The practical guide to organizing a treasure hunt.
How do you make a treasure hunt for kids?
If you’re here, you’re probably planning to organize your own scavenger hunt for your child’s birthday or other.
Whether you are a parent, grand parent, teacher, director, or a coach, you will find in this guide everything you need to plan your own game.
We have decided to write this practical guide to help you step by step in the process.
We are aiming to be as clear and as concise as possible. However, for people short in time or who don’t feel comfortable organizing the game themselves, you can always download our birthday games “ready to print”.
Hoping this will answer all your questions, have a good read!
Discover our french website here!
B- The different types of scavenger hunts
- sentence to recompose
- Our games
C- General conception
- Age of the children
- Number of participants
- Number of teams
- Choice of theme
D- Game ideas for your enigmas
- Coded messages
- Mazes and paths
- Mirror sentence
- Dots to connect
- Differences games
- The missing object
E- Preparation work
F- End of the game
- The ending
G- Extra advice
- Decorate your game space
- Team composition
- Ideal playing times
- Number of adults and their role
- How to build your treasure chest
- The diploma
Why organize a scavenger hunt for your child’s birthday? Simply because they are always a success with kids; your child will have all his friends come over and you will have a group of children of the same age to entertain! What kid hasn’t dreamed of such an adventure: a scavenger hunt!!
Moreover, this kind of game has a massive advantage: it is very cheap! Obviously, it requires planning and preparation time if you’re doing it yourself, but it is very advantageous in many ways. You can do the scavenger hunt at home, which is usually calmer than public places, and you can control the duration of the game, how long the kids stay over, and have you own snack… And most importantly, you will make of your birthday party a pleasant moment that the kids will remember, a fun moment, but also educational where you can personalise the game theme according to your child’s centres of interest!
The scavenger hunt is a game the kids love; and it’s very affordable for the parents!
Discover step by step how to make a treasure hunt for your kids!
B- The different types of scavenger hunts
You will need to think about how you are going to organize your game; what will be your conductive thread? You have several options…
1. The puzzle:
Take a picture of the location where you have hidden the treasure and cut it up into pieces according to how many events your game has. With each successful event, the kids unlock a piece of the puzzle and will then, at the end of the game, piece the puzzle all together to find out where the treasure is hidden.
2. Sentence to recompose:
Write in a sentence with a big font the location where the treasure is hidden. You can do that in “Word” and include some drawings. This time, the kids will unlock a word from the sentence after each successful event, and at the end they will be able to read the location of the treasure. Cut up the sentence into words or larger bits according to the number of events you have. You can give them in the right order for younger kids, and scramble them for older kids. In that case they will have to rearrange them to form the sentence.
3. The map:
You use the same method, but with a map. Before the game, draw a map of your game area, for example your garden. Draw a dotted line from the front door to the treasure, cut up the map into pieces and the kids will receive one bit for each successful task. The last piece will feature the mark with location of the treasure.
4. Our games:
Our birthday games follow the same method. The parents hide the clues depending on their wants and space available. This means our games can be adapted to play anywhere. The kids will go looking for a piece of paper, from the clue given by the adult; this piece of paper will feature a riddle or a challenge to take, and once solved, they must go back to the adult to validate their task. If successful, they will be guided to the next paper they must find, complete the task on it and so on until the last task where they will receive the location of the treasure.
Our scavenger hunts do not all conclude with a treasure hunt; these would be more of a police investigation or a mystery to solve where the kids will look for the answer to a riddle. Our games feature around ten varied events. Kids love them for occasions such as birthdays, family gatherings, celebrations, and grandparents to entertain their grandchildren in the holidays… Lots of occasions warrant organising such games!
C- General outlook
There are a few things to consider when preparing for your game.
Here is what is important to make the most beautiful treasure hunt for your kids!
1. Age of the children:
You do not plan a collective game the same way for 5 year-olds than for 10 year-olds. The choice of theme, and the number and choice of events will depend on the age of the children.
2. Number of participants:
You will have to think about team organisation according to the number of participants. With 5 kids one team is enough, but with 10, two teams would be better so that everyone can participate and be integrated. Also, a team of 10 is always harder to deal with and control than a team of 5. As always it’s up to you to choose the solution that is most adapted to you.
