There are many ways to do a treasure hunt, but I will tell you what really worked for us and what was worth the effort. We started with a premise based on the theme of the birthday party, which was, unfortunately, “Super Buddies”. In our clues, we used characters from the movie, but you could easily co-opt our clues to work for any book/movie. Using Merlin or Morgan from “Magic Tree House” would be super easy.
We wrote clues that were easy enough for them to figure out and rhymed. Rhyming is not necessary, but it seems more fun. We staple gunned colored flags to trees in the nature preserve with notes stapled near them. For flags, I just used some old felt I had. Sometimes the clues just told them what color flag to find and sometimes it directed them to a location.
Here are some of the key elements that made our treasure hunt a hit!
1. KEYS and LOCKS – OMG – 6 year olds LOVE keys and locks.
One thing that was CRUCIAL to their enjoyment was for them to find little prizes along the way. Make sure everyone gets the same thing though, or you may have problems. The first “prize” they found was a box of necklaces, one for each child. The Rings of Inspiron are from the “Super Buddies” movie, but you could call them “the rings of truth” or “the rings of the imagination” or something awesome (ha) like that. I got the idea from Club Chica Circle. I bought one small washer for each child from the hardware store. I painted them each a different color of nail polish and tied them to some string (my string was crappy. Use shoe laces or something that will hold a knot well). Next they found magic keys. We painted each key to coordinate with the necklaces. We also had to paint the mini brass locks (which came with the keys. explanation to follow) to match so they would know which key opened which lock. Save yourself some money and buy these from Amazon . We did everything so last minute that we had to spend a little more. Here’s what they look like
2. Make something invisible reappear
We started with a note from Cleocatra (ugh -that’s her name in the “Super Buddies” movie). It said that she had hidden gifts for all of Carter’s friends in a magic trunk that is invisible(six year olds LOVE invisible things). To find the trunk, they had to first find the “Rings of Inspiron” (the necklaces I wrote about above), the magic keys and most importantly, they had to work together.
While they were pinning the tail on the donkey, I ran up and said that the UPS truck just delivered a message. It was a long scroll where Craig had hand written the note from Cleocatra (again – UGH to her name). We barely had time to grab the tools and put on our rainboots before they were literally running to the nature preserve.
3. The Clues: Have some real challenges in there, but not too challenging.
The first clue led them to a bag of tools in our yard. We debated on what to use as tools. We ended up just putting shovels (mostly plastic) in there. Initially, we were going to have a different tool for each child so they would each have a special task to do. But it was way too time consuming. We were also worried that they would fight over who got the best tool. Honestly, I do think it would be cool to give them all something different, if you have the time to come up with the items. We were going to do invisible ink. The tool would be a highlighter. We would write the clue on paper with white crayon and then use they highlighter to uncover the message.
The first clue led to the tools:
To get the tools in your hand
Go to the box that’s filled with sand
The second clue led them to a card with the word “blue” on it.
Clear the muddy pass and stand on wood
Look for the rope and pull it up good
There was a huge mud pit in front of the bridge on the path (“AWESOME!”- said every 6 year old boy ever). The note was tied to a string and hanging from the bridge. They actually didn’t get this one on their own, but it was the first one so that made sense.
The third clue was stapled to the tree with the blue flag. It said:
Follow this path of blue
Something orange awaits you
The fourth clue was stapled to the tree with the orange flag. It said:
My wonderful prize is within reach
You must go toward the beach
But be alert on Carter’s big day
For other clues along the way
The fifth clue was in the middle of this area with a low canopy. So we hung an arrow on a card so they would run into it. Then we placed an old timey looking suitcase nearby with the rings of inspiron in it.
Because it is his special day
The birthday boy gets to say
Which color ring he wants today
Don’t worry, each color ring is great
To get the trunk, cooperate
And you will soon uncover your fate!
You don’t have to be a poet to rhyme; as is evidenced by that clue.
The sixth clue was stapled to a tree outside of the beach area with a flag. It said:
You found the rings in the trees
Go to the beach to get the keys
Use the tools to uncover my plot
It’s really easy, “x” marks the spot.
Here is where they got to use their tools (shovels). They would have all been digging like crazy, except we didn’t bury the box deep enough. Definitely bury it well. They will love digging. Inside this box, were the keys painted to match their necklaces and the next clue.
Good work! Your sharing is paying off
Head back to the bridge and all will be clear
What once was invisible, now will appear
But don’t forget, watch for clues
You’re so close now, work as a team and you can’t lose.
The meter of your poetry doesn’t have to make sense, like Walt Whitman’s.
It was a long way back to the bridge, so we stapled a few flags up with colors written on the cards and one last clue:
almost there go to the start
Your kindness really warms my heart
Finally, they got to the bridge. We called my step dad a little bit after we started and he carried the trunk to the edge of the bridge where we entered. When they turned the corner and saw it, their heads nearly exploded. We had put all 8 of the mini locks on the trunk. So each child had to use their key to open it (working together! and everyone got a turn). When they opened it up, some balloons popped out and there was a kite for each child (you could definitely make this part more exciting than we did). I thought it was a great favor, but (as you can see in the photo) it seemed like they would have preferred something like a crappy plastic coin or whatever. Pearls to swine.
4. Give the birthday boy/girl something special
I wanted Carter to feel special since he was the birthday boy. So I put a little baggie in the trunk with a message written in gold pen. Inside the baggie was a mood ring that I just happened to have (I have no idea where I got it. It probably is a magical ring and I have now given all of my magic to a 6 year old boy who will most likely wish for a magical, metal flying machine that makes pancakes). The message said it was “the ring of truth” and that it was for the birthday boy. He LOVES it and always has it with him now. It definitely made him feel special.
Now go out and make your own treasure hunt! The more clues you have, the more time you’ll kill. It’s a great way to get the kids outside and active!