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Harry Potter Escape Room


Y’ALL.  We did a Harry Potter escape room at my library and it was SO.MUCH.FUN!  It all started this summer when I did an escape room with my husband and (then) 9 year old daughter.  We had a great time and I decided that I had to find a way to bring it to my library.  Understandably, there isn’t a ton of specific information about escape rooms online, which meant that I had the daunting (but ultimately really fun) task of just making it up as I went along.  (I must say that in my planning stages, I found this post by libraryladynicole to be extremely helpful.)  This post will be pretty rambly, but because there isn’t much information about library escape rooms out there, I want to be as specific as possible.

While my own escape room experience was a useful reference point, I knew I’d have to make some significant changes to the format to adapt it for my library.  First, I used a 20 minute time limit for each group (plus 5 minutes at the beginning to show a brief orientation video and 5 minutes after for resetting the room) instead of 1 hour.  I also wanted to make our event family-friendly, so we required that each group must have at least one adult but could include kids ages 6 and up.  Finally, instead of “escaping” or “not escaping”, I decided to do a horcrux hunt, sort of like this birthday party featured on Sophie’s World.  The backstory was that Harry, Ron, and Hermione found out that Voldemort hid bits of his soul in six objects (horcruxes) and they must be destroyed so that he can be defeated.  They found them and hid them in the room of hidden things, where our players were supposed to find them and put them in a trunk to be destroyed.  Each horcrux was worth a certain number of points, and the house with the most points would win the (totally imaginary) house cup.  As it turned out, all of the groups got all the way through the game (I’m not very good at keeping quiet, apparently HAHAHA).

The wall behind where I sat with the laptop had pictures of each of the horcruxes, along with the point values assigned to them.  Having participants put the horcruxes in the trunk as they found them made it easy to put them back during the brief reset time we had between sessions.







We set up the escape room in our small meeting room, which is equipped with a projector, drop-down screen, and podium.  We hooked up the library’s laptop and played the rules/story video from there.  I was able to do the whole thing (voiceover, timer, and all!) in Powerpoint, which made things a LOT easier.  We turned out the overhead lights and used 5 lamps around the room, making sure that all areas containing a puzzle were sufficiently lit.  We also hung floating candles like this from the ceiling–they looked SO good!  (They were on a remote control, so we were able to turn them on and off).

The “owl post” (pictured above) contained clues for finding each of the horcruxes.  The room was divided into stations, each of which had a locked horcrux.








The potions station held the locket.  I didn’t take a picture of it, but the whole thing was set up on top of a cabinet, which was locked with this lock.  The clue read

Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble.  The ingredient you seek is lockedt within; follow the recipe to win.

The recipe had certain ingredients marked, and those ingredients were on the counter near the cauldron with numbers on the bottom of the jar.  Those numbers were to be entered into the lock in the order that they appeared on the recipe.  I used a ball jar with water, brown paint, and plastic bugs for the pond water.  I squeezed out the inside of a cold pack into a baby food jar for bug slime.  Glitter in a baby food jar was pixie dust, and plastic spiders in a baby food jar for the spiders.  The locket was made using two large rhinestones and materials from a necklace making program we had a year or so ago.  We have an amazing artist on staff who added the details on it, as well as the ring and cup.








The quidditch station held the ring, which was protected by a small lock box.  The clue read

Quidditch is hard when the players are looking Gaunt.  Give me a ring if you can find tickets.

I found images for quidditch tickets online, and I colored in the letter H on one and N on the other.  The awesome old rotary telephone was meant to be a distraction–and boy, was it ever!  The box and key were hidden in different drawers of the card catalog, labeled G-I and L-N.  I made the ring by gluing a black rhinestone onto a ring base and painting it with gold metallic paint.  The quidditch game was on loan from a staff member.  Our staff is amazing.  I know.









In the center of the room on two columns we had a stuffed owl with four copies of the owl post and a cage containing another stuffed owl wearing the diadem.  It’s hard to see in the picture, but there is also a clock next to the cage.  The clue read

Whoo is fit to wear the crown?  It’s time to find out.

The cage was “locked” with a bicycle lock, which was originally meant to lock the potions cabinet above.  It didn’t really lock the cage, but I was in there the whole time so I just told people that yes, they had to solve the lock before opening the cage.  To make the diadem, I used a tiara we already had and put aluminum foil on it.  Then I made a color copy of the diadem and glued it onto the form and glued a rhinestone in the center.  The other two rhinestones are glued onto a bit of wire, which is attached to the crown.








The 9 3/4 station held the cup inside a suitcase with a 9 3/4 tag on it.  The clue read

Pack your bags and you’re Hogwarts-bound.  Mind your suitcase; the trip is between 9 and 10 hours.

