Birthday party season is in full swing at our house. We’ve already had two family birthdays this month and have another three to go…including L’s birthday at the very end of the month!
This means that I’m in full planning and preparation mode. L is going to have her first ‘real’ birthday party with friends from school, and immediately after that I have to start planning T’s sixth birthday party! Though being at the end of my pregnancy in the blazing summer heat means I probably won’t be able to pull off anything like the Octonauts party she had last year.
Typically I like to set up activities for the kids that they can do all by themselves (like the small pool we have, bubbles or just plain old free play). That said, T asked to have a treasure hunt for her birthday party last year, and it was a huge hit. I thought it would be good to share some tips on what helped to make it such a success.
Difference between a Treasure Hunt & a Scavenger Hunt:
I used to use the terms ‘treasure hunt’ and ‘scavenger hunt’ interchangeably. However, I learned that they are actually two very different activities. According to Wikipedia:
A treasure hunt: “is one of many different types of games which can have one or more players who try to find hidden articles, locations or places by using a series of clues”; and
A scavenger hunt: “is a party game in which the organizers prepare a list defining specific items, which the participants – individuals or teams – seek to gather all items on the list – usually without purchasing them – or perform tasks or take photographs of the items, as specified”.
It seems so obvious to me now, but remembering the distinctions helped to keep from getting the two mixed up while preparing for the party.
Preparing for the Treasure Hunt
1. Know your room layout: Knowing how your space is organized will help you figure out how many clues are feasible and will help with creating the clues themselves. Things to consider: is the hunt inside, outside or both? If it’s inside, how many & which rooms will we use? Will clues be hidden high, low or both?
2. Determine the number of clues you will use and if they will lead to the treasure or new clues. Consider the age and size of the group. I like a maximum of 5 to 7 clues for a kid’s party.
3. Decide where you want to put your clues. Again consider your audience. Can you describe the locations in a way that the kids will understand? Do the spots you want to use provide enough space to hide the clues so that they can be found during the activity, but won’t be found beforehand? Try to put the clues all over the space so kids get to wander.
4. Decide what treasure will be hidden at each spot. If you’re only hiding clues at each location, you can skip this step. If you’re hiding a succession of treasures, consider the amount of space you have for each set, and make sure you can actually get what you want at each spot so you don’t have to change your clues. I suggest figuring out where and what you want the final treasure to be and then work backward.
5. Write your clues. Time for the fun part! Think of different ways to describe the next destination. Look up rhymes and synonyms and then put it all together.
6. Create a Map. There are lots of treasure map backgrounds available for free on the web. I found a free background image of worn paper and then used PicMonkey to add text and overlays on top. Here are some tips for making the map: imagine your space as it would appear from above and where each treasure spot would be. Put legend marks at the start and roughly where each clue will lead. If you have little kids, you might want to number each legend. Larger spaces can include images and represent nearby landmarks. PicMonkey has free arrow overlays you can use to connect the legends.
7. Print out your clues and map. Keep them hidden so no one can peek.
8. Hide your clues/treasure and have fun!
Our Treasure Hunt Clues
Just in case it helps anyone, here are the clues we used for our Octonauts themed Treasure Hunt:
To start the game: “Ay there maties! My grandfather Calico Jack left a treasure chest right here in this back yard! All he left me were this map and a few clues to find his gold.”
Clue 1: “ I’m like a small house, but no one lives in me. Tools and gadgets are all you will see.”
Treasure: treat bags
Clue 2: “You can use me to go up or to go down, but your next clue will be by the ground.”
Answer: Under deck stairs
Clue 3: “ I start off dry, but you can bet, once I’m wrapped around you I’m gonna be wet!”
Answer: Under beach towels
Treasure: Sea Life tattoos
Clue 4: “I’m shorter than you and covered with leaves that are green. Look down by my roots and you’ll find something mean”
Answer: Under our azalea bushes
Treasure: Toy sharks
Clue 5: “I’m covered in lots of food that is fun, but lift up my skirt and your search will be done!”
Answer: Under the food/snack table
Treasure: Treasure chest filled with mini coloring books & gold coins.