Treasure Hunts - Simple and Successful Family Fun!

We've recently been on a family holiday and although we had a wonderful time, the weather was certainly very changeable throughout the fortnight, which meant that we had to be pretty creative with ideas to entertain our children.

There were many activities in and around the area in which we were staying, but we were on a pretty tight budget and didn't want to spend too much money if we could help it.

On one particular day, I decided to take inspiration from something that we'd done before at home and create a simple treasure hunt. We've also been to a few birthday parties where a treasure hunt has been part of the festive fun and the boys still talk enthusiastically about running round looking for prizes and following clues and maps.

For our holiday treasure hunt, we picked up some little sea creatures (so that there was a ‘theme' of sorts, given that we were going to be on the beach) in a nearby shop because they were on offer for just over £1, but you could use anything you liked. In my experience, the items that are being searched for are secondary to the fun of actually doing the hunting, so don't worry about spending too much time thinking about what you're going to hide.

Here are the items that we used - there are two of everything to avoid arguments between my children about who had the ‘best' prizes!

Various sea creatures

We headed down to the beach with a picnic and my husband distracted the boys while I hid the sea creature prizes. This would have been trickier if our children were older and potentially harder to fool, so if you think that will be an issue for your family it might be worth sneaking down before your treasure hunters arrive. I would have done this myself, even with younger children, but the weather conspired against us.

I made sure that the sea creatures were not too hard to find. The aim of the game is for the children to have fun, not become frustrated and fed up because they can't find anything!

When I called the boys over to start the treasure hunt, I'd made up a little story about each sea creature to give them a clue about where it might be hidden. If you have older children you could come up with written clues or riddles for them to follow, but as neither of my children can read yet this wouldn't really have been appropriate. The good thing about making up stories as I did is that you can do it on the spot and no resources are required other than your own imagination.

boys searching on the beach

The age difference between our two children meant that our younger son probably wouldn't have had a look in if we hadn't engineered things in his favour occasionally. It's a good idea to be aware of the different needs of the children in your treasure hunt, as it's no fun for younger children to be constantly ‘pipped to the post' by older siblings. We made sure that the boys both had an equal number of treasures to find, but we subtly pointed some out to our younger son while the elder one wasn't looking so that he didn't get too left behind.

Every time the boys found something they also got a sticker, which also added to the fun - as a parent I've realised that many situations can be improved in the eyes of a child by simply throwing stickers into the mix! I keep my eyes peeled in supermarkets and discount stores such as The Works and buy up stickers in bulk whenever they're cheap and it's a tip I'd recommend to anyone who spends time with children.

Once they'd found all the treasures, the boys had great fun playing with them and we took up a whole afternoon just enjoying ourselves and must have spent about £3 in total.

You can adapt the treasure hunt idea at home as well, without spending any money. If we have some time on our hands, I hide the boys' animal toys and then they search for each of them, with me making the appropriate animal noise to give them a hint as to what to look for. I also hide cars of various different colours and then name things of each colour as clues. For example, if they were looking for a red car, I might say, "Strawberry, tomato, fire engine, stop sign on a traffic light."

Whether they're planned well in advance or made up on the spot, treasure hunts are always a hit and the best thing is how easily they can be achieved on very little money.