How to Set Up a Treasure Hunt Game

Get kids dashing from clue to clue when you set up a simple treasure hunt.

how to play treasure hunt
Mieke Dalle / Getty Images

Kids are guaranteed to move (a lot), and giggle (a lot!), when you send them on a search for clues in a treasure hunt game. Try it indoors or out, for a birthday party, special occasion, or just a rainy day. If you have tweens and teens to entertain, enlist them to set up a treasure hunt for littler siblings, cousins, or neighbors.

Your treasure-hunt set-up can be as easy or as challenging as you want to make it, depending on how tough your clues are, where you find hiding places, and how quick you think your players will be at catching on.

Allow 20 to 30 minutes for set up, but then your job is done. Just stand back and watch the kids have a blast.

What You Need to Play Treasure Hunt

  • Prize: This could be anything from a large birthday or holiday gift—one that won't fit under the tree or next to the cake—to a small trinket, like a ball or a container of bubbles (or several, one for each player). You could even use a healthy snack as your prize.
  • Small slips of paper for clues
  • Creativity!

How to Set Up a Treasure Hunt:

  1. Pick a prize and find a hiding place for it.
  2. Create your clues. Aim for a trail of three to four clues for kids five and under, and up to 10 clues for older children. You want your treasure hunt to keep them busy, but not discouraged. Adapt clues to your players' ages and abilities. For example, you'll want to make picture clues for pre-readers. Clip images from magazines and catalogs or find them online if drawing isn't one of your strengths. If your treasure-hunters are older kids or teens, challenge them with riddles, puns, or even math problems: Tell them they need to take 3x6 steps or turn 45 degrees, for example.
  1. Increase the activity level in your treasure hunt. With each clue, include directions on how to travel to the next hiding place: hopping on one foot, crawling, waving both hands in the air, and so on. You could even add one movement each time, so that by the end, kids are hopping while patting their head with one hand, giving a thumbs'-up with the other, singing a song ... you get the idea.
  1. Hide your clues. Again, adjust difficulty to match kids' abilities. Aim for challenge but not too much frustration. Consider hiding clues under rocks, inside plastic Easter eggs, between the pages of books, etc. Or see if you can find ways to leave messages without paper. Use magnetic letters on the fridge, say, or write on a chalkboard (or directly on the pavement outside).
  2. Set ground rules: No running in the house, no pushing other players aside, and so on, as needed.
  3. Hand over the first clue to set the wheels in motion!


Continue Reading