How to Plan a Treasure Hunt

I wrote this article several years ago for an old blog, and it was one of my most popular posts on Pinterest, so I thought I’d share it over here for those of you who may be interested as well. 🙂

For Grace’s birthday a few years back, we did a “Pirates and Princesses” theme.

The highlight (for me) of the party was definitely the Pirate’s Treasure Hunt! The hunt took us on a little adventure around the neighbourhood. (This was before we moved to the farm, if you’re wondering about the subdivision pictures). The adventure ended back in our own backyard where the party loot bags awaited the kids.

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So if you’re interested in planning your own treasure hunt, here are the step by step instructions!
Step 1- Plan your clue locations.
For our treasure hunt, I planned five stops. How many you choose depends on the ages of the kids and their attention spans, how long you want the hunt to last, and how many places you have available to you to work with. I decided to send them more or less around the block in our subdivision and just crossed my fingers that no one who wasn’t a guest of the party would mess with my clues. I had clue locations at our front tree, a neighbours front tree down the street (with their permission of course), the mailboxes down the road that are at the entrance from the street on to the trail that runs behind the house, and another at the next trail-to-street entrance. Utilizing the lovely trail in our neighbourhood kept the kids off the road as much as possible.
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Step 2- Write a rhyme clue that leads people to each location, including one that leads them back home to find the final treasure.
How complex or tricky you make your rhyming clues depends on the ages of your hunters. Our party was two- four year olds, so they were quite simple.
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Step 3- Organize guests into teams.
I ended up with 2 four year olds and 2 two year olds per team, and three teams. This seemed to be a really good balance of kids.
Step 4- Plan which order each team will visit the clue locations.
The easiest way to do this I found was in a “circle”. So, Team A went to the clues in this order: Clue #1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (stop 5 being back to the house, the “treasure”). Team B went to: Clue #2, 3, 4, 1, 5. And Team C went to: Clue #3, 4, 1, 2, 5. The thing to be careful of is to make sure your clues are self contained, so you don’t assume that when you send them to stop 2 that they’ve already been to stop 1, bc that might not be the order they go. Having the teams go to the stops in a different order though keeps teams from bunching on top of each other and ultimately just all going as one big group.
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Step 5- Write out your clues for each team on cards.
Take extra care in making sure that each team has their clues in the order they will be going to the stops (for example, as listed above, Team B’s first clue (clue #1) sent them to stop 2.) This can get a little complicated, and I got turned around a few times. Right it out on paper and double check each teams order and route before you write out the final cards.
Step 5- In a waterproof bag, sort clues according to their stop location.
Your Starting Line clues will be every teams Clue #1, and these are the first clues that you’ll personally hand out to each team to get them started, then one bag will be hidden at each stop. So lets say one bag is for a stop at the front tree. The clues at this stop (in your “front tree” bag) will be different for each team. For example, Team A would receive their second clue, Team B will be their fourth and Team C it would be their third. Still with me?
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It sounds complicated written out, but it’s really not that bad. Just stay organized and it will be great! The kids had a blast with this one!
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