Want to host a treasure hunt for your kids’ birthday party? Read on for the best kids treasure hunt ideas, tips and tricks to make it as much fun as possible.
Confession: While I love to plan parties, I do not like to plan structured activities for those parties.
While the kids were young, we found that it really isn’t worth the time and effort. Instead, we let them go hog-wild with one BIG activity and set up a couple small stations to the side. It’s proven to be a simple and low-stress way to keep the kids entertained.
But as the kids get older, they are more interested and able to participate in structured activities.
So, when my oldest requested a treasure hunt for her Octonauts themed 5th birthday party, we dove right in.
As it turns out, the treasure hunt was a huge success. But, that’s only because I put plenty of thought and preparation into how it would go.
The Difference Between a Treasure Hunt & a Scavenger Hunt:
Before coming up with kids treasure hunt ideas for the party, I had to find out the difference between treasure hunts and scavenger hunts.
It may seem obvious, but the two are so similar that it’s helpful to keep them clearly identified from the very beginning. 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”.
Keep these distinctions at hand, because it’s easier than it seems to get these mixed up when planning your own kids treasure hunt.
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Kids Treasure Hunt Ideas, Tips, and Tricks
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.
Some things to consider:
- Is the treasure hunt inside, outside or both?
- If the treasure hunt is inside, how many & which rooms will we use?
- Will clues be hidden high, low or both?
2. Determine the Number of Clues You Will Have
Set a number of clues from the very beginning. This will make the rest of your planning much simpler. Don’t forget to consider the age and size of the group.
I recommend a maximum of 5 to 7 clues for a kid’s party. It’s enough to keep them engaged, but not so many that the kids get bored.
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 follow-up clues so they can be found during the activity, but not beforehand?
- Try to think of locations that will span a large area of your party space so the kids get to wander.
4. Choose What Treasure will Be Hidden at Each Spot
If you’re only hiding clues at each location, you can skip this step. But, kids love finding mini treasures at each location, too.
Looking for kids treasure hunt ideas for each hiding spot? Try this:
- Start with the final treasure, determine what and where it will be, and then work backward.
- Order the mini treasures before creating your clues, so you are sure they will arrive in time.
- Once you have the mini-treasures, make sure they fit in the planned hiding spot so you have time to make adjustments.
5. Write Down Your Clues
Time for the fun part! Start by thinking of different ways to describe each hiding place. You can use tools like thesaurus.com to look up synonyms to help you get stuck.
Then, put it all your kids treasure hunt ideas together with some fun rhymes. You can do a Google search to find treasure hunt clues. Or you can use rhymezone.com to help make your own creative rhymes.
6. Create a Map
Okay, so a map isn’t actually necessary, but it makes the whole activity so much more fun!
Do you remember making aged paper by dying it with tea bags and singeing it in the oven? That would be a fun pre-party activity to do with your kids. Then, you can draw your own map right on top.
Or, you can create map on your computer. There are plenty of treasure map backgrounds available for free on the web. You can use these images in a free software program like Canva to add text, images, and dotted paths.
Tips for Creating a Useful Treasure Map:
- Remember to think of your space with a birds-eye view
- Put legend marks at the start, and roughly where each clue will lead.
- If you have little kids, consider numbering each legend to make it easier.
- Include the first clue on the map.
- Consider adding a message from a theme-related character to make the event more memorable.
7. Print out Your Clues and Map well in Advance
Make sure you print out your treasure hunt clues and map well in advance. Keep them hidden so no one can peek! (Just don’t forget where you put it!)
8. Hide your Clues and/or Treasure from the Birthday Kid and Guests
You’re ready to go. Have fun!
Our Octonauts Themed Treasure Hunt Clues
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Just in case it helps anyone, here are the clues and products we used for our Octonauts themed Treasure Hunt.
- Card Stock for your map
- Treat bags (we used small white gift bags)
- Temporary Tattoos
- Toy sharks or other party favors
- Treasure Chest
- Gold Coins
To start the game: “Ay there maties! My grandfather Calico Jack left a treasure chest right here in this backyard! 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.
Now, It’s Your Turn
We’ve covered here how treasure hunts and scavenger hunts are similar, but very different games. While treasure hunts are much more structured, they can be a lot of fun for your kids party. Hopefully these kids treasure hunt ideas, tips, and tricks will make it easier for your kid and their friends to have a great time, too!
Now, I want to know…