How to Create a Backyard Treasure Hunt, Minecraft Style

Are you looking to create a fun adventure in your very own backyard?

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.

Here's how to create a minecraft inspired backyard treasure hunt to get your kids off the computer and into the backyard.

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.

This fun activity caused my kids to abandon their friends on Skype and leave their Minecraft characters at the mercy of Creepers and Zombies—for a little while, at least.

screenshot of minecraft village

A Minecraft Village. Screenshot by Creeper99.

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!

screenshot minecraft clue

A Minecraft Adventure Map clue. Screenshot and scene created by Creeper99 (who is 8, and still learning how to write, so forgive the grammatical errors!).

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.

What You’ll Need

  • Paper
  • A printer (optional, you could hand-write the clues)
  • Ribbon
  • Scissors
  • A gas lighter or matches (optional and for grownups only)
  • Tea bags (optional)
  • A willing collaborator
  • Some treasure (if you want to add a little extra bonus at the end)

Preparation Time

30 minutes (part of the fun, really)

Activity Time

15 minutes+ (depends how many clues you use)

Location

Your backyard, house or apartment or a local park

#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.

little collaborator

Creeper99 rolling a clue in preparation for our backyard adventure.

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.

diagram of map

A diagram of our adventure map, showing where we were going to place each clue. We originally drew this on paper, but because we scribbled all over it while trying to figure out where to put the clues, we recreated it on the computer.

#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:

a written clue

An example of one of our clues.

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.

clue in hands

At the pool door, the boys were handed this riddle to solve. They had to give the gatekeeper (Creeper99) the right answer to gain access to the pool garden.

#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.

gas lighter and paper clue

Remember, safety first! Choose a fire-safe area to burn the paper edges. Over a kitchen sink is ideal, but keep an eye on embers.

Creeper99 then wiped the ashes onto the paper to make it look worn.

crumpled clue

Your collaborator will have fun distressing the clues to make them look old. The more damaged, the better, as long as they are readable.

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.

clue in tree

Trees make great hiding places for adventure map clues.

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!

two boys on treasure hunt

My eldest two reading their seventh clue.

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.

boys and dog looking at clue

Our dog Gerry joined in the fun too!

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?

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About the Author, Cas McCullough

Cas McCullough is founder of Content Marketing Cardiology and co-founder of The Likeability Co. She helps small businesses and organizations build active, fun and profitable brands through powerful inbound marketing. Other posts by »


62 Comments

 
  1. Ian Cleary says:

    Hey Cas, thanks for this post. My son loves minecraft so this is a great way of getting him outside! Thank you, Ian

  2. Mike Kawula says:

    This is great Cas and similar to Ian; love the tie in to Minecraft. Since our kids love it so much, to keep the creativity going they’re filming their own “minecraft”like video’s on their iPads throughout the property each day.

    Love the burning of the clues – super creative.

    Have an Adventurous week – Mike

  3. Great idea! Thanks.

  4. EmilyQuestions says:

    What a great mashup of Minecraft and treasure hunt! @MrBoy is sure to love this one!

  5. Deb Ng says:

    My son also loves MineCraft and he has his friend have actually been “playing” MineCraft in the back yard. It’s one way to keep it going after I ban him from video games because it’s too beautiful outside.

  6. Deb Ng says:

    Great idea for taking MineCraft play to a whole new level, Mike!

  7. mr.kid says:

    this is going to be great! (im a kid) (lol)

  8. Jennifer Ballard says:

    Great article, Cas! Thanks for starting My Kids’ Adventures off with a bang. Looking forward to doing a Minecraft Treasure Hunt with my boys.

  9. Amy Pearce says:

    This will be so much fun! I have a 11 year old son that loves minecraft and I always tell him to go outside and play. When I was younger we were always outside playing. It is so hard for me to grasp why kids can’t do this anymore. Thank you, this will be a great resource.

  10. TKCorbet says:

    Love it! Totally motivated to get my kids off the ipad and using the MineCraft angle to tie into real life is something I plan to do this weekend!

  11. Rafy Ruiz says:

    Thank you, Cas, for your ideas! Now, to adapt the outdoor activities to the indoors and get my grandkids off the video games (if they allow me). :) I live in oven weather Arizona.

  12. Gregory Grigoriou says:

    SO great Cas! I have to say this makes for an amazing birthday party activity too. We did something similar for my son’s 4th birthday, and it was a very memorable and fun activity for all of the kids from age 3 – 11. We gave the kids pirate hats and and printed the clues and maps on textured watercolor paper for added realism!

  13. Deb Ng says:

    Let us know how it works out for you all, Jennifer!

  14. Deb Ng says:

    Great suggestion, Gregory! Who says a MineCraft birthday party has to happen in front of the tube?

  15. Cas,

    Great article – A lot of fun in store for those that adventure!

    Great to see your smile here…

    ~Keri

  16. My daughter JUST asked me if I had any ideas for her upcoming birthday party and she and her friend are addicted to Minecraft! Couldn’t have come at a better time. :)

  17. Thanks Ian! Let me know how you go if you end up creating this activity. We had a lot of fun.

  18. Hi Deb, I find that if I invest more energy in getting to know the games my kids love they do offline versions of their online games more often. What sorts of games do they come up with?

