The single most important factor in developing treasure-hunt clues is the age of your hunters. The most creative clues in the world won't count for much if the kids have no idea how to solve them.
So keep your audience age in mind as you contemplate the clue options. There are many. Each clue need only point to a location -- the hiding spot of the next clue -- so something as simple as a literal drawing or as complex as a 100-word riddle work equally well. A riddle can offer older kids a fun challenge, especially if they're working in groups and can work it out together. A drawing like an arrow is a nice choice for pre-readers, although you can also position a helper at each clue to read it aloud.
For instance, let's say you hide a clue in some red tomato plants. Possible clues include:
- Drawings – A tomato, a splotch of red, a jar of ketchup, or "toe" + "May calendar page" + "toe."
- Riddles – "I am behind something red," "Find me where ketchup begins," or "Your next clue is hiding behind a fruit. You might think it's a vegetable, though; lots of people do."
- Word puzzles – "Unscramble the letters OMATOT to find the spot," or "Find a word in all these letters and you'll see the goal much better" (a word-find with "tomato" embedded).
- Bits of material from the next clue location – A tomato flower, leaf or stem (great for pre-readers).
You could also visit one of the many Web sites offering premade ones. Lots of people have already gone to the trouble of creating age-appropriate clues, some of them fill-in-the-blank that cut the time down to practically nil.
Got your clues? Got your treasure? Put each one in its hiding spot, and you have your treasure hunt! You can stop here if you like and have a perfectly entertaining party activity. If you're up for it, though, you can also take some extra time to customize your hunt for specific party traits.