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Halloween Party for Teens and Tweens

Escape Room

As your children approach the tween and teen years, trick-or-treating loses it cache’, and most youngsters would rather hang out with their friends. When your young person has an I/DD diagnosis, you want to make sure they have fun, while still being safely in your care. Why not take the opportunity to plan a special evening for them with an escape room extravaganza?

Escape rooms first began showing up in Asia in the early 2010s, and moved across Europe and North America, providing a fun and brain-teasing night out for friends and families. The scheme is simple: solve a series of puzzles and questions within the time limit, finding clues as you go along. Most of these businesses have a storyline that changes a few times per year, so that repeat customers get a new challenge.

Nights out like these are pricey, with some as high as $30-40 per person for an hour’s entertainment. Thrifty parents, school groups and DIY experts are battling back by coming up with their own escape room parties held in basements, rec rooms or rented school or church facilities. With a little bit of imagination, a small group of friends and some youngsters ready for a challenge, you can plan the coolest Halloween party in the neighborhood.

Escape room games may be purchased at your local discount store or online. Most are in the $20-35 range and include storyline, combination lock and puzzles to solve. A few even include a video to provide the backstory. Teachers would enjoy the STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) schemes. Because escape room parties are completely customizable, they can be made totally accessible for all your guests, regardless of their abilities.

DIY your own escape room activities with coded or mirror-image messages. Include science or math-based challenges, too. Hide clues behind doors, paintings and under furniture. Pinterest has a wealth of ideas for this type of party. You can customize the activities to the ages, skills and interests of your guests. Some theme ideas are spies, Old West, pirates, murder mystery or Armageddon-type scenarios.

Party favors and decorations might include puzzle balls, or invisible ink pens, manila office folders marked “Top Secret,” mini Rubik’s cubes, magnifying glasses or flashlights. Cut out black construction paper shoeprints and place on the floor. Caution or crime scene tape is pretty inexpensive, too. Pick an interior room to use for the event, or cover windows with black plastic trash bags. Keep lights low and add glow-in-the-dark accessories.

Sugar cookies decorated with frosting keys and question marks make fun snacks and treats for an escape room party. Try TNT Twizzler bundles,  or take the wrappers off Hersheys Nuggets to make miniature gold bars and stack in piles on a platter. Mark small paper sacks with Top Secret and add easy snacks of popcorn, trail mix, juice boxes or bottled water and sandwiches for emergency rations while the participants are in the escape room.

If your event has a particular theme, like a murder mystery in a castle or country manor, English tea and snacks would be appropriate. If your affair runs to exotic locales, think of a Moroccan bazaar with nuts, dates, and olives, a Parisian patisserie, or rustic Italian spread.

This party scheme can be adjusted and customized according to the type, age and abilities of guests. If you want to make the party for younger kiddos, simplify the puzzles and shorten the timeframe. For an adult event, add grown-up beverages and streamline the floor décor for friends with physical disabilities.

Halloween is a perfect time to get together a few friends and neighbors or your teen’s posse and try something new. This type of event is a bit of a challenge, which helps to break the ice socially, enables kids with different abilities to shine, and allows your guests to relax and enjoy the evening.

By Carol Martin, Finance Department