By Suzy Fielders
My daughter was turning 11 this year so I wanted to do something a little different. She loves to cook and even has her own food blog so we first thought it’d be fun to do a dinner party. Then I was thinking that seemed a little boring for kids and we needed something for them to actually do. I’ve seen a lot of places host murder mystery dinners and thought why not try one for her party with the kids.
It went pretty well for a first time attempt, but as with any event there’s always a learning curve! I wanted to share my experience and tips in this blog for any moms who might want to host one for their kids! I was told by most parents, my daughter, and their dance teacher, that most of the girls were still raving that Monday about the party!
True to today’s digital age, I just set up a Facebook event which served as the invitation and notifications of her party. This is actually how I’ve hosted and notified about my daughter’s birthday parties for the past couple years. I highly recommend it as it saves paper/envelopes & I also found that people were much more responsive in RSVP matters, especially when you post something specific on those Facebook events than the standard old invitation. Once live, everyone seemed very excited about the idea, so it seemed it was off to a good start!
My first task was figuring out the gift bags or party gift. I know I personally end up trashing most of the little things that my daughter gets from those birthday party gift bags. How many rubber stamps, plastic rings, etc. does a kid really need? Sure every mom can relate to that as clutter seems to be a staple of parenthood. My first thought was I want to give the kids something they’d actually use but enjoy after the party. But, I also really wanted to tie into the murder mystery theme.
We wound up finding some notebooks (see image) at Family Dollar. They were fun prints and something any kid could use again. Seriously, what young girl doesn’t love having a journal or diary?? I figured they could use it to write notes if they wanted while trying to solve the mystery or just use later on. My daughter also decided it’d be fun to personalize each one. She got sticker letters and put each girl’s name on the inside cover with a personal message. We also bought pens and pencils to give away with the notebooks – they could use them for the game and at school, or wherever else after. The last items we purchased were mini-magnifying glasses, just because that seemed like a fun tie into the party theme. These unfortunately didn’t arrive until after the party – eBay isn’t always reliable apparently!
Since we were playing a game I also wanted have prizes for those who won. Sticking to the theme, I got the game Clue as a prize. I also really wanted to get the Nancy Drew movie but couldn’t find it anywhere so just got a spy/mystery/adventure type movie instead! I highly recommend having more than one prize though as more than one child might win this type of game!
Now that the party favors and prizes were set, I had the task of determining how to actually host a murder mystery party for kids! Of course the first thing I did was search Pinterest. Which I really have no idea why I ever do that… 1. Seriously how does any busy mom really pull off those perfect things always posted on there? 2. Nothing is ever straight forward on there. It’s always bits and pieces, so you end up not finding all you need. 3. Going off point 2 it was easy to see it’d be ridiculously time consuming to come up with my own murder mystery and that I was just going to have to buy a kit of some sort.
Moving on from Pinterest I decided to just stick to good old fashion research on Google. I searched a ton of terms associated with kids murder mystery games. I found many links on it but found a lot were just curated content links and not very helpful. After going through tons of those, I finally tracked down a few sites that had actual murder mystery kits for kids. Also, I knew kids at this party would be ages 9-11 so wanted to be sure it was age appropriate.
After much debate here is the one I ended up going with: www.kids-mysteries.com/mystery_manor.htm
Here are a few runner ups though to see some other options!
The one I got was a downloadable kit. It included everything from directions, roles, answers, etc. Due to wanting to keep it simple I just went with one that had a story and script for each character, and not one that required hiding & finding clues.
It was a pretty cool kit, but I found even though they said it could be for girls this age, it was above their heads. Luckily, they still had lots of fun and a couple girls got a lucky guess and figured out ‘who did it’.
A few tips I found… the ‘grown ups’ were a bit louder than the kids when trying to share the background story and get the kids to discuss the clues – so I ended up having to get the kids on the back porch so they could focus on the game!
I would recommend for a group under 13 to maybe try one of the lower level ones to make it easier for them.
It ended up being best just gathering them all up and having them say their character roles/answers and guiding them in taking turns. I originally broke them into two groups as the directions suggested but then some girls were missing out in trying to figure out clues so again just best to have them all together and taking directed turns.
Lastly, speaking of the above on not always going off the directions … they gave suggestions on how to let the game flow. Of this particular game only 8 people were suspects and the others were investigators – it led to a lot of confusion as then the girls thought they couldn’t guess who it was, but all were actually given the opportunity to guess!
If you do this as a dinner party like we did, then I suggest you let the kids eat first. It does take awhile to get through the game (a minimum of an hour and a half) so you don’t want a lot of hungry kids!
Don’t feel like you have to have everything stick to the murder mystery theme either. While you can – as I saw some have cakes with ‘bloody’ butcher knives – my daughter decided she wanted something a little more light and fun for the cake. Therefore, she got a unicorn cake!
Overall I think the kid’s had a great time – and we decided this idea is one to maybe try again with a different mystery!