Kids Treasure Hunt Logistics?
April 21, 2006 10:12 AM   Subscribe

How should I organize or structure a Treasure Hunt for eight 5/6 year olds at a birthday party?

The party theme is fantasy/adventure (Deltora Quest in particular) - so it's not really a pirate treasure hunt - it's more like D&D. Reading ability is not assumed, but they can all ID letters and numbers. I want each kid to have a map (of our backyard), and ideally I would like each kid to be able to go at their own pace, so that the more sophisticated ones don't lead the way right to the end. There could be multiple treasure spots along the way, or one big cache - they will be collecting the materials for making a craft project, plus some other goodies. If anyone has any experiences or ideas to share, they would be much appreciated.
posted by chr1sb0y to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
One thing my wife has done is to make a maze of string all over the yard. One string per kid. All the strings start at the same spot and then take different courses all over the place. Wrapped around trees, through bushes, etc. Put a ring on each string. The kids guide their rings along their string and follow it to find the end, where their treasure is buried.

In your case you could have treasures along the way as well.

It's a no-brainer for kids that age and it's a lot of fun.
posted by bondcliff at 10:23 AM on April 21, 2006

Well this wouldnt involve a map, but my mom used to give us clues leading to something. The clue would lead us to a small cache, and another clue. It was a lot of fun, usually involving puns or something like that, and everybody got quite excited trying to figure it out. We did it as a group though, not individually. That way if anybody got stuck, therewere others to help, and nobody had to be the last one done.
posted by gilsonal at 10:53 AM on April 21, 2006

Put a few items completely out of reach or out of sight. That way, if there's a kid who doesn't find anything, or as much as the others, you can lead him to the secret cache.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:54 AM on April 21, 2006

How sophisticated are the kids? I once had a kid spoil an outdoor Easter egg hunt (plastic eggs containing minor prizes or clues).

He spent most of his time not searching bit complaining that it was unfair that the other kids were finding more than he did.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 11:47 AM on April 21, 2006

I second gilsonal. We did that last summer, I hid many small boxes with about 15 identical toys or candy in each, along with a written rhyming clue to a new spot. Each box said "Take one leave the rest". Some parents went around with the kids, to help read the clues. You could seal the clues and have a parent whisper the written clue to one child, so that each has a turn being the finder, especially if you anticipate a range of different-aged children. I think I even wrote out and read the ground rules in a Survivor-esque rhyme, just to get the point across to the older kids to go in order and take turns being the finder. Each kid then took a bag around with them on the hunt.

Coevals' wife
posted by coevals at 12:19 PM on April 21, 2006

We did one for grown-up kids that combined the map and the clue ideas. We had a map with each location marked by a symbol, and a sheet of paper with the corresponding symbols matched to questions. Ours was a little complicated, (the questions could only be answered at the locations, and you needed each answer to solve a larger puzzle), but the same idea helps a lot to avoid a "follow the leader" scenario.

I suggest this. You have a map of the backyard marked with drawings of objects which are hidden at each location. Each kid has a unique book of stickers (one kid has stars, one kid has fruit, or just round stickers with their name written on them). When a kid finds the object, he puts his sticker on it. So, for example, the map has a picture of a bone drawn where the dog house is in the yard. Tommy goes the dog house, finds the bone hidden inside, and puts his sticker on it. Then he goes on to the next picture on the map and puts his sticker on the next object. When you call time's up, you collect all the objects and give a prize to each kid whose sticker is on that object.

This way, there's no order to follow, so the kids can scatter around, and if they get stuck, they can just move on to something else. You'll still have the problem of kids being able to see where prizes are being found, but if your game area is the backyard, you can't really avoid that. You can make some objects easy to find, and some more difficult, so everyone can participate without being left out completely. Nobody's collecting anything, so you don't need to worry about a kid taking all the prizes before someone else gets there. And kids love stickers. If they don't find the objects, at least they got the stickers.
posted by team lowkey at 3:13 PM on April 21, 2006

bondcliff's idea reminds me very strongly of string orienteering, which is a good method for kids to learn to read things on a map with the aid of the string so they don't get completely bewildered. Often there are "controls" just like in orienteering for adults, where each control is a game, or a puzzle, etc. Each kid could do something like "Save the princess" (do a maze to find her), "slay a dragon" (Knock over some pins with a picture of a dragon on them, like milk bottles at a carnival) to get their prize.

