How to Create a Backyard Treasure Hunt

Customize Your Hunt

There are plenty of ways to personalize the basic treasure hunt. Some adjustments are logistical. You want all of your partygoers to feel involved and rewarded, so party size is a variable to consider. You'll want a copy of the clue for each child, if they're all working separately. If you're dividing them into teams, have one clue for each team. You could make a rule about rotating which hunter does the reading at each clue.

Think about age, too: For young hunters, maintaining interest can be tricky, so you might want to hide a little prize at each clue location to keep them excited.

Other adjustments are purely for fun. If your party has a theme, why not run it through the treasure hunt, too? A pirate theme is the most natural – eye patches for each hunter, clues with burnt edges, and a pirate-style treasure chest.

But other themes can work. For a fairy party, give each hunter a wand, sprinkle clues with glitter, and hide a bunch of wearable fairy wings as the treasure. They can wear them for the rest of the party and then take them home as party favors.

Hiding a map piece with each clue is fun, too. Each piece fits into a puzzle that turns into a finished map at the end, showing the location of the treasure.

To start off your hunt, gather the whole group together. You can weave a short story about pirates setting off to find buried treasure, for instance, or just straightforwardly announce that you're having a treasure hunt and explain how the game will work. Let the kids know there's a special prize at the end (or prizes for coming first, second and third). Then read off the first clue and let them go.

Author's Note: How to Create a Backyard Treasure Hunt

This article came along at a serendipitous time for me, since my daughter turns 4 in a month and we weren't sure what we'd do to celebrate. As soon as she heard "treasure hunt," she was in. ("I'll go get my shovel!") Soon after agreeing to the plan, though, it occurred to me this might require more time than I have – but as soon as I started researching I stopped worrying. There are tons of people out there who've posted amazing clues and creative extras (one woman talked about using Lego creations for clues), and even better, kids' Web sites that offer downloadable clue sheets that are basically fill-in-the-blank. So if you're interested in making this happen but are concerned with the effort level, don't be. Just look around the Web a little.

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  • Consumer Reports. "Kids' birthday parties: Have fun without busting your budget." Februrary 2012. (Aug. 6, 2013)
  • McCullough, Cas. "How to Create a Backyard Treasure Hunt, Minecraft Style." My Kids' Adventures. July 15, 2013. (Aug. 2, 2013)
  • Parents Magazine. "Printables: Treasure Hunt and Scavenger Hunt Games." (Aug. 2, 2013)
  • Martha Speaks. "Treasure Hunt." PBS Parents. (Aug. 2, 2013)
  • Riddle Me. "Sample Treasure Hunt Clues." June 16, 2012. (Aug. 8, 2013)
  • Wightman, K.L. "Writing Scavenger Hunt Clues: Ideas for the Treasure Hunt." K.L. Wightman. Jan. 14, 2013. (Aug. 8, 2013)
  • Williams, Jenny. "Backyard Treasure Hunting with Secret Codes." Wired. June 7, 2010. (Aug. 2, 2013)