Best digital and at-home escape rooms for the family
Online and board game-style escape rooms are becoming more popular, especially now that leaving the house is being kept to a minimum. There are plenty of cheap and easy options that will give you and your kids great puzzle-solving satisfaction and flex those brain muscles.
You'll be surprised how quickly some clues can be solved by the children in your family/team, but it's definitely a pastime that (for primary school children) will most likely require input from older family members too.
Best for escape-room maths practice
Time: 20-30 minutes
Mr Awesome Breakout is a quick and quirky digital escape room challenge about a maths teacher that leaves clues after his arrest (his crime: being too good at maths!). The clues are laid out in one place so that you can simply scroll down as you go. The focus is on calculating surface area which can be very tricky for young ones but it’s not entirely necessary as most clues can be resolved by using your powers of deduction. Some clues involve spotting irregularities in text and this requires a keen eye and someone to take notes. It's a bit of silly fun and you can learn about maths and try out some new skills along the way.
Best for puzzle lovers
Time: 30-40 mins
Crack the CODE is a sure favourite among keen coders and is suitable for those with varied coding ability, beginners and advanced. The aim is to use the clues on the page to 'crack the code' and get back into your computer programme after it's been hacked by your enemy. It’s a digital escape room which includes the use of binary code, video clues, online puzzle pieces and maths skills. It’s technically only one webpage but has several links to other clues that open up in new tabs. Don't be fooled by the apparent simplicity, there's more to this game than first meets the eye!
Best for Harry Potter fans
Time: 30-40 mins
This escape room is a fantastic adventure you can enjoy from the comfort of your home. It has an intriguing and fun plot with tricky, magic-themed clues along the way. You and your child can become Hogwarts students and have a go at a muggle escape room using your knowledge about spells, magic, maths and geography. Hint: read the story very carefully!
Best for a choice of virtual escapes
Time: 30-40 mins
There are plenty of digital escape rooms to choose from on this platform, from brick building to dollhouses, Egypt museums to forest headquarters, there's enough to keep you busy for hours. They are visually appealing and come with helpful how-to videos if you get stuck. The only issue is that the site is very ad-heavy. The clues are difficult but varied and will keep kids thoroughly engaged and, at times, thoroughly confused! Tip: some clues will only appear on the screen once you have completed part of the escape room puzzle.
Best for escape room beginners
Time: 15-20 minutes
A wonderfully imaginative escape room with puzzles based on the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The Magical Book Fairy guides you on your adventure and helps you to escape from the fairy realms and house of the three bears. This is a nice, relatively easy escape room (compared to the others) that unfolds over several pages with clear images and tasks. It makes use of Morse code with a handy morse code translator and is good for flexing the memory muscle and matching colours and sizes of objects.
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Best for variety of challenges
Time: 40-45 mins
The Spy Apprentice escape room has a longer plot than most but it's captivating and full of intrigue. You're in a chase around the globe to keep up with one of the greatest spymasters in the world – Carmen. As you read through the adventure you will find lots of images to help spark the imagination and it will be easy to lose yourself in the idea that you are really travelling the world and finding clues. The creators have varied the style of clues and the methods you will need to crack them. You'll need to use counting skills, visual skills, colour matching, size matching, alphabet knowledge, reading and cross-referencing skills! From mysterious bags dropped off at the airport to strange posters hanging in empty rooms, this escape room will keep you going for a while.
Best for no-screen fun
Time: 1-3 hours
This escape room comes with cards, cut-outs, books, certificates and a fun prize once you’ve completed it. Easily the best ‘boardgame’ (it doesn’t actually come with a board) that my family’s played in a long time and it kept us occupied for hours. The clues are tricky and incredibly creative and they give a great sense of satisfaction once you’ve finally pieced it all together. The plot provided in the little booklet is more than enough to kick-start the group’s imagination and this is a fantastic team-based game. It can, however, only be played one time because of the nature of the clues (you’ll need to cut, fold and write on some of them) but there are other games in the Thames & Kosmos escape room series than can be reused and passed on to friends. Highly recommend spending your evening with one of these!
Best for learning history and science
Time: 20 - 30 mins
Described as 'a cross-curricular digital adventure', this escape room from My Learning involves a locked box and a magical code. Click on images and follow separate links to play interactive games, crack morse code, find out about Ice Age objects and animals, and discover the interesting world of insects. You’ll need Flash Player for one of the clues and a pen a paper to keep track of your answers. This is a great learning experience that combines elements of history and science in a fun and accessible way.
Best for experienced escapees
Time: 1-3 hours
A multi-player escape room that can be in different locations, this one is perfect for school friends and families to enjoy together. Once you’ve paid, you receive two passwords that up to eight people can use. You'll need to settle on a way to communicate during the game (we used House Party, but WhatsApp, Skype and Zoom would work too). A murder has been committed on an aeroplane and it’s up to you and your team to solve the crime and find the killer. Clues include QR codes (you need a smartphone for this), videos, and other ‘items’ found on the plane. You will also have the option to download music to complement the game and set the scene. Once you've watched an introductory video and organised everyone, you’ll quickly be sucked into the realistic plot and good graphics.
Best for all-family fun
Time: 1-2 hours
The whole family will enjoy this interactive online children’s adventure, created in only 72 hours during lockdown.
It's a theatrical journey: you'll need to navigate through 27 scenes set across six levels, with multiple paths to choose from. What will happen, in what order? YOU decide! There's an evil curse, multiple mysteries, lots of silly fun and only one winner – have you got what it takes to save the camp, deep in the heart of the Freaky Forest, the UK’s most paranormal cursed forest?
Best for print and play games
Time: 1 hour (including cutting and sticking time!)
This cut and play escape room is great for team building skills and requires very little time on screens. There are three levels you need to make your way through in order to stop a dangerous virus that's hiding in an old 1980's video game. Luckily, it doesn't require too much printing (as with other print and play games) and its playful design makes it appealing to younger children. Cut and fold 3D shapes, use binary code, create a paper plane and follow an asteriod map to make your way to the end. There's also a fun bonus level once you've completed the whole game.
Level Up is an enjoyable way to pass an hour and boost skills and creativity without it feeling like school work!
Best for a family whodunnit
Time: 10+ hours of play time (multiple sessions over a week)
Charlotte Holmes: Top Secret is an interactive theatrical experience for 9-13 year olds to enjoy at home, created by the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield and Lancaster’s arts venue The Dukes.
Set in 1940s Yorkshire, Charlotte Holmes is the story of a young evacuee during World War II and follows in the steps of legendary super-sleuth, Sherlock Holmes. The world is in peril when a ‘Top Secret’ military asset is stolen from Batley Hall. It's up to Charlotte to piece together the clues, unmask the villain and save the war effort. From map-making and orienteering to gardening and code-cracking, help Charlotte navigate a world of undercover spies and military intelligence to solve the mysteries once and for all.