One of the most common scenarios we hear from hosts that are parents or those holding family events is that there are one or two kids of varying ages. They may or may not be at the reading age and most of the time they may not have the skills required to take on a character (or “suspect”) in the mystery. Two minute attention spans and classic childhood boredom need to be considered, as giving a child too much responsibility can not only lead to frustration for them, it can also have consequences when it comes to the success of your mystery party. Regardless, they still want to be involved, and rightfully so.
There are actually a number of ways to involve kids of any age into a mystery or murder mystery party. Here are the tips we most commonly give our hosts who are faced with that conundrum.
1. You know the child better than anyone
We have had 9-year-olds facilitate an entire party on their own, and have even written special parts into mysteries like Vampires vs. Werewolves for 4 and 7-year-olds. In all of these cases, the parent has said, “My little Janey or Johnny is VERY advanced and can the responsibilty”. In all cases thus far, the parents have been correct. And while we all think our kids are the smartest ones in the world (but in my case, mine really are! haha) every parent knows the capabilities of their children. My three-year-old is the most brilliant boy I’ve ever known, but in a moment of complete honesty I can admit that he’s probably not up to playing a suspect in an adult mystery. So, take a moment to objectively think about the capabilities of the child – and more importantly WHAT THEY WOULD ENJOY DOING during the party to spotlight their interests and strengths.
2. Have strong readers share the introduction and/or Confession
Even if your mystery party comes with audio introduction(s) and final “Confession” solution (where the culprit is revealed), you’ll also receive the transcripts of these files in your Facilitator Guide and in a separate file marked “Confession”. If you have a few STRONG READERS in your junior entourage, allow them to read the introduction(s) and final confession. A warning though: make sure your young reader can handle the language and reading in front of a group. I’ve been flabergasted to realize that some of my dearest ADULT friends are not strong readers – with embarassing results (Click here if you want to read the humiliating tale).
3. Kids can deliver and reveal the accusations
Your mystery kit comes with Accusation Forms that you can use to have your guests cast their accusation at the end of the mystery. Typically, when the investigations wind down or after a pre-set time, accusation forms are handed out and the detectives write down their name and the name of the suspect they accuse for bragging rights and/or prizes at the end of the mystery. In the case of a smaller party, we encourage our hosts to go around the room and have everyone share their accusation (they have to write it down so they can’t change their mind after hearing who everyone else is accusing). An easy way to integrate a younger child is to have them distribute the accusation forms and pens to each investigator and suspect. Once everyone is finished writing down their guess, the younger sleuths can gather the accusation forms and even read the accusations to the group. Something like this:
Child: Aunt Gertrude accuses Quickblade Charlotte. Why, Aunt Gertrude? WHY?
Aunt Gertrude: She just seems shifty to me and couldn’t answer many of my questions in a straight forward way.
4. Have the kids be “time keepers”
Many hosts choose to put a time limit on investigations. Not only does this keep the party moving at a good pace and prevent the investigations from going all night, it also creates a really fun and exciting sense of urgency as everyone rushes at the end to get their final questions answered. Giving kids a timer or stopwatch (most smart phones have them these days) and putting them in charge of announcing how much time is left at regular intervals is a fun way to get them involved without TOO much responsibility.
Hopefully these suggestions helped you come up with a few other ideas as well for ways to get your kids involved in your mystery party game. We’re always here to help, so if you would like to have some personalized suggestions, don’t hesitate to email us or click the “live chat” button on the left side of our website. If we’re not online, leave an email message and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours.