DIY kids mystery
July 29, 2020 11:26 AM   Subscribe

We're still mostly in quarantine and I'm trying to find things for my 7 year old to do--have this idea for a "mystery" for him to solve and want some input!

We live in Seattle, which has been on lockdown since mid March and is still more or less on lockdown. My sweet 7 year old son is bored as heck. He reads A LOT and is really into gentle kids mysteries like Cam Jansen, Hilde Cracks the Case, and the like. He would love to solve a mystery of his own, and my husband and I have this idea of setting something up for him--I'm sure we could piece something together but would love some input.

We're trying put together a simple mystery for him to solve with some adult support. We would love to find something that's already been more or less worked out instead of cobbling something together. I've done some googling and found mostly stuff aimed at older kids. My dream answer here would be something like, "Oh this famous blogger did something like this for their kids! Here is a link to the details." My concern is if I try to come up with someone myself, it's not going to hang together and end up kinda disappointing. It doesn't need to be a "crime." If you are familiar with the Hilde Cracks the Case books, it's often just some unusual occurrence that she ends up writing a news story on.

Here's stuff we have access to:
--A finger printing kit
--A basic kids science kit--he can test Ph and stuff like that
--A few neighbors who would gladly participate by reading a script ("being a witness") or leaving something in their yard for him to find
--A local public garden that we have access to, although we don't really know any of the gardeners, and a largeish public park close to our house
--He really loves maps (we have done treasure hunts before, but I'm looking specifically for a "mystery" he can solve)
posted by Ideal Impulse to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
How about a treasure hunt aimed at uncovering the history of the local public garden? The helpful neighbors could be sources to solve the mystery of how the garden was founded and has been maintained.
posted by bearwife at 11:50 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]

Not quite what you asked for, and a little pricey, but for a treat he might enjoy a Mundane Mystery.

(I'm not affiliated in anyway but I'm a fan of the theatre company who's doing this)
posted by stray at 1:40 PM on July 29

Could the mystery be something like "it's said a street car rail line used to run through the neighborhood...maybe we can figure out if it did and where?" (Assuming one did.)

This could involve looking at maps and satellite photos to spot where tracks may once have run (shape of the streets, oddly shaped lots, etc.), walks through the neighborhood to look for evidence (sometimes artifacts are left behind, like a few feet of rail in the street), maybe a folder of old clippings and photos from a neighbor (provided to them by you), books from the library--even old film, local historical society publications, etc. The "solve" could be their own map created in as clues come to light, or, depending on your kiddo, maybe the creation of a small web site (on square space or wherever, with help from y'all) where they compile their info for "the world" to read.

The mystery could obviously could be just about anything about your neighborhood's past, there's almost always something surprising or interesting in it.
posted by maxwelton at 2:49 PM on July 29

(I think bearwife and I have the same basic idea!)
posted by maxwelton at 2:54 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]

I think you should have a car thief. I used to drive a Toyota; so did my neighbor. Gave my visiting relative my key to make a grocery run. He missed my Toyota in the driveway and took my neighbor's. My neighbor was severely socially anxious, so we just never said a word.

So think of a plausible-ish way for your neighbor to accidentally take your car (bike), probably to the nearby park, with snacks. Leading up to the theft, notice casually Mo drives a Toyota, so does Joe, aren't Toyotas popular cars? During the Investigation, notice I knocked, but Mo is not home. Huh, Mo's car is home.

A neighbor can say Mo said they like going to the park in the mornings. I saw driving a %your-color-car today. Prioritize clues by broadness, start with vague clues 1st.

You could do something with a missing lawnmower, too. I use Tiles to keep track of my stuff; using a phone to track a Tile is *very* Nancy Drew. You could leave an empty wallet or book in the park, and track it down via Tile; would be satisfying.

This is so fun.
posted by theora55 at 3:23 PM on July 29

Here are some science mysteries sorted by grade level (and free to parents at the moment)

Have you tried some simple logic puzzles? If your kiddo likes them, it can be an interesting challenge to work together to create one of your own.
posted by metahawk at 9:41 PM on July 29

I don't have any wonderful specific suggestions, but you might try googling something along the lines of "homeschool escape room". I see lots of results for making your own, and I bet you'd acquire helpful info for making your own.
posted by stormyteal at 12:41 AM on July 30 [2 favorites]

You inspired me to look for something for my equally as bored 7 year old and I found this:

Mail Order Mystery

I'm buying it right now - it sounds neat and the reviews look promising.
posted by elisebeth at 1:51 PM on July 30 [1 favorite]

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