One activity I always find motivates kids to not only get outside and play but also to stimulate their creative problem-solving capabilities is the good, old-fashioned treasure hunt. The great thing about a treasure hunt is that no two are alike and you can really switch up the types of clues you want your kids to solve. This past afternoon, I guess I felt extra energetic, and I put together two completely different treasure hunts for my kids. The first was based on Toy Story with the object being to find Woody’s cowboy hat that Emperor Zurg had stolen. The clues were riddles and I hid each clue with a different Toy Story character. So, the excitement was not only in finding the clues but also in coming upon each character. Here’s an example of the clue this green alien was holding: “Take me to your leader, but not before finding your next clue. A cowgirl has it and she’s riding a tree split in two like it’s a horse.”
The second treasure hunt had real “treasure” at the end. I had stopped by our local toy store earlier in the day and picked up a few fun items for the treasure chest, like kids’ playing cards, scratch-and-sniff stickers, and zombies whose eyes and brains popped-out of their heads when you squeezed them. I made sure I bought three slightly different, but same type of toy for each of my children so that the fun of the game didn’t end up in fighting over the prizes.
Since I always try to reuse old party paraphernalia, I found a box that was from a past mystery-solving themed birthday party that I had thrown for my daughter. In it I found a couple of different types of spy decoders. One was a number and letter grid (numbers down the side, letters across the bottom – to figure out what the word was for the clue, you had to find the letters in the grid – so A5 might get you to the letter “P”), another one was a similar grid but it was circular and had an inner circle of letters that lined up with an outside circle of different letters, and there was also a red cellophane magnifying-glass shaped item that when you looked through it, anything written in red “disappeared” leaving only the letters that were written in a different color. So, I wrote out all the clues in a way that they would have to get the answers by using one of these “decoding tools”. Then I made a tool of my own which was a grid that had the alphabet and a number under each letter. Clues that needed that tool entailed having to solve math problems with the numerical answers matching up with a letter that was part of the clue – because especially over the summer, I can’t help but try to throw in some academic review into a game (it’s like hiding vegetables in something the kids like to eat). I also added in a few riddle clues such as ” This is something Brazil did not use very well.” It was just after Brazil’s loss in the World Cup so the answer led them to a soccer net we had in our yard. They would work on deciphering the clue and then would take off running to where it directed them to go for the next one.
Here is a video of my kids decoding the clue that was written in different colors where they needed the “red magnifying glass”:
I labeled each of the twenty clues with the child’s name or names whose turn it was to decipher that clue. For the math clues, I always made them to be solved by “all”. Within the folded math clue there were three separate pieces of paper with each child’s name on it and two math problems each. They then each correlated their answers with a letter on the grid and together were able to spell out the answer to the clue. At the beginning of the hunt I handed out pocket notebooks and pencils so that they could use it if they needed to work out any of the answers. It was an especially gratifying treasure hunt for me because it does take awhile to put these together and it was nice to see that they took their time with it and it wasn’t just over in a flash like regular hunts that are just based on riddles. They had a great time solving all the clues and were very gratified when they finally found their treasure.
So, if you’re looking for something to get your kids away from their computer screens and give them a chance to try out their creative problem-solving skills then do some Creative Treasure Hunting. It’s a fun activity for both your kids and for you.