How to Create a Scavenger Hunt for Kids

 In DIY Projects

When I was a child I use to love every chance I got at participating in treasure hunts. Heck, even as an adult I still love these types of activities! To celebrate my stepson’s birthday, I designed a scavenger hunt for him to complete in order to find some of his birthday presents. Creating the hunt wasn’t too hard and he definitely had a lot of fun with it.

Tips on Creating a Scavenger Hunt or Treasure Hunt for Children

Scavenger Hunt vs. Treasure Hunt
While not overtly important to the fun, there are differences between a scavenger hunt & a treasure hunt.Traditionally, a treasure hunt uses a series of clues that are often posed as riddles. The clues lead players down a “path” towards a final goal/treasure. These types of hunts are great for solo players or small groups.On the other hand, scavenger hunts typically revolve around a list of things players must find or complete, often within a certain time limit. Scavenger hunts are great for teams. Further, these types of hunts tend to be easier to create since players are locating items that already exist, rather than the creator having to design clues.Both types of hunts are lots of fun and both can easily be customized based on age, setting, or theme.

scavenger hunt clues for kids

pirate treasure hunt clues

Step #1: Plan the Hunt

The first step to designing your hunt is choosing whether you want to create a scavenger hunt or a treasure hunt.
Scavenger hunt:

  • Determine the location/boundaries of the hunt and any other pertinent rules or instructions -will there be a time limit? Must team players stick together, or can they split up?
  • Pick a theme if you’ll be using one (pirate, fairy princess, safari, tv show/book, etc.)
  • Create a list of items for players to collect, objects to find, or for players to do. If they’re collecting objects, be sure to give them bags to do so.

Treasure Hunt:

  • Determine the location/boundaries of the hunt and any other pertinent rules or instructions.
  • Pick a theme if you’ll be using one (pirate, fairy princess, safari, tv show/book, etc.)
  • Decided on a goal or treasure that will be found after the last clue is solved.
  • Create a series of clues to lead up to the hidden treasure. These clues can be riddles, puzzles, maps or images. Be sure to number them so that they stay in order.

Remember, adjust the clues or scavenger lists based upon the age of the children completing the hunts. Harder clues for older children, simpler clues for younger children. You want the hunt to be a challenge, but not so tough that they get frustrated. It’s great to have a helpful hint or 2 on deck in case they get stuck on specific item or riddle.
Remember to keep the children’s height in mind when hiding clues or choosing objects they must find too. Eye level or lower tends to work best.

pirate treasure hunt starting clue, map, and money

scavenger hunt treasure map

For my stepson’s birthday we decided to create a pirate themed treasure hunt. There would be 7 clues (it was his 7th birthday) and they would all be readable at his Kindergarten level. To bring the theme alive, we got pirate props, included pirate talk in his clues, and even added a treasure map as part of the clues.

scavenger hunt hat clue

orange tricycle

Step #2: Conduct the Hunt

  • Divide players into teams if there will be teams.
  • Explain any rules or instructions.
  • Hand out the first clue or scavenger hunt list.
  • Be on hand to give extra hints if they’re needed.

Counting math with pirate treasure

Pirate treasure hunt

Our hunt:
Our son was introduced to the hunt with half a map, some pirate money, and his 1st clue.
The first clue led him to his winter hat in the entry way.
He followed the second clue to his bedroom. On page 17 of Hop on Pop he found clue #3.
This clue had him locate clue #4 under the tricycle in his room.
Clue #4 led him back downstairs where he had to use math skills to purchase a pirate hat & sword from Dad’s pirate accessory shop.

Closet shelf full of board games like Trouble and Pandemic

finding a scavenger hunt clue in the board game Trouble

After successfully figuring out the math for his sword and hat, he discover the next clue in the top of his pirate hat. This clue led him to our game closet to find Trouble.
#6 in the board game led him upstairs to our bedroom, where he needed to locate the Bee Movie.
Inside the DVD he discovered his final clue and the missing half of his treasure map. These final pieces took him to the kitchen where he found his treasure…or “pirate bootie” as he called it.

Shelf full of kids DVDs

Birthday scavenger hunt pirate treasure

And it’s just that simple and fun to both make and participate in!

Have you ever conducted your own children’s treasure hunt or scavenger hunt? What other tips or advice would you give for creating and running a hunt?
Plan on making a hunt yourself? What theme have you decided on?

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Showing 10 comments
  • Nichole
    Reply

    I’m so trying this for my kids next party. Such a great idea!

    • Jessica (aka The Nifty Nerd)
      Reply

      Please share if you do! They’re so much fun and can be really quite inexpensive if you wish too.

  • Emma
    Reply

    This is such a cute idea. I’ve always loved treasure hunts – I kind of wish someone would make me one..

    • Jessica (aka The Nifty Nerd)
      Reply

      I wish our Facebook group all lived closer. I would totally host a hunt for everyone. That’d be so much fun!

  • Mariko
    Reply

    When I was in college I had a group of friends that were really into planning spur of the moment scavenger hunts. Granted, most of them probably weren’t appropriate for children as they might have included some light larceny, but I’ve always thought scavengers hunts were massively fun.

    • Jessica (aka The Nifty Nerd)
      Reply

      Haha, oh goodness. I was with a group once that was kicked out a mall for doing a scavenger hunt there…we were all being civil and polite though…was kinda of a bummer. Lol

  • TalkingNerdy
    Reply

    I LOVE scavengers hunts! My husband actually did a Zelda themed scavenger hunt for me for my birthday the other year because my gift was a Ocarina and song book 😀

    • Jessica (aka The Nifty Nerd)
      Reply

      Love it! Sounds like a fun time and a great gift. A hunt is how my fiance proposed to me. Couldn’t have been better 🙂

  • Carmelle
    Reply

    Great ideas, thank you!

    • Jessica (aka The Nifty Nerd)
      Reply

      You’re welcome Carmelle. Have a great hunt and feel free to share a photo on Facebook with me 🙂

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