Investigating a murder involves finding a motive for the crime and proving the suspect had the opportunity and the means to kill. Mystery parties recreate a murder and put party guests in charge of using the clues and evidence to pick out one guest as the murderer. Kid-appropriate parties downplay the gory details of the crime, and instead develop a story that gives logical reasons to finger more than one suspect for the fatal act. An interesting story sparks discussion and fuels debate when the children must decide on a final suspect at the end of the party.
Write a murder story for the party using the age of the invited guests as the basis for the tale. Pick an era from history for a period party that asks kids to dress in costumes, if you enjoy historical drama.
Identify the main characters in the story to use as potential murderers and select mature children or adult workers at the gala to play the roles. Develop a script using your story for each suspect that gives background information about the character's personality and the reasons partygoers should see the character as a prospective murder suspect.
Make a list of clues and props from the script needed for the game. Make, borrow or buy the objects to physically use in the game to represent each clue. Tie the clues closely to the story and the characters. For instance, a plumber at the murder house completing plumbing repairs might use a wrench as a potential lethal weapon.
Read through the story using the script and the clues in front of several children the age of the partygoers who don't know the solution to the murder mystery. This ensures the story follows a logical progression and that the clues give enough information for the young guests to solve the crime.
Develop a timeline for the party that includes a set number of minutes for the mystery introduction by the host, time for the murder itself and a period for each character to explain their presence in the house. Set the schedule for any dining or snacks and cleanup from child diners, if your party serves food. Moving the children to a new room in the house to present the suspect story helps add suspense, and also helps keep young interest.
Design party invitations and send or email them. Use text at a reading level for young guests, and include the date, time and location. Note contact information for parents of the young guests.
Rent or make the costumes and props to present the mystery.
Plan the menu for the party and order the food or snacks. Select easy-to-eat finger foods for kids that if dropped won't damage carpet or furniture or have children sit for a meal to avoid cleanup issues.
Rehearse the script with the host and the cast of players at least once before the party. During this time, try on any costumes and make alterations where necessary.
- Metroparent: Murder Mystery Party
- Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute: Murder
- Iowa State University Extension and Outreach: Spend Smart Eat Smart -- Snacks
- Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training: Discover Your Child's Preferred Learning Style
- Scholastic: How You Can Help Children Solve Problems
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