November is birthday month for us, with both my boys celebrating their birthdays – just ten days apart! Yeah, we didn’t plan that very well… November is also not a month you would associate with outdoor birthday parties, but with the current situation in the ongoing pandemic, we had to get creative. Luckily there are no restrictions for under 12s in Scotland at the moment, if they are meeting outside, so despite the time of year we decided to plan a wee party in the woods. Our local woods at the Hermitage of Braid are part of a nature reserve, and with various info panels and signs around the place, I decided to use these to our advantage and create a murder mystery trail using the panels and signs for clues.
After setting the scene, the kids followed the trail and each clue gave them a name or a number. The names helped them to eliminate the suspects, and for the numbers they had a code grid to look up corresponding letters which they then had to unscramble at the end to reveal how the victim died. Despite the theme, it wasn’t at all gruesome and it was what Oskar – who turned 10 – had asked for. The trail took us around 90m mins, with some time at the end for food at one of the picnic tables. If you are in a smaller group, you could probably do it in around an hour. I had prepared individual picnic bags for each child in advance, so that there would be no food sharing. We did get a bit of rain, but luckily it wasn’t too heavy and the trees in the woods gave some shelter.
Since the options for things to do with kids are far and few between these days, I’ve written everything up and would like to share it here so that anyone else in Edinburgh visiting the Hermitage can download it and use it. I’m offering this for free – no sign ups or anything needed, just click on the download links below and save to your computer. I want it to be accessible to as many people as possible. However – and this is entirely optional – if you enjoy the trail and would like to support me with a small donation on Ko-fi, it would be much appreciated. Just hit the support button. Thank you x
Here are the downloads you will need for the trail. There’s the trail itself, an answer sheet, and also a wee map if you don’t know the Hermitage that well. You should be able to complete the trail without a map, but it just gives you a few landmarks to look out for in case you lose your orientation. In terms of age, this was for a 10th birthday, but my 5 year old was also able to follow along and help solve the clues, as long as someone helped to read out the clues. Any questions, feel free to send a message via the contact page or just leave a comment on this post and I’ll get back to you.
A few more tips…
Finally, I just wanted to share a couple more tips on how we made the party run smoothly and responsibly in the current situation. Of course you can also just use the trail without having a party, e.g. as a family.
- Even though there were no restrictions for kids under 12 meeting outdoors, we kept it small and invited just six guests. All kids, apart from Oskar’s little brother, were from the same class bubble at school. My husband and I were the only adults present (though one of the other mums followed our group at a distance).
- As mentioned, I prepared individual picnic bags for each of the kids. I prepared these following a strict hand washing regime in between touching food and non-food items, and also wore a mask during preparation (the picnic bags each contained a sandwich, bag of crisps, juice box, and individually wrapped cupcake).
- As well as the picnic bags, we took some flasks of hot chocolate. The kids had the option to bring their own mugs if they preferred, for everyone else we brought spare mugs and I sanitised my hands before handing them out.
- We were prepared for wet weather – everyone had been asked to wrap up warm and bring waterproofs, and in the end it did rain. As mentioned, the rain wasn’t too heavy and we had some shelter from the trees. We had brought a couple umbrellas too, to keep the paper dry when reading the clues and writing in the answers.
- The toilets at the Hermitage of Braid are still closed, so we reminded everyone to go to the toilet before they arrived!