Here, we just covered the door with brick background that we got from Oriental Trading awhile ago and made a little 9 3/4 sign.  I set up the chairs train-style and put the suitcases beside and underneath them.  On the chairs I put magazines and newspapers with Quibbler and Daily Prophet covers on them.  To make the cup, I got a clear plastic wine glass from Dollar General and glued paper handles on it, then painted over the whole thing with gold metallic paint.  The detail work was done by the aforementioned awesome artist we have on staff.







The desk area had the diary, which was inside a dictionary diversion safe.  The key was hidden in the hood of the robe hanging on the chair.  Across the room was a dictionary with the word “robe” circled and a magnifying glass over it.  The clue read:

To “write right”, T. Riddle must consult this.  P.S. Light will be ssshed on the final one. 

Once the dictionary was unlocked, they found the diary and a UV light pen.








The last horcrux was hidden behind the locked closet door, which had a realtor-type lockbox on it.  To get the combination for the lockbox, though, they had to solve the lock on the diary, which was found in a letter found on the desk.  Once the diary was opened, they used the UV light pen to find the combination to the lockbox and found Nagini!

Logistics:  we originally planned for one day where we would play the first two Harry Potter movies (they are covered by our movie license) back to back while the escape room ran in thirty minute increments.  Registration filled up so quickly that we added an identical session on Sunday, which also filled up with a waiting list.  We ended up with a total of about 200 people in all.  It was great!  We served popcorn and butterbeer punch (vanilla ice cream, cream soda, whipped topping, and butterscotch syrup) and people wore their best HP garb.  We also printed out templates for house ties that they colored in and a pen-and-paper sorting hat quiz.

Long story short (too late!) this program was a lot of work but so, so, so much fun!  My wheels are already turning about what our next escape room could be…



Build a Better World–Construction Zone!


As part of our “Build a Better World” summer reading theme, we had a Construction Zone program, featuring different building challenges for our young engineers.  The stations ran concurrently and included:

  1. Newspaper tower building challenge:  Build the tallest structure you can using newspaper, scissors, and masking tape.  I believe our winning structure was over 70 inches tall!









2.  Playdoh and craft stick challenge: Build a structure to hold one book out of (you guessed it!) playdoh and craft sticks.









3.  Ping pong ball run challenge:  Tape cardboard tubes to construct a run for ping pong balls, ending with a cup at the bottom.

4.  Giant Jenga: We made ours out of soda boxes wrapped in brown craft paper (as seen all over Pinterest)

5. I also set out Zoob and Keva planks for free play

It was a fun way to spend a rainy Tuesday morning!

Lego Ninjago Training Camp


Thanks to Angie and Sara for the inspiration for this program!

photo(3)The first station of the training camp was an obstacle course.  Our ninjas were supposed to avoid the lava (red squares) and fire-breathing dragons, walk across the bridge (masking tape), then pass through the tunnel to complete the course.  As you can see, my goofy dragons kept falling over, but it was still fun.





photo(2)For the next station, Banish the Bad Guys, I did some quick research on Ninjago bad guys, printed them out and taped them to plastic cups.  Originally, I was going to make ninja stars to throw at the targets, but I must sheepishly admit that my origami skills are not that strong.  In the end, I decided that beanbags would work just fine.  I think the kids agreed, because this was a pretty popular station.





photo(5)The Dexterity Check station consisted of my beloved Lakeshore Learning trays, some linking cubes, and “chopsticks” (easy grip tweezers).  The object was to move the cubes from one tray to the other using the tweezers as quickly as possible.  I saw some pretty heated contests on this activity.






photoYour Ninja Identity–For this station, I printed out a ninja name worksheet and printed a Ninjago head on yellow cardstock.  The ninjas were to use the code on the sheet to translate their name into a cool new ninja name.  Then, they decorated a mask, cut it out, and affixed it to construction paper strips for the headband.








photo(1) photo(4)Finally, we had to have a Lego gadget building station.  No surprise, this was the most popular station.  There’s just something about building with Legos that never gets old.

Ready, Set, Read!–1, 2, 3!


