Kids love treasure hunts and it doesn’t matter if you play them at birthday parties or just for fun. It is almost impossible to have a bad time with a scavenger hunt. Like my Italian friend Paola says about pizza: Even a bad pizza makes a good dinner.
Here are 4 reasons why you should create a scavenger hunt for kids:
5 Things you should think about before you start planning your scavenger hunt for kids
Before you start creating riddles and clues, sit back for a moment and think about what the treasure hunt should look like. Maybe you need to make some special adjustments to your scavenger hunt or perhaps you want to organize a complete theme party?
#1 What style should the hunt be – scavenger hunt or treasure hunt?
Technically, there is a slight difference between a scavenger hunt and a treasure hunt but there are many hybrid versions which combine the best features of both.
A treasure hunt leads you step by step towards a treasure chest, while in a scavenger hunt you receive a complete list of riddles or clues in the beginning.
Or in other words:
Do you want to do a step-by-step treasure hunt with the hidden treasure as the finale? Or do you want to give the kids a list with tasks that they have to complete.
But don’t worry, we’re here to help you create both and you can use all the information on this page for both kinds of games.
#2 How many kids take part in a treasure hunt?
Before you start working on your treasure hunt, you should know the rough number of kids who will participate. Depending on this it might be worth it to make groups.
Up to 7 kids can play well in one group. However, if you want to have 8 or more children take part then it is best to split the group up with 4 kids on each team.
The easiest way to create a scavenger hunt for kids in more than one group is to create each riddle twice and hide it in a different location.
If you select the teams yourself, make sure that both groups are equally strong.
#3 How long should a treasure hunt for kids last?
The length of the scavenger hunt depends on the age of the kids and the amount of time you want to spend playing. Small children can’t concentrate as long. They get tired easily and get cranky. 40-60 minutes is a good amount of time which allows for about 6 clues or riddles.
If you have older kids you can make the scavenger hunt up to 90 minutes, therefore create 2-4 additional riddles for them.
#4 How do I keep the treasure hunt safe?
The adults who are supervising the kids in the scavenger hunt have an important role in keeping the kids safe. One adult should accompany the kids and watch out for potential dangers. Rule #1 is safety, don’t risk anybody’s health! The adult should
- create a safe environment
- watch out for hazards
But the adults should also make sure that the game is fair, the teams are as equal as possible, and most importantly, make sure that all of the kids can have a good time. Some ways to guarantee this are:
- Tell the older kids not to give away the answers immediately
- Let the smaller ones have a turn
- Give everyone a chance to answer a question
- Make it a TEAM-effort
#5 Do you want to make a whole theme-(birthday)-party?
It is very easy to create a themed scavenger hunt. Some of the classic themes are pirate and princess treasure hunts, but you can also choose a wild-west or wizard-school setting. Everything, that makes kids happy is allowed.
For some themes it is important to include both boys and girls in the scavenger hunt. If you are doing a pirate treasure hunt (or even a pirate birthday party) then think about how you can include the girls. Maybe you can create a strong female character, for example a group of fearless pirate-women so that girls feel included too!
Scavenger hunt riddles for kids
Riddles and clues are at the heart of the treasure hunt and should be chosen carefully with regard to the age of the kids. This is not an easy task, especially if you plan on making the hunt for a group of kids of various ages.
Kids that are still in kindergarten can perfectly solve easy counting and drawing riddles whereas kids in school can also do some math and decrypt secret languages.
Don’t underestimate the abilities of teens, they need tricky riddles, like matchstick puzzles.
And if a riddle is too difficult, you can always give some hints to keep the treasure hunt going.
Inspired but need more ideas? Visit our complete list of scavenger hunt clues.
Treasure hunt team games
It is important to include every single kid in the treasure hunt. And the easiest and best way to achieve this are team games. Include games which get the kids to work and bond together. Children as well as teenagers can learn to communicate and solve tasks as a team.
Our idea for a pirate treasure hunt: “The sinking pirate ship”
Take a carpet or a big tarp. This is the pirate’s ship and all around there is water. All kids must be on the tarp and are not allowed to fall down in the water for 5 seconds. If they manage that, fold the tarp in the middle and make it smaller. Now, the kids have to be on the tarp for another 5 seconds. Keep on folding the tarp again and again and encourage the kids to support each other.
The hiding places
You can either tell the kids the hiding places (e.g. you say “the next riddle is hidden at the fence or “now go 30 steps to the east”) or you describe the next place as a riddle. For example, if you have hidden the next riddle under a big green couch you can say “The next riddle you will find under a big green object.” Alternatively, you can describe the place in words. Here are some suggestions:
- I live in the forest and grow high towards the sun. (tree)
- Inside of me, there is always winter. (fridge)
- I collect letters and newspapers. (post box)
- Everybody steps on me, when they enters. (doormat)
How to choose the hiding places?
If the kids are highly energetic, it is a good idea to keep a large distance between the hiding places. The place you describe doesn’t have to be concrete but can also be an area where the next treasure hunt clue is hidden.
If you say: “The next riddle is hidden under a tree”, then the kids will search all of the trees around the place. Every kid (not just the fast ones) has a chance to find the next clue.
Every time you hide a clue, keep the safety of the kids in mind. Don’t hide clues close to roads, train tracks or other dangerous places. Also avoid places where kids can fall from (e.g. up in a tree).
How to make a treasure for a hunt?
The treasure at the end is the goal of the scavenger hunt. It will make the kids happy.
What should go in the treasure:
Traditionally, the treasure consists of sweets and chocolate, but also little presents like colouring books or keychains are perfect for the kids.
Nothing like this in the house? Once we organised a spontaneous treasure hunt at a friend’s wedding. All the kids came together. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any candy or chocolate and we did not want to use the wedding cake as the treasure, so we found some fruit, cut it into pieces, and hid it. We weren’t sure if the kids would like apples and pears…
When the kids found the treasure we were really surprised how much the kids loved it! We were a little confused, but probably the kids would have loved anything we put in the chest.
Our Tip: The moment the treasure is found, the kids sometimes start arguing about it. To avoid this, you can make the equal distribution of the treasure a task in and of itself. You have 6 kids playing? Then put 6 pieces of candy and 12 chocolate coins in the chest and ask the kids to share it equally. The children will do so, just to show, how well they can count already.
(Thank you Bernd for the idea!)
How do I make the treasure chest?
Be creative and take some time, it is really easy to make a treasure chest. The most convenient way is to use an old shoebox, paint it colourfully and turn it into a real chest.
If you lack the time, you can also hide the chest in a place like the washing machine or in a drawer that you have emptied out before the treasure hunt.