How to include younger children in murder mystery games

As we near Christmas the enquiries start pouring in for family parties.

There’s the usual questions of which murder mystery would we suggest as appropriate for Auntie Mable and the cousins (we never mind chatting this through), whether we can accommodate odd ratios of male to female (the answer is yes but it might be costly depending on how skewed it is) and whether there are some games better suited to purely family groups as brothers and sisters don’t want to be flirting with each other or inappropriately with spouses (and again we’re only a phone call away to help with that sort of thing if you need us!)

But the biggest question we’re often asked at this time of year is what to do with children who are under 13 years of age.  How will they take part in the murder mystery game?

It’s hard to give any generic advice in this instances as children are all different… however, after selecting a TEEN rated kit you like the look of, then these are a few extra pointers which should help you plan how to involve them.

Firstly, you need to know: are they good readers?

The character booklets require participants to read information quickly and then paraphrase both questions and answers.

Some primary school age (Middle school children) are fine with this – others will struggle.  Reading ages vary between boys and girls, and within a year a lot can change, so we never say “Oh, they’re 11 they’ll be fine…” but rather suggest you ask the parents what they think.  Sample booklets are available in the games so you can download the sample and forward it to the parent to see what they think.

If they are good readers, then you just need to find an appropriate role for them from the suspect list and they can take part the same as the adults.

If they aren’t good readers then there are several possible options.

option 1) We can amend a game booklet to be in 1st person.  This removes the need to digest and paraphrase quickly and means the youngster can simply read exactly what’s written in their booklet.  This carries customisation costs, but if you prefer we can email you the booklet files in MSword so you can amend them yourself and keep the costs down.

Option 2) We can reduce the number of questions they need to ask and answer (often also re-writing them into first person, and simplifying the statements as well).  Sometimes we need to draft in custom characters to make this work.  And again you can ask us to do the work, or you can do it yourself using an MSword copy.

Option 3) You cast them in a supporting capacity only (no speaking role) where they work with their parent or cousin, just asking the questions, after the supervising adult has paraphrased for them e.g. “Jonny, ask Miss Jane Marbles what she was doing in the hall.”  You can give them a “character” to dress up as, and even a “role” e.g. Youngest Cousin of Bruce Bugatti; son or nephew of Anne Maretto etc, it all depends on the plot picked.

Option 4) You create a “time filler” booklet for youngsters which has the same covers as the adult books but inside contains puzzles and dot to dot and other activities e.g. word searches that will keep them occupied over dinner.  This works well for very young children who are unlikely to be interested for long in a plot.  We do stock activity sheets for children in our accessories section.

Option 5) You split off the questions from the booklets and give the children activities in order to collect in all the clues needed to play the game each round, creating “teams” amongst the suspects who work with the youngsters.

Ideas for simple clue finding activities could be:

  1. Scavenger hunt – hide the clues around the house and get the kids to find them before the round.
  2. Pass the parcel – with a clue in each layer they have to uncover and pass to an adult to ask.
  3. Collect the radioactive sources – tie each clue to a light stick (activate them) and place them all in a darkened room / hide them outside in the garden, so the kids have to find all the radioactive sources and with them, the clues attached.
  4. Download some of our free team building ideas and involve the whole family in activities in teams – the team with the most points at the end of an activity gets the most questions to ask in the next round.

One word of caution – if you plan to create games each round to keep the kids amused – do keep a copy of all the questions in a separate envelope too!  Sometimes kids get bored and only want to watch TV / play with their new toys, in which case, Granny Jones might not want to have to hunt under Jonny’s bed in order to find her questions!!

Any questions – just call or email.  We’re very used to enquiries and know the games intimately so can usually help!

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Flexible and fun!

We contacted Red-Herring-Games for a party for a special occasion. Why going to restaurants to eat is the preferred activity to mark milestones is beyond me and my friends.   The choice of mystery was obvious, looking at the options from New Zealand on the web Red Herring stuck out from the international options.  A quick look at the site and games showed subtlety as well a range of choices.  The numbers you could have for each evening was important,  Red Herring had scaling options a good range of scenarios but most importantly were Jo and team being flexible, responsive and helpful.

Rachel McWilliam, Arts Development Officer, Lincs Inspire

Thank you Red Herring Games for the marvellous 'Murder!  Cargo Connections?' event that you organised for us as part of Museums at Night at the Fishing Heritage Centre in Grimsby. The whole evening went so well and was brilliant fun.  I know from all the feedback that our visitors had a fantastic time. It was really good working with you and I have no doubt that we will do again in the not too distant future.  

A. Nonymous (council employee)

I would like to thank you and your colleague for helping contribute towards our successful conference last month.  Everyone really seemed to enjoy the evening and it was rewarding that so many delegates were able to participate in addition to the main "Actors".  Our conference evaluation froms included the following comments:
  • "Enjoyed the evening entertainment!"
  • The evening entertainment was great and the confusion made it great fun!"
With thanks and best wishes.

Sarah Spencer (Cleethorpes Chronicle)

I had no idea what to expect before purchasing a ticket for Old, New, Borrowed, Blue, which was being staged at a nearby hotel, and feared it might involve taking part in some way. However thankfully for me no acting was necessary, just some amateur sleuthing. "Wedding guests" of which I was one, were called upon to move from room to room in the hotel in groups, questioning a number of possible murderers with the aim of solving the mystery of the dead bridegroom. The interviewees were really fun characters and gave us all some good laughs. Of course they all had motives and it was a case of identifying the shiftiest. The wedding theme was particularly good, as it fitted well with the venue, the buffet that was part of the evening (with a wedding cake in the middle) and the fact that everyone had been able to dress up to fit in without going to the trouble of fancy dress. I didn't think I had enough "evidence" to actually accuse anyone but later regretted not even writing down my first guess as it wouldn't have been too far off the mark. The evening was great fun and everyone seemed to enjoy it and take part. I would definitely recommend Old, New, Borrowed, Blue as good for getting even reluctant or first-time mystery party-goers involved.  

Alan Young (Personal Touch Mortgages)

What a cracking nights entertainment! We don't get out much nowadays with 2 kids and this was exactly what we were looking for in a good night out. Lots of fun with tongue firmly in cheek and everyone kept guessing whodunnit right to the very end. Would definitely attend another!!!!!  

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