Whether you’re young or not-so-young, adventures are always afoot in an indulgent game of treasure hunt.
Designed to be fun, thought-provoking, and adventuresome for all players, this unique game inspires us to use our minds … And, explore the environment around us to find a treasure of sorts by game’s end. Treasure hunts involve individual players or teams who try to be the first to find hidden objects or places by following a series of riddles or clues, or by using a treasure map.
Treasure hunts are gaining popularity and are making quite the comeback. They can be held indoors or outdoors and can be a great centerpiece for a children’s party (or an adult gathering), a fun and different way to occupy the kids on a rainy day (getting them unplugged from tech and plugged into their environment), or a great team-building exercise for corporate professionals.
Treasure hunts are often confused with scavenger hunts, but there is a difference between the two. While the treasure hunt objective is to find a hidden treasure at the end of the game, the scavenger hunt involves collecting a series of miscellaneous objects that have you hid.
Treasure Hunts for Kids
Kids need activities in their lives. Games that remind them that fun and adventure don’t just come from inside apps, online, or on TV. The more the kiddos are up, out, and exploring, the more empowered they are, curious and involved later in life. Treasure hunts are an excellent way to get them active and using their minds in a constructive, exciting way.
Organizing a treasure hunt for a group of kids can seem like a daunting task, but thankfully, the Internet makes it easier for us. There are lots of resources out there that help with some really great ideas that the little ones will love. Children’s treasure hunts can be designed in so many ways: by theme, use of costumes, individual or team players, use of riddles or pictures as clues…it goes on and on. For children too young to read, use pictures of each spot where the next clues will be hidden. For those who are older, you can use printed words or even riddles or trivia questions to challenge them to thinker harder and more creatively. Online you can find a treasure trove of clue sheets, questions, riddles, pictures, codes, and more that will keep them on their toes.
Kids love their books, movies, cartoons, and other activities, so why not double the fun for them by using a treasure hunt theme? Searching for hidden items related to SpongeBob SquarePants, for example, can be a delight for mini SpongeBob fans.
Take Your Treasure Hunt Outdoors, and Get Creative
Outdoor hunts are a great way to get the kiddos out of the house. Outside, into the yard, the neighborhood, park, or garden and off the devices. It’s a great way to explore the local area. You can make your own authentic-looking treasure map using trees or other geographic landmarks as reference points, and let the kids go exploring. An easy way to do a treasure map is by simply printing out a map from Google Maps. If your older kids are venturing out into the neighborhood on their hunt, of course, take precautions. Make sure they are aware of the proper road safety rules and other urban safety requirements before they begin. Make sure they have a cell phone with them, too.
For the actual treasure, you can get creative. It can be as simple as filling a box with some crinkle paper and coins or candy. Or, a more advanced theme-related treasure, like an epic SpongeBob toy. Of course, every child wants to be a winner. So, it’s a good idea to have a selection of smaller prizes for runners-up; or one big prize that can be shared by the whole group.
When you go to construct your hunt, the easiest way to go about it is to, first, figure out where you’re going to hide the treasure. Then design your clues leading away from that location, working backward. You should write yourself a crib sheet of locations, so you won’t forget where you’ve hidden all the clues. It’s also a good idea to do a run-through of the hunt first. This makes sure all clues are where you left them and that you wrote clues correctly on your crib sheet. Also, having a few adults on hand can help keep the kids going in the right direction.
Treasure Hunts for Adults
It’s not just for kids. Adult treasure hunts can be a fun way to spend an evening with friends. They are also great team-building exercise for your staff. Creating clue ideas for adults can be really fun and can be as simple as using anagrams or a treasure map. Or, more complex, using ideas that get the brain moving, such as Cryptex puzzles or logo recognition.
Some companies host corporate treasure hunts, or you can organize one in your office yourself. It’s a fantastic way to bring your team together. They can bond, and get to know each other in a fun atmosphere. This lets your staff know you are investing in their morale, making them feel appreciated and valued. Create clues that reinforce company information and help people hone their problem-solving skills.
Other Types of Treasure Hunts
There is a plethora of online treasure hunts for those seeking some digital fun. Usually, players find clues and visit various online sources or physical locations to solve riddles and challenges. Some offer quite substantial prizes. Geocaching is a fast-growing type of high-tech outdoor treasure hunt where players follow GPS coordinates in an attempt to find a “geocache” or “cache” hidden at that location. Caches are hidden all over the world by fellow players. They put together a weatherproof container of trinkets, a logbook and pen or pencil, and sometimes a disposable camera. The container can be hidden anywhere outdoors, such as behind a tree or in an urban area. GPS coordinates of these containers are posted on one of several websites for fellow geocachers to follow. One of the most popular sites is Geocaching.com, but there are others as well.
Somewhat similar to Geocaching is letterboxing, another type of treasure hunt. Participants seek out hidden waterproof letterboxes by following clues that are posted online on various letterboxing sites. They then record their discovery in a personal journal using a rubber stamp that’s part of the letterbox. Players also have their own personal stamps that they use to stamp into the letterbox’s logbook. There are two major Letterboxing websites: Letterboxing.org (aka Letterboxing North America) and Atlas Quest.
Real-Life Treasure Hunts
You may already have some “real-life treasure” of your own without even knowing it! Millions of dollars in unclaimed property is returned to its rightful owners each year. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), a website that lets people in every state search for unclaimed properties, defines unclaimed property as follows:
Unclaimed property (sometimes referred to as abandoned) refers to “lost money.” Accounts at financial institutions or businesses that have no activity, or contact with the owner, for a year or more. Common forms of unclaimed property include savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends or payroll checks. They can also be refunds, traveler’s checks, trust distributions, even unredeemed money orders or gift certificates (in some states). Others include insurance payments or refunds, or life insurance policies. Then there are also annuities, certificates of deposit, customer overpayments, utility security deposits, and even mineral royalty payments. Believe it or not, some are for the contents of safe deposit boxes.
Florida Treasure Hunt, Arkansas Treasure Hunt, and the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt are well-known sites for these respective states, but searches can be conducted in every state, and MissingMoney.com will allow you to search multiple states at once. This could be a fun rainy-day activity for the kids — having them assist with your online search for unclaimed cash. Then, you can split them in the booty! Well, after redeeming it, you can all spend the money on a family outing. The kiddos would love being a part of this real-life hunt for treasure.
Not Just for Pirates! Plan Your Hunt and Find yer’ Booty
Some museums and art galleries host treasure hunts for children. These make wonderful locations for themed treasure hunts for kids aged six and up. Check online for local museums and galleries with organized trails or treasure hunts for the little ones.
Treasure hunts are challenging and fun exercises in working together and exploring your environment. We learn new things about our friends, our colleagues, and our environment that we didn’t know before. They challenge our minds and open our eyes to things we might not have noticed in our normal, everyday lives. They’re a fun way to take the time to appreciate some of the things hidden in plain sight.