Birthday parties for tween girls can be tough…you need to find something fun, hip and not too baby-ish.
We’ve done the pool party more than once. Sleepovers, too. And we’ve had fun with themes from Frozen to Turtle Man (not the ninja turtles, we’re talking about the Kentucky guy who finds turtles and other critters and puts them back in the wild).
This year, my now ten year old decided she wanted to do a Mystery Party.
She requested a murder mystery, but I vetoed that, thinking not every kid can handle murder, and we went with a thriller that needed to be solved…the case of Mystery Manor.
I have to say this was my favorite party so far.
Sometimes, girls have a way of pairing off, and inevitably, feelings get hurt. With this party, there was no time for that. Everyone was assigned a character and as soon as everyone showed up, we were ready to go.
Here’s the how-to on what we did and how we did it. Hopefully this makes it simple for you to duplicate if you decide this is the kind of party your kiddos will enjoy.
First: figure out who you want there. It’ll be important to know how many guests you have and whether they’re all girls, a mixture, and the ages. This will help you pick the right mystery theme for your crowd. We searched online for free mystery party scripts and found a few, but in each case we still would have needed to tweak the script and I honestly wasn’t up for that. We picked a script that was for all girls and invited the exact number of guests that we needed to pull off the plot. We could have invited others to be private investigators, but I liked having each guest get a character role. I paid $35 for the script we went with and don’t regret a penny of it. I was immediately emailed a template that walked me through every step of what I needed to do. Easy breezy. Just the way I like it.
You can’t really start the party until every guest has arrived, and it’s very important to have backup guests ready to fill in if an invitee can’t show at the last minute. This happened with us and we simply had an older sister jump into that character’s spot. It would have been a nightmare if we hadn’t lined up a backup, since that particular character ended up being the one responsible for the crime (total coincidence).
We created invites using an image from the kit I downloaded. I added personal details, like our address, RSVP info, and stressed that we needed to know for certain if the child was attending because they’d be filling a role in our mystery.
It’s the first time in a very long time that parents actually did RSVP by the time I requested and that was a nice change.
Again, I hit the Internet for suggestions on decorations. I hit Pinterest and found a couple mystery party suggestions. These were great. We decided to create a big question mark poster to hang near our door for guests to see as they came in and didn’t do much more than that in terms of decorating, other than putting together personal kits for each guest. This included their printout of information they’d need for their character, some fun disguises we picked up at the Dollar Store, and a magnifying glass that they each got to keep as part of the party favor (to assist with future sleuthing). The kit also included a name tag so that everyone else knew who that character was.
Pinterest had plenty of food suggestions, so we duplicated those and came up with a few of our own.
We made our own question mark cake (I decorated this on my own using white icing and oreo cookies for the question mark shape…super simple). We also made individual cupcakes, which the girls seemed to prefer. They ate pretty much non-stop during the party, which in our case started at 4pm and lasted until 6:30. In hindsight, I would have made it last 30 more minutes because it truly took us 2 and a half hours to get through the mystery.
The kids also ate ‘pop the question’ popcorn, ‘mystery meat’ sandwiches (we bought several kinds of sandwich meats and served that for something with substance), along with mystery cheese blocks (mixing up spicy pepper jack with a variety of cheddars) and ‘poison fruit’ cups. We also bought assorted flavored jelly beans and had fun watching the kids’ reactions to the different tastes.
Our final food was a mistake, but ended up being the biggest hit. My daughter loves jello layered with different flavors one on top of the other, but we started this dessert too late to do it right, so we ended up putting the different flavors into different bowls. That’s when it hit us that we could cover each with whipped cream (the birthday girl’s favorite treat) and have each guest guess the flavor. This was a huge hit.
My big fear was that the girls would solve the mystery in less than an hour, so I wanted to have some games to keep them busy if that happened. We decided on ‘fingerprint’ art (all suspects need to provide a fingerprint, right). That craft only required an ink pad and some pretty paper that they’d decorate. I bought frames they could make, too, and personalize.
We also were prepared to play a game of ‘sketch artist’ where I was going to describe a person in a painting that I had hanging. The child who most closely matched the painting would be the winner.
However, we never got around to either craft because these girls took every bit of the two and a half hours to solve our crime.
The beauty of that was they all had fun, there was none of the drama that can send the birthday girl off running to her room, and you truly could host this party anywhere. They never even left the dining room where we set all the action up for the party.
I highly recommend this for parties for children turning 10 and up. I don’t think younger children would want to take the notes about suspects that these girls were taking (pages and pages—this was serious business). I don’t think there’s an age limit for the fun. I’d even enjoy hosting a mystery party for friends my own age.