Escaping a Locked Room With Your Gifted Geek

Are you raising a gifted child? Starting to worry that as she gets older, you won’t have as much in common, or that he’s paying way more attention to video games than to you?

It’s time to lock yourselves in a room together.

Across the country, a fascinating new adventure game is popping up in larger cities and college towns. Known variously as “Escape Rooms” or “Locked Rooms,” these modest establishments are attracting competitive intellectuals in droves.

In the name of entertainment, eager teams of five to ten people pay good money to enter a small room crammed with highly-themed props, puzzles, and clues. The room is then locked, and the team is given one hour to “escape” by unearthing hints, uncovering evidence, and solving all manner of codes and puzzles to locate the key that will allow them to leave.

To the average layman, this kind of cerebral entertainment may sound a bit dry, but to a gifted geek, the thought is completely exhilarating. The riddles are tough, the academic references are obscure, and there is a solid thread of nerdy pop culture running throughout. What could be more fun?!

As a parent, your opportunities for earning huge bonus points with your child are two-fold. First, you win superstar status for bringing this mind-blowingly geeky activity to their attention, and second, they need YOU to complete the escape!

These challenging rooms are set up to require a solid team of intellectuals with a wide variety of skills. Clues and puzzles are designed to access all sorts of knowledge, from all types of subjects and many different decades. Are you a font of 1980s trivia? Did you complete honors chemistry way back when? Do you remember the first Doctor Who? Dust off your pencils—your child needs you!

Image: Alberto Ghione
Image: Alberto Ghione

Escape rooms vary in their level of atmospheric detail and the theme of their backstory. You may find yourself searching for the antidote to a deadly poison in a chemistry lab, hunting in a dark library for Grandfather’s missing “Last Will & Testament” before it self-destructs, or rifling through an ordinary office to find mysterious foreign money, an oddly-marked globe, and a peculiar grid of laser lights. Whatever your goal, be assured that the clues will be intricate, which makes the thrill of solving each puzzle simply electrifying.

What better way to bond with your gifted child than to face the challenges together? Very bright children tend to gravitate toward the kind of solitary intellectual pursuits that are difficult to share. Many are quiet or sensitive, and appear to prefer to be alone. In fact, this is rarely the case. The introverted child does not dislike social interaction; she simply needs to regulate it so as not to drain all of her energy.

Image: Creative Commons CC0
Image: Creative Commons CC0

As a parent, making yourself available and accessible is both necessary and problematic, especially as your child grows older. “Playing” together narrows the gap between you and your child, and sets up the kind of empathetic relationship that is necessary for your child to feel understood and supported.

If you’re lucky, you can find an escape room near you. Not only will you telegraph to your child that you understand and share their attraction to brainy and clever entertainment, but you’ll grow in their eyes as you solve wickedly complex brainteasers by plumbing depths of knowledge they didn’t know you possessed!

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Lisa Natcharian is a parenting coach based in Connecticut. Her company, Raising Wizards, provides resources and support for parents of gifted children. Lisa is also the Geek Mom of three boys, and can be found at www.RaisingWizards.com, or www.facebook.com/RaisingWizards/