Monday, January 23, 2012

Treasure Hunt Birthday

What's better than pizza and a movie?

Photo credit: D. Sharon Pruitt
Better than pizza, a movie, ice-cream and cake, and another movie.

Even better than pizza, a movie, ice-cream and cake, another movie, popcorn, and another movie.

Those sound like a typical tween or teen party. It’s easy planning, not real expensive, and the kids like it, so why not?

Because it can be: So. Much. More. Fun.
Here's the deal:

The setting: When we lived in Bogota, we lived in a gated community of 75 houses inside a gated community of 900 units. Most of the time we were there anywhere from 2 to 5 other missionary or Christian families lived in the larger community. This was great as our kids had carpools for school, classmates who (sometimes) remembered to bring textbooks home, and friends.
Our neighborhood in Bogota
We liked it because we had friends, too.

One of the things friends do for friends is keep secrets. Specifically treasure hunt secrets—also known as clues.

The idea: We had treasure hunt parties for each of our four kids while living there.  

It took more planning and work than pizza and a movie, but it was just as much fun for me as it was for the kids. Plus, it gave them some exercise, a chance to talk, a need to think, and a lot of laughs.

The plan: I would plan for 2 or 3 teams of kids—usually 3 or 4 on a team. Then I figured out where I would hide the clues and wrote up enough for each team. Usually they all went to the same places in the same order, but started at different points in the hunt. This made writing clues and keeping track of things a bit easier.

For example: everyone would go from
                Brougher’s house to
                            The playground to
                                        The back fence to
                                                    Afanador’s house to
                                                                The guard house
But one team would start at Brougher’s, one at the back fence, and one at the guard house. The tricky part was to get the right team’s clue for The Hidden Treasure in the right ending point. It took a little thought. But, hey, I've been coordinating a family of 6 for years! I managed. 

Writing the clues was fun.

Sometimes I wrote a decidedly uninspired but funny poem like this:

There once was a lady so able
Who always, always was cheerful,
At her house you’ll find
The next clue of this kind
This wonderful lady principal.

(Mrs. Afanador was the director of the school where my children attended.)

Or a hint like this:

Up and down
Up and down
Where would you go
To go nowhere
But up and down?
That is where you will find your next clue.
Be sure to look high and low.

(The teeter-totter)

Some were math like this:

Go to Sector 2 x 8 – 11; House 4 + 9 – 8 + 6 – 5

Or a step counting clue like this:

Start coming out the Fleming’s front door.
Walk to the street. Turn right. (Note that these were not real streets, just the driving area inside the community.)
Take 20 normal steps.
Turn right.
Take 25 giant steps. Stop.
Take 3 large sideways steps.
Take two twirl-around steps forward.
Ask the man nicely for your team’s clue.
He is watching and will send you back to start over if you do not take the right kind of steps!

(This was to the guard house.)

Or word jumble clues:

Go to ­­­___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___  (ctroes) ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___  (neelev) to the white ___ ___ ___ ___ ___  (cefne) by the ___ ___ ___ ___ (teag) to the ___ ___ ___ ___ ___  (alnca).
* (Answers below)

Or a verse clue:

When you get to the place, look for: Matthew 6:21

The sign marking "the spot" would be a heart that says, "Yours."

I adjusted the difficulty of the clues to the ages of the kids. I also made sure each team had at least one really enthusiastic person and one child who knew the neighborhood. If they were grade school age, I had an adult or responsible older teen accompany each one—maybe on a bicycle so they could keep up. 

Another fun part was making them do something before they could get their clue. When they got to someone’s house they might have to

  • sing a children’s song with motions in front of the house
  •  “ride” all together on a broom up and down in front of the house while neighing
  • wash the front window to the owner’s satisfaction
  • do 25 jumping jacks while counting off loudly

The “treasure” wasn’t usually anything big—a box of candy or other goodies. The point was the fun along the way!

The event: Since Jim was always home in the afternoon, but had meetings in the evenings, he'd be out there to keep an eye on the kids and help if they couldn't get a clue right. I can remember being back home getting things ready for the next part of the party and absolutely itching to get out and watch the kids. As soon as I could I'd hop a bike to get to where they would have to sing a song or do cartwheels to join the hilarity.

You don't have to live behind two gates to do this (let's face it, you probably don't live in a third world city with 8 million people and one of the highest crime rates in the world!) but be creative about finding a safe place to do this. It is possible.

When they got back they were ready to settle down (a bit) for something to drink and the present opening. Then we had lunch or dinner or just cake and ice cream.

And then, yeah, probably a movie.

*Answer: Go to SECTOR ELEVEN to the white FENCE by the GATE that goes to the CANAL.



  1. What an interesting way to celebrate! Maybe I should have known this two weeks ago! We could have hidden clues all over the 100 acre woods! :)

    1. I'm sure they would have had fun with that! A tad cold, though!



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