- Sophie &Friends
Recently, I had a young client request a CHiPS party. The birthday boy was turning 10. I thought this was a tiny bit odd, since the new CHiPS movie, starring Max Pena and Dax Shepard, is definitely not G-rated, or even PG-13 for that matter. However, his mother explained, with a slightly embarrassed grin, that it wasn't the movie he was into, but the old, 1970's TV show! Evidently, the family had somehow stumbled upon it and binge watched the entire first 3 seasons while sick with the flu.
I knew I would have to chat with the young man to figure out exactly what it was he liked about the show. Turns out, he had tons of ideas. The main one being that he wanted to solve a real crime. He wanted police statements, crime scene photos, witnesses, and evidence - he wanted to figure out a "who done it".
Faced with the daunting task of keeping 28 young boys engaged in a crime scene and knowing that ambiguity and simplicity are often key factors in allowing kids to engage in creative play - I came up with "the crime box".
Using a small pizza box as the "evidence box" I enclosed a police report, witness statements, and 6 pieces of evidence in ziploc bags. The idea was for the boys to break into groups of 7 and solve one of 4 crimes. They would then present their findings to the judge (me in my Harry Potter robe) for a ruling.
I knew I had to keep things fast and furious. This was a rambunctious group, although my birthday boy was very thoughtful and introspective. I knew a good portion of the crew would need constant stimulation to stay engaged. For that reason, I chose to give them the evidence that was collected at the scene, but not the evaluation. To analyze the evidence they had to come to the lab (me with a laptop and lab coat this time). Each piece of evidence had a matching lab result sticker, which I would place on the back of the evidence. In this way, the boys were given enough information to form a conclusion about who the suspect might be.
It ended up being a blast. Even the most high-energy boys got into it. Everyone had a theory - and ultimately each group did discover the culprit.
I made the crimes about common (non fatal) crimes: A boy's bicycle is discovered crushed in the driveway, and he's certain his father did it out of spite. A teen loses her mother's earrings on the night of her prom, and she's convinced her baby sister did it. A mother's pies end up stolen from her kitchen on the morning of the big bake sale, that type of thing. The twists in each case were somewhat silly, but actually required outside the box thinking. It ended up being a pretty awesome exercise.
I'm looking forward to tweaking this for a twelve-year-old crowd to see how they respond. The one takeaway that I have from the experience is that you can't bog kids down with too much detail - or over explain. A little ambiguity goes a long way to making the process more realistic. Also, conflicting stories make it fun, especially when there is evidence to back up or disprove someone's statement.
All in all I can't wait to do this again. If you are interested in throwing your own event like this, feel free to contact me, and I'll be happy to send you the pdf's. Who knows, you might have a budding CSI in your midst.