When I was 12 I became obsessed with this book:
It became a touchstone book in my life. The story deals with a family of six children and how they move into an old house and adjust to life in the city while being stalked by a crazy man, finding secret rooms, and trying to figure out old treasure hunt clues.
Besides a big old house and a big family, there was a treasure hunt. It made such an impact on me I started writing my own treasure hunts! I’m still writing them 26 years later.
My best treasure hunt turned into my own book, “The Secret of Sterling House.” This book is about everything I loved about old houses, families, mysteries, clues, and kind of spooky things. made into an exciting mystery adventure!
I am pleased to tell you that it has had a re-vamp and it will be on sale Saturday, March 7 in Kindle or paperback on Amazon! Your purchases help me keep this blog going and keep me making more content for you! Please consider buying my books and leaving reviews!
Now back to the hunts!
My children and my students love treasure hunts! I get requests for them about three times a year. Here I’m going to show you how to make your own.
1. Concentration Is Important
First, pick a time when you have full concentration to give to writing clues. Words seem to fly right out of my brain when I have to think and rhyme at once.
2. Pick the Objects You Will Hide Clues In/On
Second, decide how many clues you want to make and what objects they will be hidden in/on. I try to keep in mind the child I am writing the clues for; the things they like are a special touch. Picking things that have interesting memories helps your hunter feel special and they will enjoy remembering fun things you have done in the past.
3. Keep Your Audience In Mind
For older and more experienced kid hunters I typically do 10-12. For younger ones 5 is good. For little ones- 3 to 4 clues is enough. Also, for older hunters I hid the clue well in the objects- a little extra challenge. For very young hunters I make the clues obvious when they find the object, otherwise they pass it and go on looking somewhere else 75% of the time.
4. Hunts Can Be Part of Celebrations
Typically I do a birthday treasure hunt each year for my children and another in the summer when school’s been out a while and they are bored. Slumber parties are great times to do them and our Girl Scout troop has had a lot of fun with them too.
Sometimes, we’ve even done a themed hunt! When we came back from staying at Universal Studios a few years ago I did a Harry Potter themed hunt with horcruxes, pumpkin juice and pumpkin pasties. That was a lot of fun!
In our house we typically celebrate a child if they have finished reading a particularly hard book for their age. I love to throw a “book party” where we cook something from the book (see Jane Brocket’s wonderful book Turkish Delights and Treasure Hunts), watch the movie if there is one, have a special dinner and sometimes a treasure hunt!
Every spring in my first grade classroom, after we finished reading Trapped in Death Cave by Bill Wallace (a wonderful treasure hunt book that boys will like that is family-friendly too), I had a treasure hunt with a clue poem for each child to decipher. All the clues were things my class had loved that year and they all loved finding where their clue led to!
Now that you have some good reasons to have a hunt, let’s move on to the third thing!
Writing the clues!!!
5. Writing the Clues
When writing, try to do about 4 lines for each clue. You can go longer if you feel inspired, but this four line verse will be easy to make 1 rhyme for. You can use my clues if you want, however if you are using them at a large party or setting please give me credit!
You can use verbs to help you give a clue. My kids liked these kinds a lot. Here is a clue for our family rocking chair:
I rock and rock,
It’s just begun,
Back and forth,
Comfort and fun.
Come find the clue,
Book themed clues are fun. I usually do a recently read, or well-know book. The first fits any Harry Potter book and the second is Alice in Wonderland, the last is my daughter’s favorite book as a toddler Richard Scarry’s Chipmunk’s ABC.
We take turns snuggling
And reading from this tome
Look inside to find
The “Magic” clue’s home!
Fell down a rabbit hole,
Met the Cheshire cat,
Find a mad tea drinker in a hat.
I’m here, in-between,
Wedged with others of my kind,
Find me before you are left behind!
Your favorite book by far,
The one that started it all,
Was a chipmunk and his alphabet.
