Your help is desperately needed…
My husband was murdered at a Halloween party. Suspects include Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet, and Mrs. Peacock. I need your help to crack the case. Come dressed in your Halloween best. Bring a flashlight. Prepare to solve the crime.
The Black Widow
So goes the invitation I sent out to 20 kids. With a budget of $100.00 and limited time, I threw my umpteenth Halloween party. I had perused Pinterest and Martha Stewart and Family Fun, but none of them had any games or ideas for murder mysteries for kids.
So, I concocted my own.
Party Tip #1 – guests will arrive over a span of 20 minutes or so, and you need to entertain the early and punctual kids while waiting for the tardies.
When the kids were younger, a craft table was the answer. This year, I let them write on the wall. Well, paper taped to the wall. But they got a kick out of being able to do something that “seemed” naughty.
The paper had the names of each of the 4 suspects along with a quote:
Mrs. Peacock, the miserable socialite – “I witnessed the murder!”
Mr. Green, the kid who never grew up – “I’m not saying a word!”
Mrs. White, forgotten child star – “How am I supposed to know who did it?”
Professor Plum, the frustrated old bat – “I don’t know anything.”
Once the kids arrived I told them to guess the murderer by signing the wallpaper.
Other small tasks I had them do while waiting for the mystery to start: Guessing the number of gummy worms in the plastic bag and labeling plastic cups with their names.
Once all the kids arrived, I introduced the suspects.
Party Tip #2 – recruit hapless relatives and friends. If they seem dubious, ply them with tasty beverages. They’ll get into character without fail.
I created bios for each of the suspects. I explained that the suspects had clues to help solve the mystery and that the kids needed to earn as many clues as possible. They had to guess the murderer, the weapon, and the room where the murder took place.
Party Tip #3 – provide fun, challenging games that move quickly.
I came up with 4 games, and held them in the 4 rooms under suspicion (living room, kitchen, dining room, and “the courtyard”–which was really my front yard/driveway). Each of the suspects ran a game: Memory, Bingo, Hit the Buckets, Obstacle Course.
Kids were divided into 4 groups of 5, and they rotated from one station to another. The kid(s) who won each game earned a clue to either the murderer, the weapon, or the room. The object was to collect as many clues as possible.
Party Tip #4 – make fair rules.
With the exception of a few hoodlums I know, kids prefer to play fair and follow rules. I knew there was a chance that some kids would win every game, and some kids would win none. So, I told them if a kid earned 3 clues, he/she had to share future won clues to anyone who hadn’t won a game yet.
Also, I gave each kid 3 horse chestnuts, which they could use to buy clues from anyone, anytime.
When all the clues were given out, I gave them a chance to go through their clues. Then we gathered in the living room where they told me their three guesses. There were 7 kids who got all three right. Every kid got a goody bag for playing, and the 7 kids who solved the mystery got an extra treat.
Party Tip #5 – feed the goblins.
I served light snacks like popcorn, Doritos, vegetable platter, homemade mac ‘n’cheese, tortilla chips and guacamole, and a special witch’s brew.
I didn’t worry about tables and chairs. Kids were perfectly fine sitting on the floor. I also didn’t buy fancy halloween-themed paper plates/napkins. I just went with straight, plain white because I am not convinced that kids really care if there is a black cat on their plate.
Party Tip #6 – let the goblins run wild.
I threw them outside to play flashlight tag and to go “booing,” which is when they run around the neighborhood, ringing doorbells, and leaving bags of candy on the doorsteps.
Party Tip #7 – don’t forget goblins have a sweet tooth.
For the last 10 minutes, I brought them back into the house and served dessert. Having them in one place, contained, makes it easier for parents to pick them up. Plus, what goblin doesn’t want to come inside for Skull cookies, Graveyard cupcakes, and Pirate bones?
Party Tip #8 – recycle!
Halloween is the perfect event to use things over and over. I used things that I already had in my house. For instance, the obstacle course was designed with my kids’ sports equipment, and the Memory game was just household objects. Also, I already had decorations from parties past. I would have loved to add to my collection, but I restrained myself this year.
My biggest expense was the liquor and food I bought for the murder suspects. But, I gotta tell you, without their help there is NO WAY I could have thrown this party.