Bubble machine (sing Hello Bubbles and One Little Two Little Three Little Bubbles)

Opening song: Hands are Clapping (to the tune of Skip to My Lou) Hands are clapping, clap clap clap, hands are clapping, clap clap clap, hands are clapping, clap clap clap, clap your hands my darlings.  (feet are stomping, bodies are wiggling)–I think this one was in this year’s early literacy summer reading manual

Opening game: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes (sing 3 times–first time slow, second time a little faster, third time “super sonic speed”)

photo(11)Book: Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin and James Dean (E CATS LITW)








photo(15)Flannelboard Activity: My groovy (red) buttons.  I printed these buttons onto different colored paper, laminated them, and put a bit of velcro on the back.  I handed these out to the kids and instructed them to come up with their button when I called that color.  Then I said “My buttons, my buttons, my groovy (red) buttons.”  The kids with red buttons came up and put them on the flannelboard.  Then we counted how many red buttons we had.  We did this for each color.  Then we went back and counted the total number of buttons.







photo(6)Song: Bubble Bubble Pop.  I made these cards and we sang the song demonstrated adorably (as always) by the Jbrary girls here.








photo(12)Book: One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Jane Cabrera (E COUNTING CABR)








photo(10)Book: Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd (E COLORS DODD)









Parachute activity: 3 little monkeys jumping on the bed

Parachute activity: Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! We’re Going to the Moon!

For both of these we put my three monkey puppets on the parachute and sang/recited the rhymes.  Three Little Monkeys got a little out of hand (they all fell off and some bumped their heads prematurely) so we had to put some of them back on.  It wasn’t perfect, but boy, did we have fun!  This is something I definitely want to incorporate more in my future storytimes.



photo(14)Closing game: animal action cube–we toss this at the end of storytime and imitate an animal.  This has really been fun!








Bubble machine and playtime

Craft and activity: bingo markers and teddy bear counter sorting

photo(9) photo(7)




Homeschool Hub–Tech Petting Zoo


photo(6)Wow!  What a fun program!  Today we hosted a tech petting zoo for our Homeschool Hub families and it was a blast!  We recently purchased some new tech including Ozobots and Sphero.  We opened the program with my awesome coworker/tech specialist extraordinaire Andrew running a demonstration with Sphero using the Sprk app, then the kids took turns driving it with the Sphero app downloaded to my iPod Touch.





photo(7)We also played with Ozobots.  We printed these worksheets from the website, but you can also draw your own with black, blue, red, and green markers.  They come with a legend that tells you what sequence of dots to draw if you want it to perform a certain action, such as going into turbo mode.  The kids had a great time with this, especially with the “Ask Ozobot” worksheet, which is kind of like a modern version of a magic 8 ball (y’all remember those, right?)







Finally, we also experimented with 3D coloring through an app called Quiver.  You simply download the app and print out coloring pages from the website.  When you turn on the app, the camera will automatically recognize the coloring page and 3d features will be activated.  This adorable penguin winks and waves, plus you can access a game by pressing the blue snowflake icon at the bottom of the screen.  photo(1)


Tinker Thinkers–boat building


L6A few weeks ago at Tinker Thinkers did a boat building activity like the one over at In short, I am busy.  We used a variety of materials such as aluminum foil, styrofoam, straws, and paper to create boats, then we tested them out in my handy dandy Spiderman swimming pool.  Once the boats were floating, we tested their seaworthiness by adding cargo (Legos).  This activity was so simple, but I think it’s one of my favorite things we’ve ever done.  You could really see the creativity and problem solving taking place.  It was awesome, and really the whole point of Tinker Thinkers.  To see a slideshow of the boats in our fleet, go here.

Minecraft In Real Life


minecraft in real life internet imageThis week we had our second session of Minecraft in Real Life as part of our new Tinker Thinkers after school program.  This brilliant program came from Angie over at Fat Girl Reading.  If you are planning to do a program like this (and you totally should!) head over there first to get all the details.  (I love her idea to add in parody videos, but I somehow haven’t managed to pull it off yet.  Maybe next time!)  I did a program very similar to what is described below this summer and it was CRAZY successful.  We had several requests for another one like it, so I decided to add it as a Tinker Thinkers program.  Why?  Well, the game itself is technology, plus the paper craft demonstrates how you can make flat objects three dimensional and the crafting table activity requires sorting and replicating patterns.







paper craftFor the first part of the program, we did these one piece mini papercraft characters.  For the program I did this summer, we did Steve and a creeper.  This time we did a zombie and a pig.  I am SO glad that I chose the one piece characters.  It really limited the amount of cutting and gluing, plus it cut down on the frustration level for the younger attendees.







crafting tablesNext came the item search portion of the program.  The idea is for kids to complete a “real life” crafting table to receive a specific item of their choosing.  For the summer program I used candy like Angie did (see link above) but I also added a bookmark option because I thought that these bookmarks were so darn cool.  You know what?  The kids were just as excited (if not more so) about the bookmarks than they were about the candy.  So this time I just used the bookmarks.  They had the option of crafting Steve, a creeper, Enderman, or a pig.  The other four I offered as bonuses for various things (such as checking out a book!)  They had a great time crafting and collecting the whole set.






