Jon is the father of two wonderful and energetic girls and is constantly finding new games to play with the family.
Doing a Treasure Hunt at Home
Doing a treasure hunt is an excellent way for the family to spend some quality time together. I have created quite a few treasure hunts for my daughters through the years, and they have thoroughly enjoyed it every time.
The trick to a good treasure hunt is to keep the length of it suitable for the kids' age and temperament and make sure that the treasure at the end is something they will enjoy receiving.
In this article, I will show you several methods on how to create a treasure hunt for your kids to enjoy with family and friends. At the end of it, I will also have an example of a completed treasure hunt suitable for kids from 7 to 10 years of age.
Path of Clues: A Treasure Hunting Game
To make a Path of Clues game, you only need to have a few pieces of paper, something to write with, and your imagination.
The point of this game is to make a series of clues where each clue points to the next in line. A Path of Clues game is typically 10–15 clues long, depending on the age of the kids, but it can be shorter or longer. The clues can be generic or tailored to individual family experiences. They can be written or drawings (drawings work better for the youngest kids).
Here is an example. You give the kids their first clue, which reads:
Are ye ready for the path of clues, matey?
The next clue is located in a cold and dark place.
This clue could refer to the refrigerator or freezer, where you would place the next clue. That clue could be, for example:
Yarr! You found me—well done, matey!
The next clue is located where John stuck his foot when he was two.
. . . which then refers to a family experience where John stuck his foot, like in the toilet bowl or something. You would then place the third clue there.
Continue to do this for ten to fifteen clues, and you have made yourself a path of clues. Keep in mind that if the clues you made end up being too difficult for your kids, then it's just fine to help them along a bit.
Treasure at the End of the Path
At the location of the final clue, you then place a small treasure, like a few pieces of candy, a small toy, or maybe even a little money. That's entirely up to what you find appropriate, but I would suggest to keep it smallish so the family can play this game often.
Treasure Map Letter Swap
Another method for a fun treasure hunt is to draw a map of your home and mark the location of items the kids need to find. My favorite way is to place letters at the marked spots which, when arranged correctly, spell out the location of the treasure.
What you need to do here is to draw a map of your home. You can either draw it by hand as I have done (see my sketch below) or make a digital version. You mark the location of the letters on the map, and it's then up to the kids to use the map to find the letters.
An example of this would be a map with eight marked locations with the letters: R, C, M, U, O, T, E, P.
Arranged correctly, they spell computer, which would then be the location of the treasure.
Now, you can also make this game last longer by adding a Path of Clues game to it once they have completed the treasure map task. In that case, the word spelled by the letters points to the first clue in the Path of Clues.
Path of Clues With Tasks
A third possibility is a variance to the Path of Clues, where the kids will need to complete tasks before getting their clues. This version of a treasure hunting game requires you to follow your kids around while they search for the treasure, which is way more fun.
It starts the same way as the regular Path of Clues. The kids get a single clue which leads them to the location of a task they must complete. Once they have completed the task, you then hand them the next clue.
As an example, say the kids have received a clue which leads them to the refrigerator. In it, they find a piece of paper with the following:
Yarr matey! The next clue is behind this here lock.
To open it, we must complete these sums to find the secret number.
. . . with the secret number being 131511. Once they figure it out, you hand them the next clue.
Tasks which the kids need to complete can, for example, be:
- Math problems.
- Make their beds.
- Fold some of their clothes.
- Solve a simple riddle.
- Simple exercises like a few jumping jacks, frog leaps, push-ups, etc.
- Read a single page in a book.
- Write a few lines.
- Anything else you can think of.
If a group is playing the game, you can also have the task be some form of teamwork exercise, such as moving water from one cup to another without spilling it, where the kids must stay at least a meter (yard) apart.
The main thing is to select a task that takes at most 3–4 minutes to complete. If the task takes more time than that, the game will quickly become boring for the kids.
You could then mix and match regular clues and clues which require tasks—creating a Path of Clues game with a few tasks thrown in. The game then ends the same way as Path of Clues, with the final clue pointing to the treasure.
An Example of a Complete Treasure Hunt for Kids
This game is going to be a combined treasure hunt, using elements from all the ideas mentioned here. You can either use the game as is or modify it for your own treasure hunting game as you see fit. I will also only be using generic clues, which I believe should work for most homes.
Step 1: Making the Treasure Map
First, start by making a treasure map. It doesn't need to be too detailed, just enough for the kids to get a decent idea of the location of the letters.
When the map is complete, take a piece of regular-sized paper and cut it into eight parts. Write one of the following letters on each piece of paper: B, A, T, H, T, U, B. There will be one piece of paper leftover.
Now place the paper pieces with the letters at seven different locations in your home and mark the spots on your treasure map.
Step 2: Making the Clues
The next step is to make the clues. Take another regular paper and cut it into eight pieces as before. Write the following clues on the pieces of paper, one clue per piece. Then write the number of each clue in the corner of each paper.
The clues are:
- Seek a cold and dark place, where light rarely enters.
- Find a source of entertainment and relaxation.
- Here I lay my head to sleep.
- Seek objects which can both make food and loud noises.
- A clue for you, is what you should do, every morning and evening.
- What keeps our feet dry?
- Seek a place where you can see yourself.
- Something to wear, try not to tear, the treasure is there.
Now you need to place the clues in the correct order, which is:
- Goes in the bathtub.
- Goes in the refrigerator.
- Goes next to the TV.
- Goes in the kids' bed.
- Goes in the cupboard with your pots and pans.
- Goes where the kids' toothbrushes are.
- Goes in the kids' shoes or boots.
- Goes next to a mirror.
The treasure then goes where the kids keep their clothes.
Step 3 (Optional): Add Some Tasks.
If you want to, you can also add some tasks to this game. In that case, I would suggest having these three simple tasks:
- Do ten jumping jacks.
- Make your bed.
- Write your full name three times.
Now write these tasks on a piece of paper as you did with the clues. One task per paper and mark the paper at the top with TASK.
Then go and swap the clues you already placed with the tasks. I suggest you swap them like this:
- Swap clue #2 with task #1
- Swap clue #4 with task #2
- Swap clue #6 with task #3
You will then need to hold on to those clues and give the right one to the kids when they complete the task. You can always mark the task with the number of the correct clue if you're worried that you might mix them up.
Adding a Treasure Chest
Now, if your kids really loved playing this game and you think you will play treasure hunting games often, then having a treasure chest to store the treasure in is a neat little accessory to the game.
For my family treasure hunts, I use this treasure chest to store the treasure at the end of the game. It's inexpensive, and the quality is not the best, but you do get what you pay for, and in my opinion, it's good enough for this purpose. The size of the chest is small but big enough to store some minor treasures. I use it because I always have a small treasure at the end of the game.
If you'd like to have to option of having a bigger treasure then you can easily find other treasure chests on Amazon or other online stores. In any case, I'd recommend getting at least one chest for each kid that's playing.
You could also add other accessories such as pirate hats, eye patches, treasure sacks, and such. But it's really not necessary for kids to enjoy a treasure hunt.
Some Final Thoughts
I hope you and your family will be able to use this to make a fun treasure hunting game. And while it's nice to try a pre-made game first, I would also encourage you to make your own treasure hunting game and see how it goes. Just remember to keep the game fun and simple.
Oh, and feel free to share this with anyone you think might be interested in treasure hunts with their family and friends.
© 2020 Jon Sigurdsson
PGupta0919 on April 24, 2020:
Interesting article, very well written.
Liz Westwood from UK on April 22, 2020:
This is a great idea for parents with children at home during the lockdown.