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  • Writer's pictureKate

Activity of the day: Treasure hunting!- it's a new series!

We've been having a bit of a treasure hunt sort of time:

It doesn't matter that the weather has taken a turn for the worse- treasure hunts can be waterproofed or done indoors.

With people of very different ages and abilities keen to join in here, we've spent a lot of time designing all sorts of treasure hunts, from hunts suitable for toddlers to create or complete to hunts that are great for older kids to set up and ones that are fun for adults to do.

There are so many options with treasure hunts that this really needs a short series to look into a whole lot of ideas. Hunts range from the classic "find the hidden items" style hunts to clue-based, map based and scavenger types. These can, of course, be combined in any way you like, giving a vast range of treasure hunts taking anywhere from no time at all to set up to weeks of preparation and anywhere from minutes to years to complete.

Starting off, we'll look at an option that's great for everyone to join in, can be set up in minutes and doesn't need much space. It's the classic, find the hidden items hunt.

What you need:

  • A collection of items, preferably not anything too precious to anyone. In this type of hunt, these are usually the treasure. Good items include coloured wooden or plastic blocks, conkers (as long as you're not hunting near a tree), plastic toys eg toy dinosaurs, wrapped food items eg chocolate or raisins, etc etc. You could also cut shapes out of card, old food containers and so on.

  • Somewhere to hide the items: A single room can be a great option for people who find hunting for things trickier- though it's incredible how many hard-to-find places there are even in a tiny room; a whole house or large outdoor area can be great for people who are keen on a challenge. Alternatively, for outdoor hunts on a walk, someone walking a little way ahead subtly dropping treasure can make an extremely effective hunt- provided the hunters don't spot what's going on!

What to remember:

  • It's always easier to hide items than it is to find them, as anyone who has ever lost keys or glasses on an empty table can verify. Partially hide items rather than fully squirrelling them away- or people will find them extremely difficult to find. Including you, when you almost inevitably need to find the last few at the end.

  • To avoid losing things, it's generally a really good idea to take photos of where you hide each item. This seems like a really daft idea until you've spent a few hours looking for the last two dinosaurs which really, really need finding by bedtime and you would have sworn were all hidden in really, really obvious places (see also, use items that aren't too precious to anyone...).

  • Small people are small. If you're tall, make sure you hide things low enough for small people to find them preferably without climbing on anything dangerous.

  • Some foods are dangerous to animals, eg. chocolate will poison dogs. Animals can also carry diseases dangerous to humans. If you're hiding food items make sure they're found quickly and ensure they're securely packaged so animals can't share them. Their noses tend to be a whole lot better at finding food than ours are...

  • Waterproof items for outdoor hunts are generally a good idea- grass can be surprisingly wet even on dry days.


While it's fun to just find the whole set of whatever-it-is that you've hidden, or see who can find the most items in a given time, these hunts are really versatile and can be expanded to make them more fun. There are loads of possibilities- here are a few of our favourites:

  • Turn it into an archaeological dig: I may have mentioned those dinosaurs. The time they got most lost (there were many) was when they first arrived. They were used in a birthday treasure hunt digging for "fossils" in a new sandpit. It wasn't a big sandpit, and a dozen dinosaurs should have been really easy to find and return to their bucket... But it took an amazingly long, very happy time, for them to eventually be discovered. Fortunately, the birthday child didn't know how many dinosaurs he was supposed to get as we didn't find the last until quite a few days later... This also works well in a small garden border, at the beach (make sure it's a small marked out area!) or in leaf litter in woodland (again, mark the area carefully).

  • Make a puzzle: Draw or print a picture and stick it onto card. Cut it into pieces, and hide the pieces. Making the picture an image of the real "treasure"- eg cake, a film to watch, an activity to do, story time etc can join the treasure hunt into the next activity smoothly.

  • Finding "sets": Turn the treasure hunt into a maths lesson- or perhaps a maths lesson into a treasure hunt. Coloured blocks like Duplo are great for this, or coloured shapes in different sizes (eg circle, triangle, square, star etc) cut out of paper or card.

This kind of hunt is great if you have lots of people taking part, as they can all be looking for slightly different things, avoiding the problem where the one most capable treasure hunter snaffles the lot within 5 seconds of starting.

At the start of the hunt, give each person a category to look for- eg find 5 big shapes, 5 blue shapes, 5 circles etc (make sure you've made enough of each so this is possible to avoid issues...). You can differentiate the task so it's suited to each person taking part without anyone really noticing- for example, only you will know how many of each shape there are, so you can give someone likely to struggle "big" shapes, knowing there are lots, another person "shapes with 5 sides", as there are fewer of these, while someone who is stronger at maths can be looking for "5 small blue shapes with a total of 30 sides".

With Duplo blocks or wooden blocks, the challenge can be to build a certain item- you can give them a picture or just describe what they'll need, eg. "use 10 pieces to build a house", "find 8 red blocks", "find Duplo blocks with a total of 24 studs on top".

Experience suggests that hiding Lego should only be done indoors, and then only very carefully as it's extremely good at hiding!

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