scavenger hunt scavenger hunt 2To get the items for the crafting table, they searched through the library.  At the summer program, I had a problem with some kids picking up more items than necessary, so this time I was sure to tell them only to get the items they needed for the particular bookmark they were making so that everyone was able to find the items they needed.  It worked out really well, and we even had some to clean up from the shelves after the program was over.









craftingAfter finding their items, they glued them onto a crafting table and gave it to me for the appropriate bookmark.  Most repeated the process to complete the set of four.  This was a really fun and easy way to incorporate Minecraft into our programming.  Thanks again, Angie!
















Growing Readers–B is for Bubbles


growing readers web imageGrowing Readers is a storytime for emerging readers ages 4 and up.  It meets on Mondays at 4:00 p.m. at the Leesburg Library.










earlAfter the kids came in and filled out nametags, my elephant puppet Earl sang Willoughby Wallaby Woo to welcome each of them.  Then he read the welcome message to them, and we discussed the items in our letter B bucket.  Finally, we brainstormed words that start with the letter B for our word cloud.










message b letter bucket b word cloud











big bad bubble




For the read aloud I chose my new-favorite-book-in-the-whole-wide-world, Big Bad Bubble, by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri (E MONSTERS RUBI)  MONSTERS are afraid of BUBBLES, and there’s also doughnut trees!  Do I need to go on?


buddies whisper phonesAfter the read aloud we prepared for the read along portion by handing out reading buddies and whisper phones.






bubble troubleRead along book: Bubble Trouble by Joy N. Hulme (available through PINES).  I read aloud and showed the pages while the kids each held and read from their own copy.  After we read aloud, I asked some comprehension questions about what happened in the story.  [AR level 0.6.  For additional book details, click the link above]






bubble bingo 1 bubble bingo 2Activity: We played bubble wrap sight word bingo.  Actually, it wasn’t really bingo in the sense that there was a winner at the end.  I just kept calling out words until everyone had popped all of their bubbles.  Then we popped the bubbles that didn’t have words on them.  Bubble wrap rocks.

Fall children’s programs start August 18!


Fall programming starts next week on August 18!  A full August calendar is available at  This fall, we will be bringing back favorites like Mother Goose on the Loose babytime and preschool storytimes AND adding two new programs to the lineup!

tinker thinkers web imageTinker Thinkers is a STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Mathematics) program for kids ages 4 and up.  It will meet Tuesdays from 3:30-5:00 p.m. at the Leesburg Library and Thursdays from 4:00-5:30 p.m. at the Oakland Library.  Art and science activities are a great opportunity for kids to express creativity and build problem solving skills.  Each week Tinker Thinkers will explore an aspect of science, technology, engineering, arts, and/or mathematics in a fun, engaging way.  Tinker Thinkers will also include a monthly Lego Club at both branches.  The first Lego Club at the Leesburg Library will be on September 2, at Oakland Library on September 11.







growing readers web imageGrowing Readers is a storytime for emerging readers ages 4 and up.  It will meet on Mondays at 4:00 p.m. at the Leesburg Library.  Growing Readers will develop and strengthen early literacy skills in kids who are beginning to read independently.  We will talk, sing, play, and read to make reading fun!

Fizz Boom READ–Technorella Puppet Show and robot puppet craft


puppets and stageEvery summer we do a puppet show during the last week of June.  For some reason, puppet shows stress me out more than regular programs–it seems like I usually have to dig around to find a story that fits with the theme, then convert it to a puppet show.  This year, I was so relieved that the manual already included a puppet show–Technorella!  My husband and I made some tweaks to it to appeal to my specific audience, but I was very grateful that most of the work had already been done.  Plus, I had a “ball” (ha!) making the puppets with paper lunch bags and random bits from my office.  In fact, I had so much fun that I decided to have a robot puppet craft for the kids to do after the show.  It was a hit!

I got lots of positive feedback about the show, and I think that it’s probably my favorite puppet show we have done so far.  I had a fantastic teen volunteer (Thanks Isabella!) and a wonderful coworker (Thanks Michael!) to help me during puppet show week.  Isabella managed to handle multiple puppets like a pro and Michael was a genius at adding sound effects, which really enhanced the show.

As I mentioned above, the kids loved making their own robots.  All we did was cover paper lunchbags with aluminum foil sheets then using scrap paper to decorate them.  When space permitted, we left the stage set up so that the kids could put on their own puppet shows.

robot 1 robot 2 robot 3










robot 4 robot 5 robot stage