Outdoor treasure hunts are great entertainment. Almost any age children will enjoy the challenge. Marking out your course is almost as much fun as searching for the treasure. Pick out neighbourhood landmarks that are familiar, but not too obvious. Write your clues creatively enough to make them think, but so the clues are not too obscure. Usually more than three clues, but less than 10 is a good idea.
References from literature or pop culture can make great clues. Choose a book or movie that your party goers are familiar with and build your clues around the characters, locations and events in the story. Choose items that rhyme with the landmarks you have selected. As an alternative, use familiar nursery rhymes or children's characters for a younger party. Rhyming clues will aid the younger ones in quickly deciphering the clues. Rhyme tea with tree, for example. Use a simple map to show them where they're going. For older kids, use verses from popular songs as your clues. Make sure it's something most of the guests know well enough to sing along with. Write the final piece as a rhyme to the verse containing the location of the next clue.
Add a physical element with athletic or cooperative actions that must be completed to get your next clue. Take a hint from The Amazing Race and include a few clues that must be acted on. Make sure that you balance the physical challenges with brain teasers to slow the jocks down a bit. Another way to do this is hiding the clues where guests must work to retrieve them. Placing clues all at ground level, in plain sight is easy, but not very exciting. Or, create teams and make them work together by forcing them all to hold hands in a line when searching for clues. It will even out the playing field.
Puzzles that require a bit of thought can make one or more clues a bit more challenging. For example, make each clue a word puzzle. Utilise simple three- to six-word crossword puzzles, wheel of fortune type clues or other common word puzzles. Other ideas include: write your clues in pictures; make your teams solve a charade before moving on to the next clue; or use a simple substitution code where a symbol, number or other letter represents each of the letters in your message. The easiest way to create the code is to move the letters of the alphabet one space to the right or left (B=A, C=B, and so on).
Almost Instant Treasure Hunts
Believe it or not, there is software that will create your treasure hunt for you. Just input information about items in and around your home, your child's age and other basics and the software will provide you with printable clue sheets. If you don't want to buy software, try a website that provides rhymes with just about anything. (See Resources 2) You can also gain visual puns online that lead you to everyday objects. (See Resources 3) Work these puzzles into your clues, or combine them with some of the other ideas presented here. Happy hunting.