For our eldest son’s 6th birthday, we decided to throw him a party, with the theme of hunting treasure. The kids were aged from 3 to 6, so everything had to be geared towards that age group. There were 10 kids and 11 clues (which were also puzzles or activities), with treasure at each clue.
We tried to make everything we had time for, with the kids helping. Nico, who was 2 at the time, loves any kind of arts and craft, and was always willing to jump into the painting projects. Leo’s a little more advanced and can handle cutting, gluing, tools (both fetching and using), folding paper, etc. They loved the whole process, and then got to enjoy a great day with their friends.
This article aims to give instructions on how to set up a similar party, as well as how to make all the puzzles and stuff. Letting the kids help you make it all may not decrease your work load, but it’ll definitely make it all the more special for them.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
- Tape measure
- Dremel tool (not essential)
- Exacto knife
- Jigsaw puzzle
- Photo paper
- Colored paper
- Construction paper
- Plastic (for a stencil)
Step 2: Prep
The first thing to do is to make a list of how many clues you want (about twice the number of your child’s age is a pretty good guideline), and where you want to put them. You want to make sure that they are located in a kind of order, so that the kids don’t pass (and see) a clue while looking for another one.
I found the best way to visualize the whole thing was to make a table. It helped keep us organized throughout the preparation, showing us what we still needed to do (make, buy, etc.). Here’s the one I made, by way of an example.
Step 3: Map
Now that you know where everything is going, you can put together a map.
We downloaded a template online and then we added all the clue locations (in the form of clipart). This is all a very personal thing; you can do it in whatever style you want.
We had clues all over the homestead, so we wanted the map to help somewhat in locating things (with Leo as the obvious guide!).
We also used the map as the invitation. We wrote out the party info on the back of each map, and then Leo wrote a kid’s name on each one. The instructions asked them to bring the map with them.
An X marks the location of the first clue.
Step 4: Photo Puzzle
This was the first real clue (not counting the X on the map), located at the gate.
- Print a photo of your choice. I used a class picture from Christmas.
- Cut a piece of thick, dense cardboard (or thin plywood) the same dimensions as the photo.
- Cut a piece of paper the same dimensions as the photo and cardboard. It should have a picture of your clue (in our case a pigeon).
- Glue the photo to one side of the cardboard, and the picture to the other side. Make sure the glue is painted all over the surface, so that an even contact is made throughout.
- Wait for the glue to dry thoroughly.
- If you have a jigsaw with large pieces, use it as your guide. If not, you’ll have to freehand your puzzle pieces.
- Put the jigsaw together, so that you have two straight edges that match two of your picture’s edges. You need to make enough of the puzzle to cover the one you’re making.
- Remove one piece of the puzzle, so that you can draw its shape onto your picture.
- Repeat this process until every piece is gone and a puzzle shape has been drawn onto your picture.
- If you have a dremel tool, use it to cut your puzzle into pieces. If not, use an exacto knife. If you use the latter, it’s a good idea to turn the picture over and draw out the pieces on the other side too (line up the same edges, and you can mark where each piece hits the edge as well, to make sure it is a match). You can now make a cut from both sides.
Step 5: Pirate Hats/Bags
The first treasure we gave the kids was a pirate hat. They could put it on for a little while, but as soon as they found the second treasure, they had to flip it over and use it as a bag. I figured it was more fun than doing a traditional party bag, as they would be able to play with this later without their parents yelling, “Take that bag off your head!”.
It’s easier to follow these instructions while looking at the photos.
- Draw a skull and crossbones onto a piece of paper, and cut it out. Make sure you also cut out the eyes and mouth.
- Place this shape onto a piece of plastic and trace around the picture. You can use cardboard if you want, but plastic is easier to clean, to avoid smudges.
- Cut the stencil out of the plastic. Repeat this process for as many kids as will be helping you paint.
- Cut a rectangle of stiff paper like construction paper (a little thinner than cardboard). It wants to be about 19.5” x 27”.
- Fold it in half, so that is makes a 19.5” x 13.5” rectangle.
- Fold it half again (9.75” x 13.5”).
- Make a mark in the middle of the folded side (all the other edges are open). Bring the edge of the folded line across and down, making a bend at the middle mark. Look at photo pirate_hat6.
- Do the same for the other side (pirate_hat7). You should now have a triangle with a rectangular flap below it.
- Turn the paper over. Put the stencil onto the paper. Holding it firmly, paint on and around it.
- Allow it to dry completely.
- Place the painted side down. Fold the top piece of the rectangular flap up towards the triangle (pirate_hat17+18).
- Fold it again, so that it overlaps the triangular part (pirate_hat21).
- Turn it over, and do the same on the other side (pirate_hat22-25).
- Open the hat out and put some tape in the corners. This not only helps hold it together, but also gives a little strength for the string (bag strap).
- Poke a hole through the tape on both sides. Thread the end of a 17” piece of string through one hole and tie it off to itself. Do the same for the other end.
