Summer Strategies for Parents
How to Plan a Treasure Hunt
By Polly Schlafhauser
Keep your kids guessing and moving all summer long with a Treasure
Hunt, a trail of clues spread out over the summer weeks leading your
children on hunts for prizes and goodies week after week. It requires
a little creativity and planning on a parent's part, but is guaranteed
to offer weeks of summer fun and lifelong memories.
Start by deciding on the duration of the treasure hunt. A day, a
week, or several weeks? To make the most out of the hunt, try and
spread it out over several weeks during the summer. A general rule
should be the older the children the longer the duration, so make
their treasure hunt span several weeks giving them three or four
challenging clues each week. For preschoolers through maybe first
graders keep the treasure hunt shorter, anywhere between several clues
on one day to maybe five to ten clues spread over two weeks.
Determine the places to leave the clues. Pick places they are
familiar with like a friend's home, a nearby playground, the swing set
or sandbox in your backyard. Remember, the older the kids the greater
the difficulty and number of clues. If they aren't old enough to go
searching for their clues alone, then put on your walking shoes or hop
on a bike and go with them. Your kids stay safe and you get some
exercise too. Some good hiding places might be, under a door mat,
buried in the sand box, under a bush, or taped to a basketball hoop.
Also, think about timing clues with other visits. For example, if you
go to the park every Friday, plan for them to find a clue when you are
there. Go to Grandma's every Sunday? Plan for them to hunt and find
a clue while visiting.
Next, start writing the clues. This is your chance to be creative and
have fun. Tie the clues in with your children's interests and by all
means don't hesitate to make them educational too! Here are some
ideas to get you started:
Make up rhyming riddles that lead the kids on a trail through the yard
and neighborhood. Remember to make them challenging enough, so that
it takes them some time to figure out. You can always give them
additional hints if they are totally stumped.
Use photographs to point them in the right direction. Take pictures
of familiar things in the area where their next clue or prize can be
found. For example, if your kids frequent a neighborhood playground,
give them a picture of a swing and the slide. This is a great option
for kids who can't read. For older kids, make it more difficult by
taking "zoomed" in pictures. Take a picture of the object in a real
zoomed in shot so they only get to see a portion of the object. This
is more challenging, but remember you can always give them additional
hints if they need help.
Use word searches with the clues hidden inside. Don't tell them the
specific words they are looking for, but rather give them hints. For
example, you can tell them to find a friend, a street, a place, and a
thing (answer would be Mary Clark's backyard swing set on Maple).
Make up crossword puzzles or cryptograms with the answers being the
Keep it a secret. Don't tell them when they will be getting their
next clue. This will keep them wondering and will also give you time
and flexibility in planning.
Make it fun. Print the clues and puzzles on the back of a picture of
a treasure chest, rolled up in a scroll, or on a piece of paper
decorated in a pirate theme. Also, consider mailing them their clue
each week. Kids love to receive mail.
Include your children's friends. Recruit fellow parents to join in
and send clues to your kids as well as their friends. Let them join
up together for the hunt and the fun.
Offer small prizes like candy, little toys, books, or certificates for
ice cream throughout the hunt, but don't go overboard. Remember to
keep the fun focused on the actual hunt not on the reward.
Polly Schlafhauser is Founder and President of Families with Purpose,
a website dedicated to helping busy families enhance their family life
and find time for the little things in life. To subscribe to their
FREE newsletter or to find more creative ideas to beat the Summer
Boredom Blues, visit their website at