It’s a bad year for birthdays. My daughter was turning 10, I was laid off due to a 40% workforce reduction because of COVID-19, no large gatherings, and our basement had flooded weeks earlier. Like all parents, we want our kid to have memorable birthdays. We usually make a theme to work around: Mario Kart, Camp, Pokemon, Cowboys, whatever our daughter is into that year. We try to do as much as possible ourselves, making homemade pinatas and painting photo booths for the kids. With all of the uncertainty swirling around us, we couldn’t go as big as we usually would. The guest list was, well, exclusive; just one friend over for a sleep over. My wife and I brainstormed about what we could do to make it memorable.
This year, my daughter is into spy stuff. I am a designer, my wife is the director of product for a startup, we love what we do and decided to lean into our strengths to come up with an idea that we could execute ourselves. We landed on a spy theme with agent training, activities, and topping it off with an epic scavenger hunt mission. We developed a spy company, The Organization, and created logos, documents, training books, and a mission that the kids would go on.
The kids got their training packets early to familiarize them with The Organization but the real fun started after a few activities when they sat down for cake. A mysterious phone call came in from what appeared to be The Organization. The newly minted agents had a mission packet on our front step. In the mission packet they found spy tools, numerous ciphers, secret messages to decode, and a clue that lead them to the next step.
Our previously made document sent them on a secret mission all over the house and yard, they feverishly decoded messages and scoured for clues. My wife and I got some rest, as we were now invisible to the two girls who were now engrossed in a eight-part clue-driven scavenger hunt that spanned the whole house and yard. After roughly two hours, they accomplished their mission. The rest of the night was all agent talk about who they were going to recruit to The Organization next.
It was fun to watch them go through the puzzles, but it was also fun making them. I am a designer for work, but I don’t stop when I clock out. This is not a new point, but it’s worth making from time to time…do what you love. Find something you love to do, get good enough at it so people want to pay you to do it for them, some people will stop at that point, but here is the best part that is easily forgotten, keep doing it for yourself.