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27 Nov 2017
How to Plan a "Prison Break" Party

Given that I work almost exclusively with children, most of my clients describe their vision of a party with simple declarations, "I want to fly to the moon and meet aliens". However, every now and again, I get a special kid who is so meticulous in their planning and outlining of details that all I have to do is figure out how to facilitate the event.  Admittedly, this can sometimes be a pretty daunting task.  These clients have very specific ideas and sometimes making them a reality can be a challenge.

Take, for instance, our recent "Prison Break" party.  

When the 2-page e-mail from his mom arrived I realized I was in for a treat.  The basic idea was to break the kids into two teams - guards and convicts.  The object was for the guards to protect the prison and the convicts to make a secret escape.  Everyone would get a chance to play both roles so no one would feel cheated.

We kept the decor pretty simple. A large sign welcoming folks to Alcatraz hung over the entryway, along with a security team that not only patted guests down but booked them at the same time. 

 Photos were taken in front of the "perp" wall

and then each guest was escorted to their holding cell. 

Using a PVC frame and 3/4 inch pipe insulation we fashioned jail cell doors that attached to the existing frame with 12-inch "C" clamps.  Signs that delineated each area as cell blocks, infirmary, boiler room, sewers, etc. peppered the walls. We used our Halloween creepy cloth to give a worn and abandoned look to such areas as the underground tunnels.

Now...I must explain that my client sent me a very detailed set of rules, which I have attached here as a .pdf. However, when push came to shove and I had 25 kids looking up at me expectantly, I chose to boil them down to their basic essentials.



How we played


Each guest chose a card from our special prison box. It had either a picture of a guard or a convict.  This would be their first round character. 

Guards were given batons made from foam insulation and a set of 4 colored keys.  Convicts were locked up.  


Guards dispersed themselves throughout the playing field.  The object was for each convict to slip out between the bars, subdue a guard (done by two convicts encircling a guard with their clasped hands or by stealing their baton and bopping them) and receive a key from the guard.  If a prisoner was bopped by a guard's baton they had to collapse on the ground for 20 seconds. If they received 3 bops, they had to go to the infirmary where they received a toilet paper bandage and were placed back in their jail cell.   A guard was only allowed to bop a convict once though, they weren't allowed to stand there while the convict was passed out and wait for them to revive.

Once the keys had been dispersed a lockdown siren was sounded (downloaded onto my iPad), and everyone returned to their cells.  

Round two 

If you thought things were mayhem before wait till you hear about round two.  Once again the guards dispersed.  For this round, convicts were released 2 at a time.  Each convict needed to possess a key.  The keys were color-coded, and each key represented a different way to escape. I purchased the keys on Amazon. We attached them to a carabiner clip.

The keys

Silver - The boiler room, an obstacle course outside.

 Gold - The sewers, set up in the garage. Using an irrigation drain I found at Lowes, kids had to use a squirt bottle to move a little painted convict from one end of the pipe to the release valve at the other end.


 Rose Gold - The generator. A "laser" maze set up in a long alley. 

Kids had to shimmy through the laser maze without setting off any alarms and turn off the generator.  We used a combination of red yarn and the Chrono Bomb game to create this.  The Chrono Bomb was set for 1 minute - each time you hit a string it took 20 seconds off your time.

Bronze - Fake your own death.  This was by and far everyone's favourite.  Guards would come and remove you on a stretcher and take you to the infirmary.  Once there, convicts needed to create a distraction and slip out of the infirmary unnoticed.

Once convicts had successfully escaped they had to make their way to the garage where we had a few craft projects set up. 

Once all the convicts had been freed we reset everything and switched roles.

As a goodie, guests were given their photo in an Alcatraz frame, a bag of "prison rations", their police baton and a set of keys on a carabiner clip. 

I will honestly admit that this party was pretty much "controlled" chaos. However, the kids had a blast, and that's all that really matters.  As we were packing up to leave, I worried that I might not have pulled off exactly what my young client had envisioned, since I had to modify a few things on the fly. As the last item was packed in my truck, he bounded out the front door and said, "see you next year"!  So I guess we pulled it off. 

Now I've got a whole year to contemplate what he'll come up with next!