Treasure hunts are a fun activity that you can plan for people of various ages, and interests, for a group to do or for an individual. I am no veteran of treasure hunts, but a few have featured in my family life and I always enjoyed them. The most frequent occurrence was when I was much younger and my aunt would hide Easter eggs around the garden for me to find 😋 I also recall one of my uncles using a Treasure Hunt to propose to his woman.
I set up a Treasure Hunt for Nick’s birthday, and I have to say he loved it. I wasn’t aware before, but he had only done one hunt before this, and that had been arranged for him by his Dad – for a Christmas day bicycle. Apparently, it was a disaster – ending in tears and the bike having to be retrieved after 8 year old Nick figured out what the gift was but couldn’t figure out where it was… It’s just as well this nugget of info was withheld or it may have put me off.
Whenever you prepare something like this – KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE! The hunters and the occasion for the hunt will determine what you do and how involved it needs to be. If you’re stashing away Easter Eggs for young children to find, you will need to put in less time and effort into your prep as you want those eggs found and gone fairly quickly, while the kids are still interested.
By all means, learn from my mistakes. I’ll give what pointers I can based on my hunt. It took me 4 evenings of planning, thinking up clues and preparing the clues around work, and life where most of my evening is typically spent with the person I was planning for. With some planning, it can take you a lot less time. I’ve separated my key points into
- Number of clues
- Types of clues
- Location of clues
- Placing the clues, and
Where you are will affect where you can hide your clues and how tricky you can mat them. A Treasure Hunt around the home maybe easier to put together because of convenience and you knowledge of your living space. Alternatively, a hunt out and about can be great fun if everyone has a bit of local knowledge. Be mindful of hazards like roads (for both young and old) bodies of water, and opening hours.
The location of your hunt will also likely determine how far in advance you can prepare. It may be easy and tempting to set up a home treasure hunt a day in advance, but if you live with the person- they probably know all the clever hiding places to put things. It also more likely that a clue will be discovered while going about your usual life. If you decide to prepare a hunt outside of the house, however, be careful – people are nosy! Also, don’t do something silly like hiding a bag in park. That’s asking for trouble in more ways than one. You don’t want to lose your clues or your treasures.
LENGTH OF HUNT and NUMBER OF CLUES
This can be determined by the occasion, or how much time you want to take up. Birthdays can easily translate to a set number of clues – for better or worse. 10 clues for. 10 year old would be easier to set than perhaps 72 clues for a 72 year old… I repeat, Know Your Audience. Consider their attention span 😆 and the purpose of your Treasure Hunt. Consider how long it may take to figure out the clues – it’s obvious and as clear as daylight to you where the clue leads because you know the answer. It might not be that straight forward to your Hunter. Be cautious of ambiguous clues that may lead to different locations, or clues too close to each other as your hunters may skip one!
TYPES OF CLUES
This is where all the fun lies for the organiser, as far as I’m concerned. Your clues will be restricted and determined by your Hunters and how complicated you want it to be. Clues can be anything! For my hunt,I had QR Codes, movie quotes, logo recognition, quizzes, encrypted messages, riddles with some in a foreign language so translation was necessary, messages that could only be read in a mirror, clues that old mean nothing to anyone else but us, and even some that my Hunter had to call the pets for! This really comes down to how much time you can put in and how well you know your Hunters.
I found a few websites which were great with this:
Treasure Hunt Ideas was really helpful. This site was great for getting ideas and was a one stop shop for ALL the clue types I mentioned. For some items , I was restricted to their stock clues (only because I was growing weary and no longer wanted to make my own clues up) however, some of their generators allow you to type in the clue you want and they create what you need. You can even make Morse code clues! This site is also great because you can create everything using their tools without having to download or pay for anything, and all you have to do is print it out. They will even tell you where to put each clue and give instructions to help make sure you place your clues in the correct order.
Riddles and Answers was also great for stock riddles of common clue locations. I used their code generators as well. I liked this site because there were lots of clues and suggested answers which have been provided by users. This does result in some riddles and answers having hundreds of submissions, while others have none. The clues ranged in difficulty, so if you’re looking for a jump start, this may be a place to look.
CLUE LOCATION and PLACING YOUR CLUES
How much do you want your Hunter’s head to hurt? How tricky are you going to be? Do you dare to place a clue in a kettle, or to freeze it in a block of ice? Make sure your clues are hidden but accessible. I lost a clue to a floor board during prep-and we lost another one which was perched on a bicycle but likely got blown away by the wind. I’ve got pictures of some of my clues here so you can see how easily that was done! Don’t forget know out take into account your hunters height. If you have some Green Giants taking part, take advantage of that and hide clues away in hard to reach places, or if they are Gardening Gurus, find out some species names and hide your clues near their favourite plant. The more you can make the clues unique to the hunter, the better the experience is for them.
Make sure you place your clues as late as possible to avoid the, going missing or being found before you’re ready. Arrange for an hour or so away from your Treasure hunter to give you time to stash the clues away. After all the time and effort you’ve put in, you don’t want to make it easier than necessary by letting them see where you’ve placed things.
I have an uncle who proposed using a treasure hunt. His wife-to-be thought she was only looking for her 2 birthday presents. When I put this together, Nick knew he would have one big gift but ended up with little items along the way. Seasonal hunts like Easter Egg Hunts by definition MUST have a multiple treasures….(“Rumbie Rules”), but this is up to you and your budget. Your Hunters will likely appreciate the thought and effort regardless of the size of Treasure at the end.
TREASURE HUNT HACKS
- Have a second copy of your clues – either in the same format so you can hand them to your Hunter when they have figure out the clue and the next one is missing, or in a list so you state what is supposed to happen next.
- If necessary make it clear at the beginning of your hunt that the path may cross over, or that once you leave a room, there will be no going back. This can be helpful in making sure that Hunters don’t misinterpret clues, or find clues in the wrong order.
- Number your clues. Hunters will know they are on the right track, and if they are impatient, will know how much further to go.theres nothing like finding clue umber 11 knowing that you only have 4 to go. Or 14…
- Stationery is your friend- flash cards (study aids) and double sided dots made this experience for me. Will you print the clues out or write them out? If you are playing outside, will your clues survive the elements?
- A definite benefit was having no deadlines. One of the treasures was a dinner reservation, but even in the worst case scenario, we would have made it as it was one of the first treasures. Consider things like that when planning start times and how lon the hunt will take.
- Enjoy putting it together. He knew I was up to something, and I was excited about it, so when he eventually got going, I like to think that he couldn’t help but enjoy it – probably worrying about my sanity the entire time!
Have you organised a Treasure Hunt? What was the occasion? How did it go? Tell me about it in the comments and get an IET mention! If you have comments and suggestions, it would be great to hear from you too- all tips to make that next hunt that little bit better welcome!
‘Til next time,
Be good, or be good at it.