above. You can write descriptions for any collection of keys you have.

Escape Room Ideas – Find the Key

Another clue that is great if you have a big group working on the escape room, is hiding a collection of keys in the room. Everyone can search and find a key.

You can either have a clue describe a key that players need to find among the hidden ones, or challenge players to find a specific number of keys, before they can move onto their next clue.

DIY kids games shows a pile of keys.

Frozen Clue

Imagine walking into an escape room and seeing a block of ice with a key inside of it. You would know that you need to get the key, but would also need to figure out how.

Depending on your group you could include a few things in the room for players to get to the key out.

One option, if they block is small enough, it could melt while players solve the rest of the clues. Make sure to leave the key as the last part of the escape room to give some time for the ice to melt.

DIY escape room shows a key frozen in ice.

You can include warm water in an insulated bottle or thermos somewhere in the room for players to pour on top. Or if your players are older, something to chip away at the ice is also a fun clue.

Another option is to place salt somewhere in the room to put on the ice to make it melt faster. This is a fun clue especially for certain themed rooms, such as a Winter Escape.

I hope this collection of puzzles gives you some ideas for your next escape room! Remember a DIY escape room doesn’t have to be perfect, or run exactly how you plan it, solving puzzles with family and friends in the comfort of your own home makes memories!

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More Hands-On Learning

The possibilities are endless with DIY escape rooms! Check out more ideas from Hands-On Teaching Ideas. If you’re a teaching, you’ll love the popular Free School Scavenger Hunt. Take learning outside of the classroom, and around the school as you solve puzzles and get up and learning.

You can even try another escape room at home by using the collection of free printable puzzles and clues.

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