3. The number of teams:
One team is not hard to deal with… The kids will work together and help each other solve the tasks and find the solution for the investigation or the treasure, in a team spirit and sharing. For two teams or more, it will be the same: they will work with each other but there will be an element of competition between the teams. Don’t forget to print the tasks twice for two teams and so on. Each team needs its own games sheets. Also, think of hiding the riddles in places opposite to each other in your game space so that the kids don’t bump into each other and find themselves all in the same place. You can also put the riddles in a different order so that the same tasks don’t happen at the same time. If you’re planning a challenge game like a course, it’s better if the teams don’t do it at the same time.
4. The choice of theme:
After having thought about these things, you can now decide on the theme of your game. The scenario you choose is important for the success of your game. Take the time to think about it and to find the centres of interest of your child, which can be your starting point. Then, let your imagination take over and the story will come naturally… The choice of theme is very important because it makes your game an original and unique creation for your child!
Here are some examples of traditional themes that you can reuse to create your own game: the circus, farm animals, the pirates, princesses, the firemen, the knights, the dragons, football, magic, the sorcerers, cowboys… These are just ideas to guide you into your choice!
Here are some more original themes that you can put in place: the Olympic Games, a game on the theme of your city or your region, a scavenger hunt in town, or on France, a scavenger hunt based only on pictures or words…
Inventing your theme for a scavenger hunt is ideal for a unique birthday. You know, when you wish for the type of birthday that no one has ever done!
You know your children and their tastes better than anyone! When you think about them, make a list of the keywords that come to your mind… You will likely find a game theme from this list of word, a theme that your child will like!
Police investigations or riddles are a great success for older kids up to 12 years old. The principle is the same, the difference is the unfolding of the events. The scavenger hunt takes you to the search for the coveted treasure. The police investigation leads you to solving a mystery.
D- Game ideas for your riddles
The preparation of the events, of the riddles, and the challenges is probably the most delicate moment in the making of your scavenger hunt! Finding good ideas is not always easy; and you also have to adapt them to the age of your group of kids and format the sheets so that they correspond to the theme… With our games, you don’t have to worry about that, all you have to do is find hiding places and note them down on your follow-up sheet. If you want to make the games and riddles yourself, check out this list of ideas that you can use for your scavenger hunt. You will need to create and invent clues adapted to your scavenger hunt theme and follow a conductive thread! These challenges, riddles or events will give your game a rhythm. The kids will have to solve them one by one to finish their adventure!
Create a sentence with drawings. Each drawing interpreted by the child will give the sound of a syllable that will form a sentence once put together.
Take a picture or make a drawing of what you want to make the children guess; they will have to recreate it; cut it up into pieces… the number of pieces of the puzzle will depend on the age of the children…
It’s a riddle that combines knowledge of words with phonetics. Who hasn’t played this when they were young…?
My first is…
My whole being the word to guess.
4. Coded messages
There are plenty of ways to make them: you can get inspired by lots of different games to make guess a coded word or number to a child.
You can use the Morse code for example; with help from the corresponding table, the kids can find a word…
Use phone keyboards that have letters and numbers. To make them find a numbered code, use the letters that correspond to a number that the kids must find.
You can simply replace letters with numbers or with a drawing in a table. Then you show only the numbers or the drawing and the child has to find the corresponding letter. For the younger ones, you can do this with colours… Let your imagination find something… There are many methods that you can adapt depending on the age of the children…
5. traditional mazes and paths to follow:
These are no secret to anyone. Kids love to do these in game books. They develop their logic and observation skills. These games do not age and kids enjoy finding their way through mazes to finally solve the riddle.
6. sentences written backwards or “mirror sentence”:
The kids will need to place the sentence in front of a mirror to read it. They’re easy to prepare: you just need to write your sentence in Word, copy it to PowerPoint, reverse it and then print it.
These are enigmas with a short statement that the kids will need to find the answer to.