Step 6: Lego Puzzle
The second clue, found in the pigeon barn, was a Lego puzzle.
- Take a picture of the next clue location (in our case the Fun Fort).
- Put some large Legos together to make a rectangle. Measure its dimensions.
- Print your photo to match the size of the Legos rectangle.
- Glue the photo to the Lego’s. Make sure glue is painted on evenly.
- Wait for the glue to dry thoroughly.
- With an exacto knife, cut through the photos at the join of each Lego, so that you can pull them apart.
Step 7: Numbered Sticks
This was the third clue, found in the Fun Fort. It depicted a strawberry plant.
- Print a picture of the next clue. We made ours about 8” x 5”, but it doesn’t matter too much.
- Cut a piece of cardboard the same dimensions as the picture.
- Divide your picture into 9 pieces, drawing vertical lines at each mark.
- At the bottom of each of the nine segments, write the numbers 1 to 9.
- Glue them together, spreading glue evenly throughout.
- Once the glue has dried, cut the picture into its nine pieces.
Step 8: Origami Thing
Not quite sure what to call this one. We used to make these when we were kids as a silly fortune-telling device. I now make them for my kids as monsters. This one reveals a clue instead.
- Cut a square of paper, roughly 8” x 8”.
- Fold it in half diagonally.
- Open it up and then fold it diagonally in the opposite direction. Open it up again.
- Fold each corner in to the center, along the crease marks. You should now have a square made up of 4 triangles.
- Turn the paper over and you should see 4 squares. Fold each corner in to the center, making a square with 4 triangles.
- Turn it over, so that you again see squares. Fold the paper in half, so that there are two squares on each side on the outside. Draw a picture on each of the squares. The picture should be a question with a number response. For example, draw a spider with a “?” pointing at the legs – “how many legs does a spider have?” – 8. Make each question have an even number response.
- Stick your two thumbs in the squares nearest to your body, and your two index fingers in the squares furthest from your body. Open it up by bringing your thumbs and fingers together, so that the outside corners come together to meet in the middle.
- Your can now move the contraption in two different planes. First, move your two thumbs away from your fingers. Then bring them back together. Second, move your left-hand thumb and finger away from your right-hand ones.
- As you move in both directions, different parts of the interior will become visible. On the parts that are visible on the second type of movement, when you move your left-hand thumb and finger away from your right-hand ones, write a sum, like 3+4.
- On the other interior pieces, write one correct answer (7) and one incorrect one. On the correct answer, open up the paper and draw your clue. On the incorrect answer, open it up and write a big X.
- To use, you start with all your thumbs and fingers together, with all the original pictures (like spider’s legs) showing. Get the kid to pick one. Then get them to answer the implied question. If they answer the spider has 8 legs, move your thumbs and fingers 8 times, ending on the “sum page”. Both sides should have a different sum with the same answer, one that is an odd number. Ask them “what is 3 plus 4?”. When they say 7, move your thumbs and fingers 7 times until you get to the “answer page”. Ask them “which one says 7?”. When they point to the 7, open it up and give them the next clue.
Step 9: Letters
Pick an easy word as your next clue, one that the kids will be able to piece together. Ours was “animal”, pointing them towards the barn.
- Using thick cardboard (or a couple glued together) or foam-like paper, draw the letters to your clue in a bubble style.
- Cut out each letter.
- Color them, if you wish.
- If the kids are small, give them clues as to the order of the letters. Put the letters side by side in the correct order and draw a shape at each join, so that half the shape is on one letter and the other half is on its neighbor.
Step 10: Envelopes
We made a yellow envelope for each clue, so that they would know when they had found the next clue. The treasure was in the same location, but often hidden as well, so the kids had lots of things to find.
We used the design in this Instructable, by JadePhoenix37. I won’t write out all the instructions again, as they do a good job of it.
We made 4 different sized envelopes, depending on the clue they had to hold. Once I had put the clue inside, I wrote the name of the child on the outside. The treasure hunt was designed so that each kid would have to solve one puzzle, with all of them helping out with the piñata!
- Extra small: An 8 ¼” square made a 4” x 3 ¼” envelope.
- Small: A 12” square made a 5 ½” x 4 ½” envelope.
- Medium: A 15 ½” square made a 7 ¼” x 6” envelope.
- Large: A 22” square made a 10 ¼” x 8 ¼” envelope.
Step 11: Others
The rest was really just printing, cutting or putting things in boxes. I won’t go into details, as it’s self explanatory, but here’s a few photos. Feel free to ask if I’ve left anything out.
We could have made the piñata, which the kids would have LOVED, but we kind of ran out of time, so we just bought one – sorry! If you do want to make your own, there are some good Instructables on how to do so. We’ve done one before, and they’re a lot of fun, albeit a tad on the messy side for little kids.
Hope your kids enjoy making all the kids and then the party itself.
First Prize in the
Maker Family Contest