How to Create a Backyard Treasure Hunt, Minecraft Style
Do your kids place more value on their videogames than the real world?
How about bridging the two? Minecraft is one of the hottest games for kids.
Did you know you can create “adventure maps” in your own backyard?
Whether your kids are into Minecraft or not, this article is sure to get them outside for a fun adventure.
Why a Backyard Treasure Hunt?
My kids have been creating adventure maps on Minecraft for a long time now, so I thought it would be fun to create a real-life adventure map in our backyard.
A backyard adventure map is essentially a treasure hunt, but in addition to finding clues, you throw in a few activities and riddles to make the quest a little bit more difficult, just like in Minecraft!
I’ve found that by translating my kids’ online interests into real-life activities, it gives us a chance to connect about what they’re into on a deeper level, creates opportunities for problem-solving and collaboration and gives us all a reason to go outside and play.
A backyard adventure map is quick, easy and inexpensive to create, but it does require a little planning and, if you’ve got one, a willing collaborator. Here’s how you can create your own backyard adventure map.
#1: Recruit a Willing Collaborator (optional)
For our backyard adventure map, I solicited the help of my youngest son. Let’s call him Creeper99 (not his real username).
You can create this adventure yourself, but involving a collaborator is a great way to include the younger kids.
Together we mapped out a route for the adventurers (also known as Brothers #1 and #2) and then set about creating clues.
At first we thought about kidnapping the dog and making the quest a rescue mission, but one of the would-be adventurers stumbled upon our plan, so instead we decided to make this adventure map a treasure hunt. I think our dog, Gerry, was pretty happy with this plan.
#2: Plan the Clues and Riddles
Once we worked out where to place the clues, we set to work creating them.
When you create each clue, it helps to imagine yourself reading it at the location where it will be planted. That way, you can picture in your mind what the adventurer needs to do next.
For instance, one of our clues was:
Make sure you let adventurers know what they’ll find when they discover their next clue.
- Is it a clue to the location of hidden treasure?
- Is it a clue to the location of the next clue?
- Is it a riddle they have to solve to get the next clue?
Spell out exactly what you want them to do, but try to keep it simple and age-appropriate so they don’t lose interest.
We created riddles that related to things the kids were familiar with, but you can also create imaginary quests and set up scenes at clue locations using Lego bricks, dolls, stuffed animals and other toys. Let your imagination run wild.
Adding some interactive elements means everyone is involved during the quest. At one point, the boys had to solve a riddle and knock on the pool garden door for their next clue, at which point Creeper99 slipped the clue under the door.
Surprise makes the adventure map more fun, so be sure to add a few activities that your kids won’t expect.
#3: Make Your Clues
Creeper99 wanted to make the clues look like real pirate treasure clues, so I burned the edges with a gas lighter to add authenticity.
Creeper99 then wiped the ashes onto the paper to make it look worn.
Another great tip is to use damp tea bags to stain the paper to make your clues look old. Unfortunately there was no tea in the house, so we just crumpled the clues to add some old-world charm.
#4: Place Your Clues
After making the clues, we put each in position around the garden.
We have a huge backyard, so finding great hiding spots was easy. Our challenge was keeping the dog from eating the clues.
If you don’t have a big backyard, look for simple, everyday items you can use to hide clues. If you don’t have a backyard at all (for instance, if you live in an apartment), you can place clues inside the apartment in different rooms, inside books or boxes, or go down to a local park and set the game up there.
#5: Ready, Set, Go!
Now for the fun part! As we hadn’t done a real-life adventure map before, convincing Brother #1 and Brother #2 to participate was a bit of a challenge.
At first, Brother #1 wasn’t interested (mostly because it was designed by his youngest brother), so we made sure the hidden treasure was something he would highly prize—food.
Once he knew there was something valuable in it for him, he jumped off the computer!
To make sure the game flows, it’s a great idea to have at least one collaborator on hand to drop hints in case anyone is having trouble figuring out the clues and riddles. If you don’t have a collaborator, you can follow along yourself.
It’s not necessary to make the quest a treasure hunt. If your kids are really competitive (which mine are), they might want to play just to outdo each other (or you) or just because they want to know what surprises lay in store.
A Few Final Words…
We had a lot of fun creating and following our backyard adventure map and the older boys are now keen to collaborate on the next quest. I can’t wait to see what ideas they come up with.
What do you think? Have you ever created a backyard quest, treasure hunt or adventure map? Why not share your comments, ideas and pictures in the box below?
Cas McCullough is an entrepreneur and mum of three wired-in boys in Brisbane, Australia. She writes about her parenting adventures on mumatopia.com.au and her business adventures on casmccullough.com. Other posts by Cas McCullough »