8. dots to connect :
This is a simple game and very entertaining for kids. The aim is to connect numbered dots in the right order to create a drawing. You can adjust the difficulty depending on the age of the kids: 15 dots will be enough for the smaller ones, around 50 for 6-7 year olds and as many as you want for 8 year olds and over. You know the kids best. The final drawing will be the solution for the enigma: you can make them guess an animal, a flower…
9. the differences games:
Choose a drawing in relation to the theme of your birthday game or your enigma. Copy it and change 5-7 elements of the drawing. The kids will have to find the differences in between the 2 drawings to complete the task. This type of game demonstrates the kid’s observation skills to continue the adventure. You can prepare it easily on Photoshop or you can download ready-to-play versions on Internet.
10. the missing object:
Select images on the theme of your game and paste them in a PowerPoint document. Then, duplicate the document but with a missing image… The kids will have to find which part is missing to complete the challenge!
11. As well as that type of game, it is important to include other “challenge” type games:
They are motor games. Switching between logic games and motor games is crucial to have a good balance of activities: you can use all the popular games: relays, egg and spoon race, dart throwing, ball throwing in a bucket, races, agility games…
These are examples of games that you can use in your scavenger hunt. There are many more. These are just the main games ideas to spark your imagination. As always, think about adapting the difficulty of the events depending on the abilities and the age of your child.
Print the enigmas; as many of each as the number of teams you have.
According to the type of scavenger hunt you are doing, prepare the picture, the map, the sentence to cut up; you will give one bit to the kids when they complete an event. Also, plan enough of each for all the teams.
You will have to hide the enigmas. If you have several teams, make sure you send the kids to different places and put their events in different order so that they don’t come across each other and find the enigmas of the opposite team.
If you have several teams, give them each a name and a colour and put that down on the enigma sheets, so that the teams know what events they’re supposed to do.
Don’t forget to note down where you have placed the enigmas, to be able to direct the kids towards the next one in a clear manner. You need to know where the kids should be going and send them to the next spot. If you are not clear with this, the kids won’t be either!
F- The end of the game
At the end of a scavenger hunt, the kids expect to find a TREASURE!
The last enigma will reveal to them the location of the treasure, either with a picture, a map, or a sentence they finally recomposed!
The treasure has to be hidden in a place the kids don’t have access to during the game. If you’re playing outside, then it could be inside. If you’re playing inside, it could be in a separate room, somewhere where the kids won’t be going during the game!
Also, it’s better if the kids can bury the treasure themselves if possible. If you do that, put the treasure chest in a bin bag to protect it; and provide enough shovels for all the kids to participate!
2. the end:
In police investigations there isn’t always a treasure to find; but the story still needs an ending. It’s the conclusion of your story, the congratulations to the kids for their work, it’s the solution to the enigma… For example, if they need to find culprit then you congratulate them, confirm that that person was indeed the culprit and what will happen to him. Thanks to you, he went to prison and…
You can give the kids a diploma or another kind of reward that is relevant to the theme of your game.
G- Extra advice
A scavenger hunt is a real story; you have to put the kids in the mood long before the game. To do that, nothing’s better than sending out invitations with the game theme. The kids will start to think about it and get their minds around the story. Discover our free invitations on our website, in our section “our games”. They are personalised according to your chosen birthday game theme. All you have to do is fill in the blanks, with your birthday date, name, age, his address or location of the party, as well as your details so that the parents can notify you of the presence of their child well in advance. This is very important for the kids, as they are very keen to hand out the invitations to their friends… Ideally, you want to give away the invitation around 3 weeks beforehand.
Little tip: Decorate the envelope of the invitation card with decorations on the theme of your scavenger hunt!
2. decorate the place:
whether your game is inside or outside, it is good to put some decorations around, in relation to your theme, and it also helps the kids get in the mood.
Think about giving a relevant name to your teams. You can also get a few accessories ready for the game:
for example, for the pirate theme: one team will wear pirate hats and the other one pirate belts, or eye patches.
That will engage the kids more.
Make sure you can differentiate the teams yourself, as well as the kids, so no one is confused. A paint mark on the cheek, or a coloured tape for each team will make it easier for you.
