My favorite and most memorable birthday party when I was a kid was the one where my Dad created a treasure hunt for us. I was turning 9 and it really made an impression on me. He made rhyming clues, one leading to another, and all us kids had to figure them out and sleuth around to discover which one led where. I have no recollection of the prize, I just remember how fun it was for us to figure out and decipher the hidden messages.
So I created one for my daughter’s 7 year old party last night. There were 9 kids at the party and I think if you have a fairly small group, this hunt is a lot of fun. (I also believe parties should always be as small as possible. I’ll get into that in a another post). The clues were invented quickly and easily while I was in line at the post office, notating them on my iphone.
The clues, written in simple language (kids are just learning to read at this age) on little pieces of yellow construction paper, rolled into scrolls and then taped on to hiding places, led to a treasure map. The map I drew with a regular pen on white office paper. I drew a rough layout of the house and then used a darker marker to make dots leading outside to the back yard. I shredded the sides by ripping a little here and there and then tied it with a ribbon, The treasure was a pretty box I borrowed from my mom, filled with golden chocolate coins (gelt), mint chocolates and sugar-free bubble gum that I found at Smart ‘N Final (a kind of super-store… Costco restaurant supply type place in California). I hid the pretty treasure box under a plastic pin outside, stuck a big X on it and the hunt was ready!
Before we began, I laid down the rules:
1. No running
2. When they find a new clue, they are to put there heads together, talk about where it might be and walk to the place they thought they might find it. (problem solving)
3. They are to take turns reading the clues. (literacy)
4. When they find the treasure, they are to slowly come to the living room, dump it out (birthday girl gets to carry it), look at it, then slowly divvy it up. Now kids these days are trained to go nuts and hoard and grab candy (think piñata frenzy). And with our party it took about 7 reminders that there was no need to hog and fret about the goods. The key to this is buy a lot of treasure. I bought 160 coins (come in bulk for $10) and about 100 chocolate mints and one 12 piece pack of gum. The more there is, the more they relax about trying to get some.
Then I hand out empty goodie bags, so when they find the booty, they can divide up the spoils evenly. (counting…sorting).
This hunt was the highlight of the party and I thought I would teach you how to do it for your 7 and up year old. This is the kind of thing you could do every year, making the clues more and more difficult to solve.
Here’s what you will need.
6 or more clues (write your own or use mine)
6 pieces colored construction paper
paper for map
ribbon for map
pretty box for treasure
something to hide treasure under (blanket, box… or you could even bury it…but i believe simple is best for mom)
LOTS of treasure
empty bags (zip-lock or what-ever you like)
I started by sitting all the kids down, going over the rules and then giving the first clue to Delilah.
You’ll find the map where it gets hot
between the toaster and the pot
(all kids figure out kitchen…walk there, find toaster and on a pot near the toaster there is the second yellow clue.)
Now go into Delilah’s room
and look up high beside the moon
(all kids go to Delilah’s room and look up to a moon that was already stuck up there, and see a yellow scroll taped to the ceiling. I jump up and get it and we read the next clue)
Go out the front door and by the dome
look to find a little phone
(we walk outside where by our play structure dome, I had taped a clue onto a little plastic toy phone that the girls had and stuck it under the dome. You can easily find things you have to use to make rhymes!)
You are smart but there is more
taped onto the bathroom door
(they all walk to bathroom, go inside and up taped on the back of the door, they find it!)
Close your eyes and make a wish
Now go and feed our little fish
(they walk to the aquarium, and taped on the fish food container, the last clue)
One last clue will take you there
On the red couch there is a bear
(I found a teddy bear in their animal basket and had hidden the map behind the bear)
The kids were out of their minds with excitement, anticipation and cleverness at this point.
Delilah opened the map and looked at it. I had the layout of the house sketched roughly, and she needed to figure how to go out the kitchen door to the backyard and turn left. She got out the kitchen door and turned right, so I gently redirected, as all the kids walked down the driveway looking for the X. And then one girls said “The X!”. Delilah got to lift the pink plastic bin and find hidden below, the magical box.
We brought it inside and sat in a circle, dumped it out (this is where daddy and I spoke in pirate voices and complained that our treasure had been found and stolen).
The kids divvied up the goods squarely and put their shares in their bags. They were allowed 3 pieces (it was before dinner, and again I am a big believer in not saying…”just one”.. that creates deprivation and then bingeing…more on that coming in a new post!). So 3 it was and the kids were thrilled.
And that was that. A good time is guaranteed with this treasure hunt and kids learn so much. Most of all it’s empowering, thoughtful and super fun.