(You wanted one for a pet.)
Every night we’d read to you,
so look in this book for the next clue!
A classic clue can be about your child’s favorite toy. Here a teddy bear is immortalized in a clue.
I came to live with you,
When you were two years old.
Underneath my fur, (now worn)
Lies a heart of gold.
It matches my fuzz and fur,
It’s a loving heart indeed.
Look at me when you are sad,
a bear-bear is all you need!
Adding numbers can be fun too and little ones really enjoy it.
Peter Rabbit 1-2-3
Can you catch me?
Telling a little story in a clue can be fun too. If you want to use a line that will give it away, just leave a blank where the spoiler word would be. Here the word is “Weebles.”
___________ wobble but they don’t fall down!
Creaky door, squeaky floor,
Come inside be scared some more!
Opened the trunk and out bats flew…
Here comes a ghost! Whooooo!
Adding phrases like, “you’ve almost won.” Help your little treasure hunters keep going! (Plus they are easy rhymes.)
We are silly and wiggley,
Orange, black and fun.
Find this clue in the F.P. Zoo,
and you’ve almost won!
The Brown family found me,
At the train station,
Adopted me, cared for me,
Gave marmalade to me,
No need to search the entire nation,
(Just my pocket).
Family pets make great clues! We’ve even put a clue on our dog’s collar!
Furry and sweet.
I hear a bag crinkle,
And squeak, “Meep, meep!”
My daughter loves to bake and we have a baking cabinet filled with all sorts of fun tools that she loves to use. This clue made her very happy! It’s definitely alright to throw some easy clues in. Remember it’s supposed to be fun!
Star tip, leaf tip, plain tip, fat,
Bags, couplers, spatulas to make it flat.
So much fun with sugar and butter,
Think of us baking makes my hungry
Ateco, Wilton, and Martha too,
Look in here to find the next clue!
Song lyrics leading to a record album are really fun too! The Beatles have a great birthday song on their white album.
Today it’s your birthday!
Happy birthday to you!
Gonna have a good time,
It’s my birthday too, yah!
This one is about a chair we have that no one can sit in! Sometimes you have to write phrases and sentences almost backwards to make the rhymes work, but no one minds! (The last two lines here are like this.) This is actually how a lot of clues are written in books!
I’m old, I’m broke,
My springs are rusted.
Don’t plop down on me
Or your hiny will be busted!
To find me you don’t have to be a historian.
I belong with this house Victorian.
Treasure hunts at school were very fun too! It really helps to have a clue for each student to find on their own, otherwise you have tears, and a few students will do all the clues while your shy ones hang back. I had a can with popsicle sticks in it; one for each child with their name on it. I picked a stick randomly and that child would solve the next clue. Then they would give the clue they found to the next child whose stick I picked. It went on until everyone got to hunt and we found the treasure! (Usually it was a basket of candy for the class to share.) If I had a child who was really stuck on a clue I would have them go pick a friend to help them. I usually read the clues out loud for them.
Button and Amber
Make their home here.
A place to learn,
In our room.
Write on a rock,
Like 100 years ago.
Practice your spelling words,
Now a test, Oh no!
Watch the red disk disappear,
I’m so happy you are here.
How much time is left?
Find the clue it is near!
The end is near
But with no regret
Your hearts are true
You’ll find the prize yet!
Look in the darkness
You will see
A basket waiting
Open the door,
Come on in,
Get the basket,
Let the fun begin!
6. Hiding the Clues
You need concentration for this too! Make sure you don’t get distracted so the clues don’t get out of order! Hold on the the first clue to give your little hunter then go hide! I like to use colored paper for clue paper. Our traditional one is light blue after the clue paper in Elizabeth Enright’s wonderful Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze (the last book in this great series). When you are done remember to have fun! Good luck to “yous” in making your clues!
Our Maddy cat is a great hunter and the inspiration for this post!
With treasure hunt romps and great books to you from Kansas Street,