Ideas for a children's pirate treasure hunt

Updated July 20, 2017

Children are fascinated with pirates. Planning a treasure hunt for children can keep them entertained for hours. If you are looking for a birthday party game or just a way to entertain the children in the neighbourhood on a Saturday afternoon, a treasure hunt is the perfect way to do it.

Written Clues

Pirate treasure hunts that use written clues are best for older children. The easiest way to develop a treasure hunt using written clues is to start at the end. Determine where the treasure will be hidden. Next, plan the route. The number of clues that you give will determine the length of the treasure hunt. If you want the children to finish quickly, give them four to five clues. If you would like them occupied for a longer period of time, give them more clues.

Make the treasure hunt interesting by making the clues into riddles. Some interesting clues to use are: "Mary, Mary quite contrary, how does your ____ grow?" The next clue would be hidden in the garden. "An __ a day keeps the doctor away." The next clue would be hidden beside a bowl of apples on the counter.

Picture Clues

It is easy for children to follow picture clues. Take pictures of different places throughout your house or backyard and print them. Hide a picture clue at each location. At the beginning of the treasure hunt, give the first picture to the birthday boy or a "captain." Make the final photograph a little more difficult by zooming in on an object such as the chain on a swing set or the spokes on a bicycle wheel.

Treasure Map

Children love following a treasure map, just like real pirates. Maps are actually easy to make. All you need is paper, pen, a used tea bag, paper towels and cooking oil.

On a piece of white paper, draw your map using landmarks such as a bird bath, a garden hose or a television. Tear the edges off the paper to make it look worn. Wet the tea bag and wipe both sides of the paper until it is wet. The paper will turn light brown. Crumble the paper into a ball and allow it to dry overnight. Place a small amount of cooking oil on a paper towel. Lightly wipe both sides with the oil. Remove excess oil with remaining paper towels.

Treasure Hunt for Younger Children

Children ages 3 and under may not be able to understand the concept of following a treasure map. They can still enjoy the adventure of hunting for treasure. Gather various "treasures" such as small toys or coins. Fill a bucket or tub with water and put the "treasure" in the bottom. Give each child a chance to scoop treasure out using a plastic shovel or a slotted spoon.


Instead of filling one large container with loose treasure, consider making a separate goody bag for each child. This ensures that all children receive the same amount of "loot."

If you planned a long treasure hunt, have a cooler of drinks and snacks hidden with one of the clues in the middle of the hunt. This allows children to rehydrate before completing the adventure.

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About the Author

Michelle Foster has been writing professionally since 1997, specializing in public relations. She also writes articles related to public education, which appear in her local weekly newspapers. Foster received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of South Carolina.