Mystery activities for kids are a great way to get siblings and friends working together in a fun way. Maybe you’ve tried a board game and you’re sick of the kids fighting over who was cheating, winning or taking too long? Working on detective activities together or cracking secret codes is a much better way to spend a rainy day.
Ultimately, you want your kids to love the activity and beg you to do it again. You see all those other Moms on social media with their shiny photos and wonder where you’ve gone wrong. It’s not your fault that you feel this way! Those photos don’t tell you the whole story!
Solving detective games, working as a family to get out of an escape room or setting up a treasure hunt are fun mystery activities that the whole family can enjoy together and it’s all thanks to you!
So get your best detective hat on and enjoy these great ideas for indoor activities.
Mystery Activities For Kids
Use a lemon or orange to write secret messages in invisible ink. Cut the fruit in half and squeeze out the juice. Get the kids to dip a paintbrush into the juice and write an invisible message on a piece of paper. Leave the paper somewhere to dry where it will not be disturbed. Drying will take about 20 minutes. When it’s dry, run a warm iron over the paper to get the messages to appear. If you don’t want to use an iron you can put your paper on a baking sheet in a 250°F oven for about 20 mins.
This activity would be suitable for young children too as they could draw a simple picture with the juice rather than write a message eg a sun, flower or shapes. Get other family members to guess what the little kids have drawn before you iron the paper and have the big reveal!
Another good mystery idea would be to write clues or messages on cards using a UV pen. You then stick the card to the wall or furniture using non-marking washi tape and equip your forensic detectives with a UV flashlight and plunge the room into darkness then see how many messages they can each find or clues they can solve.
Secret messages can also be incorporated into other mystery activities for kids. For example, if you are hosting a murder mystery party, you could write the invitations in invisible ink. Make sure to include some instructions for revealing the message!
Murder Mystery Party Game (large groups)
One of the best gifts you can give your kids on their birthday is a fab party that all their friends will talk about for weeks to come.
Aimed at kids aged 10-12 this free murder mystery party game does take some planning but it is a wonderful activity where the guest can pretend to be great sleuths solving a series of clues.
This free detective game will encourage kids to use their deductive reasoning in the best literary tradition. Murder mysteries are a fun way to theme a birthday party. They could even be used for older students in a classroom setting or youth group.
You will need to put in some work to theme the invitations and prepare the crime scene and basic materials. It’s a good idea to get some adults to help and cast them as relevant characters. Adults can play the part of a detective who drops clues and guides the little detectives as more information is revealed. The person in charge of the party food can be cast as a cook.
Escape Room Games (smaller groups)
With little setup required, escape room games are an easy activity for middle school students. Solving the clues makes the kids feel important and smart and they learn to co-operate and help each other.
Escape games are so much fun when the entire family gets involved and it’s worth considering them for your family games night.
We like the co-operative mystery game Houdini’s Secret Room for kids aged 9-13 made by Escape Room Geeks. For kids aged 6-9, we love Time Travel Escape Quest by Lock Paper Scissors. They are stress-free games where you print the kit and place the clues. They will keep a small group of kids occupied for an hour or two.
This would be an excellent activity for a sleepover. Playing the game when it is dark outside will add an element of fun and mystery. If you’d like more sleepover activity ideas then check out my blog post here.
Treasure Hunts (1-3 kids)
Treasure hunts are the perfect game when you have just a couple of kids to entertain. The best part is that these printable PDF files can be ordered and downloaded instantly to your computer. You can be playing the logic puzzles in next to no time.
Each small task leads the kids to the hidden treasure. The treasure can be as simple as some coloring sheets or candy. You can also hide something bigger like a birthday gift.
Take a closer look at the themed treasure hunts in our shop. There should be one in a theme that your kids will love. Be sure to let us know if you need one in a theme we don’t have.
The puzzles for each clue take the form of ciphers or codes to crack, mazes and counting tasks. Designed for kids aged 7-12.
We also have a more complex riddle treasure hunt aimed at teenagers.
For keen readers, you can’t beat these great books. If your kids are not big readers then try the audiobook versions of these. You can listen to them on a long road trip or simply listen to a chapter at bedtime.
The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson: Nate and his mother are running away and hide out in an abandoned cottage in the middle of the forest. His Mom goes out for groceries and doesn’t come back. Nate must face his fears and find the light within.
The Secret of the Night Train by Sylvia Bishop: Use your detective skills to solve the mystery of a stolen diamond. Max travels across Europe aboard a sleeper train and needs to find the answers on her whirlwind adventure. All aboard!
The Infinite Lives of Masie Day by Christopher Edge: A mind-bending mystery that includes science, math and physics. Masie is a child genius who is fighting for her survival between family life and an alternative reality. She wakes up one morning to find the house empty and outside her front door is nothing but blackness.
Are mystery boxes worth it? Not always. The best thing to do would be to make your own. This way, you can be sure each mystery item will be something your kids will love.
For additional suspense, you could wrap each item in colorful wrapping paper or black tissue paper. Each item is revealed, one by one, as the mystery box is explored.
This would make a unique gift but it will require time to put together. If you love this idea, then start collecting the contents of the box in plenty of time so that you can take advantage of sale prices. Pick up items at the store when you see them.
It’s worth adding fun and cheap items from places like the Dollar store to fill the box up.
For extra excitement, you could use a printable treasure hunt to lead to the hiding place of a mystery box. Combining these two mystery activities for kids would spread the activity over a couple of hours.
Geocaching is the world’s largest treasure hunt. You are sure to find geocaches close to where you live whether you are in the city or country.
This involves some screen activity, because you need a mobile phone to find each cache. However, the majority of the activity is physical, as you seek out each treasure trove.
Download the Geocaching app onto your phone then select a geocache close to you. Take a pen or pencil to sign the logbook and use the app to navigate to the cache location. Check the hint and recent activity on the app for clues where the cache might be hiding.
When you find it, sign your name in the log book and register your find on the app.
If you want, you can even place your own geocache and challenge other people to find it. There are tons of ideas for what to hide and where on the geocaching website.
You can buy puzzle boxes on both Amazon and Etsy. These are normally hand-crafted wooden boxes that require some lateral thinking to open.
Tyes of boxes include cryptex, Japanese puzzle boxes (called Himitsu Bako) and 3D wooden puzzle boxes which call themselves an escape room game or box. These are aimed at teenagers and adults as they incorporate more difficult challenges.
There are also simpler secret puzzle boxes. We like ‘stash your cash‘ which would be great for younger kids. These boxes have secret compartments or a secret door.
This fun game idea is a great way to give money or a voucher by hiding it in the box. The recipient has to open the box to get their gift!
Most boxes come with instructions so you can easily add the gift before you hand it over and help the other person if they get stuck opening the box.
Hopefully, these activity ideas have given you some inspiration as you plan your mystery activities for kids to enjoy at home. Let us know which one you try and how much your kids enjoyed themselves.
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