-mrs. schustafa
posted by schustafa at 7:46 PM on April 21, 2006

My mother did this when I was a kit, with clues written in doggerel. Good fun. Maybe a bit advanced for 5 - 6 year olds, some kids that age can't read, and that'd be pretty rough.
posted by The Monkey at 9:44 PM on April 21, 2006

I've done several of these kinds of kid parties.

The string idea works well, particularly if you can thread the string/yarn (different color per kid) through things like two-sliding door minivans,under bushes with clearance by the roots and wrapped around tree limbs in easy-to-climb trees. When I did this, I had the kids collect the string as they went along to make sure they really explored and couldn't race through and be done in 90 seconds. Adults can cut off big clumps of string every once in a while to make it manageable.

If you want something more clue-based, use individual envelopes with each kid's name on them that sends them to different landmarks at different times. Use different kinds of clues - pictures, drawings, easy words (Ruff! to send a kid to a dog/house), even colors (I used to have a purple car, so I'd put something purple in an envelope, and the kids would figure out they should go to my car and take something from the bag on my driver's seat). The best one I did was an arrow that pointed up from the last clue; there was another bag hanging from the tree over their heads. They all did those two clues in the same order, but they were so delighted when they got it...

When I've done things like this, I've mixed stages up: collect things (i.e. marbles from a potted plant; a funny hat from an adult), perform actions (fight a "duel" with an adult - we used fake swords and painted broom sticks for light sabers; dig up a treasure from the sand box - using a sand shovel and putting items under 2 inches of sand); leave things behind (autograph a new cast; leave a card with the kid's name on it in a bag or box), or seed the kids with odd things and have them exchange those things for prizes and treasures or craft things. (In one case, my friend climbed a tree, and when kids cane around, she would be staring forlornly at a can of fruit cocktail. "If only I had a spoon!" she'd say, and give them the next clue in gratitude when the kid would hand over the utensil.) She took polaroids of each kid holding up the spoon, and they were super-cute.

I also did a very successful spy hunt, where the kids had to collect letters at each stop plus spy-like treasures, and at the end, the first one who hit all stations and rearranged the code to say [Birthday Kid's Name] got a grand prize. We totally arranged it so the kid would win, but he was too busy playing with the plastic magnifying glass he got with his last letter to solve it.

Some practical tips: Give them a bag to carry things around in. Have the items cached in different types of places (hanging from trees, tucked in a shoe, hidden in treehouses, in someone's pocket, hidden beneath a swing, in the mailbox, etc). Identify an expert the kids can ask questions of - The Expert should know what path the kids are on, and if you pick a real ham, you'll end up with an expert who talks like Yoda or a German professor or (and I'm not making this up) Tinkerbelle. Don't be afraid to get silly. Kids love silly (I once sat in a garden with a bunch of gnomes, having conversations with them while kids tried to figure out "One of these things is different than the others". )

If you are worried about whether the kids will get your clues or keep interest, you can always identify 8 stations, and have the kids perform an action at each station (the duel, the sandbox dig, act like animals, find a rock with a fish painted on it in an area with lots of rocks, hit a ball through a croquet hoop, climb up a slide, draw a picture of yourself, etc), and move from them in a clockwise order. You'll need 8 adults there to act as gatekeepers, but inevitably, you'll have kids who really liked 2 or 3 of the tasks and will talk about it for days.
posted by julen at 10:01 PM on April 21, 2006

Just for the completists, here's the map I created in the end, with a bit of a description of how the hunt worked: Map, jewelled box.
posted by chr1sb0y at 11:24 AM on July 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

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