Escape Rooms for us were originally meant to be adult entertainment – Aunty Ant had been introduced to them through a work event and swiftly indoctrinated all her friends. Having kids around usually made it tricky to sneak off and play though, so our solution was generally to bring them with. Panda and the Avenger were around 12 years old, Amazing J was 10 and Jack-Jack just a baby. In order to play, we had to find suitable ventures that would cater for at least some of them, as well as entertaining us. It’s not as easy as you’d think. There’s no official age categorization and most websites don’t go into much detail. “Over 18s only”, “Under 16s must be accompanied by an adult” and the occasional “Under 10s are not permitted” are about the sum of it. I spend a disproportionate amount of time on the phone to venues, checking exactly how suitable a scenario might be, in a horrible helicopter parent way. General age blankets are all very well, but sometimes the specifics are key. A cynical 15 year old can cope fine with being blindfolded and put in a cage – not so much a sensitive 11 year old.
Generally I would have a few criteria with which to evaluate and possibly reject a room. You don’t want a room that:
- Traumatises your poor child out of their wits, leading to years of nightmarish broken sleep and decades of expensive therapy.
- Baffles your child with complex puzzles and intricate logic, smashing any confidence in their own intelligence.
- Bores your child senseless with train timetable questions, greige scenery and plot involving tax accountancy, meaning they whine uncontrollably and sulk in a corner.
But ringing up to get this kind of information from a venue is delicate. Is it too scary, too difficult, too dull? Tends to elicit a response of “That depends. How brave is your child? How smart? How well have you raised them, as a parent, to be patient, tolerant, determined and polite?” It can all get a bit…judgey.
Therefore, this is one of the purposes of this blog, to produce a bit of a guide for escaping with kids, so you don’t have to resort to those uncomfortable, judgemental chats with venue staff. Now Panda and the Teenage Avenger are older, more cynical escape room veterans, suitability is less of an issue for them, and we all relish seeing them blindfolded and thrown into a cage. But Jack-Jack is now of an age where he is able to come along more often, and so the cycle begins again. And our rule for Escape Rooms applies here – the more information and knowledge you have available, the easier it is.