Donna Hay: Basics To Brilliance Kids

How to plan the ultimate treasure hunt for kids

After watching the treasure hunt on Donna Hay Basics to Brilliance Kids, I felt inspired to put together a few tips for the ultimate kid's treasure hunt to make any birthday, holiday or get together truly memorable.

Whether it’s for a birthday or holiday boredom-buster, treasure hunts are an absolute hit with kids. It’s a great way to evoke their sense of adventure and encourage teamwork, and they’ll just love the thrill of the hunt. A treasure hunt doesn’t need to be expensive, it can be as simple as a map to lunch or an extravagant affair with themed decorations, multi-layer clues and gift rewards.  With a bit of planning, the possibilities for an adventure-filled day are endless.

Here are my top tips and inspiration for organising an awesome adventure for your kids.

Pick your theme

A basic hunt with clues and maps is always fun but a theme that links all the prizes, clues, location and, of course, the treasure, will add a little extra fun and joy for your treasure hunters.

Theme options are endless, but if you need a hand, look to a favourite book or movie, or take inspiration from a much-loved toy, for example a stuffed unicorn might inspire a fairyland theme, while a teddy bear might lend well to a forest. Classic themes - like pirates or fairies - are also guaranteed winners, with plenty of easy, inexpensive ways to incorporate the theme into your hunt.

Let the kids play dress-ups, and try and get your hands on a few props - such as fairy wings, hats or masks - to move things along and make sure no one is left out.

Setting the scene

When deciding where to host your hunt, consider the ages and the number of children attending. If you're inviting kids aged between 2-8, it’s a good idea to have the hunt inside a home or back yard where they can be fully supervised, while kids aged 9 and up will enjoy a bit more space such as a park, playground or beach. If you have a large group, consider setting up teams and a buddy system to make sure no one strays from the pack!


Plan your clues

Now the fun starts! 

My best planning tip is to work backwards from the location of your final treasure. If you know how it ends, you can figure out how to get everyone there by making each clue lead to the next location.

Also keep in mind how long the hunt could take. For younger kids, I recommend five to 10 easy clues, while older kids are likely to enjoy more - and more complex - clues.

While younger kids might enjoy cute rhyming and picture clues the older ones will feel more challenged by maps, puzzles, riddles, codes, races and obstacle courses.

To keep momentum, I would also advise making the first clue easy and increasing the difficulty as they progress. 

In terms of the final treasure, this is up to you. You can do a big box of treats or a picnic lunch in a secret location. If you're feeling extra generous, you could include a prize at each location as an incentive or reward for the hunters.

Clue ideas

  • Take a picture of the location of the next clue. For teen hunts try photographing a just a small portion of the clue’s location.
  • Cut up the picture of a location in a few pieces so they will have to assemble to find the next location.
  • Write a secret code - for example using numbers in place of letters.
  • Rhyming clues and riddles are great fun – search online for some ideas.
  • You could incorporate a scavenger hunt as one clue – ask kids to go around and collect different leaves, flowers other found items to check off a list.
  • Use invisible ink – just write something in white crayon and then provide them with a highlighter to reveal the clue.
  • Consider a puzzle that you can print with a clue, which you can leave at each station. This could build up to reveal your final clue. Scrabble letters would also work well!

Don't forget to set rules

If you have kids, you probably don't need me to tell you that a treasure hunt can quickly descend into chaos if there are no rules - so set these out before the game starts.

The rules might include places that are off limits, what to do if you get stuck on a clue, emergency numbers in case someone gets lost, and an agreed time to return to the starting point.

Treasure hunts are a good way to practice cooperating and working as a team, so encourage kids to work together and help their teammates so everyone will have fun.

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