Setting up Another Treasure Hunt for Kids
Discovering buried treasure is every fourth-grader's dream afternoon.
By Rob Cockerham |
Another treasure hunt!
I love setting these up. My son was planning a party for his 10th birthday, so I prepared a treasure hunt for the occasion.
I didn't have a treasure chest, so I whipped one up out of a pine board.
I used a 6' pine 1x6 and cut it into four 14" pieces and two 7" end caps.
I screwed them together to make a box, and added hinges and a hasp. Simple!
I planned to bury the chest locked with a combination padlock.
For a four-digit code they would have to unscramble, I used my 3D printer to print up chunky number parts.
Numbers are pre-set shapes in TinkerCAD, so creating them was easy. I overlapped the numbers a bit, so they wouldn't have to guess the proper order of the digits. All the number parts are shown above.
I filled, locked and buried the chest in the backyard. I found a place which wasn't obvious, but had some landmarks around it. It is surprisingly hard to locate something that is buried, even when it is just a few inches deep. I was also careful to find a place where the disturbed earth would be camoflaged when the kids started looking later that week.
The treasure in a kids treasure hunt isn't actually very important. The real reward is the hunt itself. HOWEVER, you've got to have enough treasure for each kid to get something, even if it is a tiny token. In the past I've done sunglasses. Gold chocolate coins are pretty good too, if you can find them.
On Saturday night, the kids arrived. They didn't know about the treasure hunt until there was a mysterious knock at the front door.
There was no one outside, just an envelope with a mysterious message:
And that's all it takes!
When you get a message like this, you immedately start looking for a fake dictionary!
With eight sets of eyes searching, they found the fake dictionary quickly. It was a book with no pages, just a hidden compartment.
Inside the dictionary were two lists of hints. "In the Back" and "Not in the Back".
In the back:
- Roof Rain Exit
- South of Stump
- Seventh Brick
- Road Donut
- Collapsible Dry Keeper
- Beast Flower
- Cold Jar
- Hose Closet
- Boulder Leaner
- December 25 Skeleton
Not in the back:
- Corked 5
- Porch Pie
- Give Thanks G
- Eight Seater
The backyard hints led to orange plastic parts of numbers. The front on house hints led to pieces of the map.
Fourth graders tend to swarm. When one had an idea about what a hint meant, they would shout it outloud, "SOUTH OF THE STUMP!" Then start running toward the stump. All the other kids would run after that kid, but that technique rarely led to a discovery.
After a few false starts as a group, the cleverest kids started attacking the list on their own, figuring out clues and keeping their thoughts to themselves.
My favorite hint was "Porch Pie" for the front yard.
You can probably guess that the guess had something to do with the pumpkins, and so did the kids. They expected the clue to be placed under a pumpkin, but only when they carefully examined all of the pumpkins did they find that one of them had a door cut into the side with a clue inside!
The best reaction came from Zac when he puzzled out that "Collapsable Dry Keeper" was a hint referring to the patio umbrella they were all standing under.
I could see the gears in his brain turning, then he realized the answer, blurted out "THIS!", looked up to see the clue in the umbrella ribs, instantly executed a box jump up onto the picnic table and snatched the clue from its perch. It was awesome!
As the pink number pieces were collected, some kids stuck with them to re-arrange them on the tabletop. They could tell they would form numbers, but they had no idea what the numbers were for.
The map segments were pretty easy to piece together, but no one was sure what was a tree and what was a table.
The kids trying to figure out which direction was South.
Within about 30 minutes they had found the treasure chest.
The dangerous part of this project was when one kid is weilding a shovel, while the other seven kids are poking their little hands around in the dirt.
There was an overwhelming urge to be the first kid to:
- Figure out where to dig
- pull the chest out of the ground
- open the chest
With some coaching, they were able to unearth and extract the treasure box with their fingers intact.
They quickly noticed the padlock and ran back to the table to figure out which numbers they had revealed so far.
Kids had found all of the pink number pieces, but hadn't figured out how to put them together. One team of kids rearranged pieces and another team started testing combinations.
Eventually they figured out that the 538 was one chunk, which meant that it had to be 538_ or _538. My son started brute-forcing the answer, dialing through all of the possible iterations.
They got it!
The lock snapped open and the lock came off with a message from Captain Crosseyes.
Inside were eight laser pointers, eight sets of mittens and a bag of ring pops! Victory! Treasure hunt complete!
They divided the loot and immediately started blinding each other with high-intensity light.
Setting up a treasure hunt isn't too much work, and the payoff is incredible. Fourth graders are the perfect demographic for these hunts, and even a kid who doesn't find a single clue is going to have fun.