4. Making the teams:
Our birthday game kits allow you to have as many teams as you want. You can play with one, two, three or even four teams. Same applies if you decide to create your own birthday game. It’s up to you decide how many teams are appropriate for the numbers of kids you have. Ideally you would have 4 or 5 per team to ensure everyone can integrate and participate to the game. A 12-kid team would be a mess: they wouldn’t be able to get organised! To make the teams for your scavenger hunt, I suggest you write the names of all the children on bits of paper, in advance, and then organise a draw on the day of the birthday, done by the innocent hand of the “hero of the day”: the birthday kid will have the privilege to do this draw! That will add some suspense and the kids will love it! The draw is also a good way to ensure no one feels rejected: when you are in a group of kids, it’s really not fun to be picked last.
5. The best time to play:
Usually, your birthday game should last 4 hours.
On the day of the birthday, greet all the kids and let them play around and catch up with each other. Once they’ve all arrived, let them play freely for 15-30 minutes, then you can start your scavenger hunt.
Gather all the kids around, explain what they are going to do this afternoon, announce the rules and read out the beginning of the story to really get them into the game with the first event.
Our games are planned to be 1h30 long. The duration will vary depending on the hiding spots you choose and how hard they are to find.
2h have gone by… Plan out 1h to set up snack time, to have the birthday cake and open the presents.
You will then have 1 hour left waiting for the parents, where you can organise small games and activities, that you can find in our practical guide for birthday games. You have a large choice of games available there and you will be able to entertain all the kids !
6. Number of adults and their role:
The number of adults depends on the age of the kids and how many they are.
In your game you have a main spot (the place where you read out the beginning story), and an adult has to stay there so that the kids can come back to him if needed. Also, at the end of each event the kids will go back to the adult to validate their answers and go on to the next event. When there are challenges with a course or an agility game, the adult has to set it up and make sure it runs smoothly.
You need an adult to run the game and that can be enough for the older kids that can read well.
Otherwise, I advise for at least 2 adults: one at the main spot, validating the completion of events, guiding the kids towards the next step and organising the challenges. The other one follows the teams or the teams, help them if necessary, like reading out the enigmas, and puts them back on track if they’re struggling.
The adult has to be present but not overbearing; he has to intervene when necessary but let them think for themselves first. If an event proves to be difficult for them and too long, they risk getting bored and giving up.
The role of the adult is also to make sure everyone participates; everyone is different, but when someone is not integrated, you can suggest for him to do the next event; for example, if it’s a “win, lose or draw” game, suggest to the more isolated kid to do the drawing so he can feel valued
7. how to make your treasure chest?
This will be my last part: a couple of ideas to make the treasure… It’s very easy; you can buy a ready made one, but a cardboard box or a shoe box can do the trick.
Just cover it with aluminium foil and put a few stickers or a drawing on it, and that’s it.
You can fill it with candy, or small toys in relation to the game theme (pencils, key rings, balls…). If you want, include the diplomas and the traditional chocolate coins that will have great effect!
8. the diploma:
Don’t forget to prepare diplomas to reward the kids when they finish the game. You have to celebrate the discovery of the treasure! It will be a souvenir for them and they will be proud to show it to their parents when they come back!
Here we go, I think I’ve answered just about every question you could have on the organisation and set up of the scavenger hunts.
You now know how to make a treasure hunt for your kids.
They require preparation time, good ideas, and you will need to plan in advance because every doubt you have will bring another one!
Soak in the story so the kids can get in the mood too! The more at ease you are and the more you know the theme, the better the kids will get into the game.
I hope that this guide has been useful to you; you can also download our scavenger hunts, ready to play, because we know not everyone has the time or the patience to organise such events, and that’s fair!
For all of you who will jump into the creation, construction and elaboration of your own game, I wish you all the success and that the birthday of your child becomes a memorable moment!
After this intensive read, you are ready to organise your birthday game. Our games last for about an hour and a half… Yes, but after that?… To help you and the kids keep entertained while waiting for the parents, we’ve written a practical guide for birthday game ideas that will help you organise lots of smaller games, from the more traditional to the original, so that you can keep the kids busy until the end of your birthday party. Because kids never stop, our site has everything covered!
Have a good read!!!