  19. Thanks Mike! Love the idea of filming the adventures! Awesome!

  20. My pleasure! Thanks for your comment.

  21. Glad you liked it Emily! Thanks for your comment.

  22. Awesome! A kid’s stamp of approval! You can’t beat that. Thanks for your comment Mr Kid!

  23. Thanks Jennifer and my apologies for not getting to comments sooner… just got up #timedifference! :-)

  24. Hi Amy, yes it can be hard to get your kids off their screens. Let us know how you get on with this activity or if it inspires you to do anything else!

  25. Awesome! We had a lot of fun putting this activity together and have moved on to some other activities too! Let us know how you get on!

  26. Hy Rafy, that’s the beauty of this treasure hunt. You can do it indoors or outdoors. Let us know how you get on.

  27. I love that idea Gregory! We once did an Amazing Race Birthday party where the kids had to visit stations around our property and do tasks as a team. That was logistically difficult but so much fun. Doing this treasure hunt would be a lot easier I reckon!

  28. Thanks Kerri! Great to see you here too and thanks for sharing!

  29. Hey Rich! How are you? So glad the article has inspired you! Make sure you let us know if this idea rocks your daughter’s birthday party huh!

  30. Jennifer Ballard says:

    All the great feedback on your article must have been a nice thing to wake up to!

  31. Definitely! Can’t wait to see what folks do with the idea!

  32. This is amazing and looks like so much fun. A nice little treasure hunt! Fantastic job!

  33. Nichole Smith says:

    This is great! All 3 of my boys (ages 17 to 7) love Minecraft and this would be fantastic to get the older ones to take the younger one on an adventure!

  34. Jen Haugen says:

    My son just turned 10 and his friends couldn’t stop talking about Minecraft! We will be checking this out for sure!

  35. Thanks Sabrina! Creeper99 asked me if we could do another one today! It’s definitely a winner!

  36. Fantastic Jen! Let us know what he thinks of this idea and if you give it a go!

  37. Sally Thibault says:

    Great article Cas! Have posted a link on the Aspergers Parent Connect FB page… I know a lot of little aspies who will LOVE this! Awesome Job

  38. Absolutely Sally! As you know, my eldest two are in that camp! Thank you for sharing!

  39. JenMcN says:

    Is the Minecraft Adventure Map on the online version or XBOX Minecraft game? My two sons have been playing for over a year and haven’t heard of the Adventure Map/Clues part of the game…just wondering because they are interested. This does sound like a great outdoor idea! I used to have an indoor Pirate Treasure Map game (very similar to your idea) but outside is even better! Will try to come up with some clues!

  40. cliffmama says:

    Another way to do treasure hunts with the kids outside of the backyard is to get involved with geocaching. It combines outdoor activities with treasure hunting, and GPS technology and tracking finds on the geocaching.com website. We loved to geocache whenever we traveled – it took us to interesting places we wouldn’t have found otherwise.

  41. Tammy Saunders says:

    This is such a great idea! My boys love minecraft and treasure hunts so I think this will be a hit! Can’t wait to try it out!

  42. […] your kids gamers?  Do they love Minecraft?  In this article, you will learn how to create “adventure maps” in your own […]

  43. […] your kids gamers?  Do they love Minecraft?  In this article, you will learn how to create “adventure maps” in your own […]

  44. Thanks for the suggestion! Keep watching–we’ve got a geocaching article coming up soon.

  45. […] a soccer match or an egg and spoon race. But if you want to make our campout memorable you have to create a treasure hunt, Minecraft style, one of the hottest games for kids. You will have to work a little during the week but the result […]

  46. […] your kids gamers?  Do they love Minecraft?  In this article, you will learn how to create “adventure maps” in your own […]

  47. I know it’s definitely on the desktop version but not sure about the XBox.

  48. Let us know how you go Tammy!

  49. Carmeletta says:

    I was TOTALLY interested in doing a treasure hunt for my niece and nephews! Thanks so much for the advice! Your insight was most-helpful!!!

  50. Susan Lawless says:

    I have been doing treasure hunts for years with my daughters, who are now 28 and 17. Now I do them with my grandsons 5 and 9. I write the clues so they have to figure out one and it leads them to the next one and so on. I like to do at least 10 clues to make it last awhile. I have little prizes along the way with the big prize at the end. Sometimes the prize is an activity instead of a physical prize. I like the idea of a theme treasure hunt and will do that for Halloween in a few weeks. I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I have over the years! :)

  51. […] Well, the 1,000 people in the Founder’s Club were a huge boost. If you have 1,000 fans before you even start, you can do anything! When we actually launched, we emailed all 1,000 people on the list asking them to help us get the word out. We launched with three high-quality posts. One of them, still to this day, remains one of our most popular. It’s called How to Create a Backyard Treasure Hunt, Minecraft Style. […]

  52. Hope it went well for you Susan!

  53. […] are some other links for exciting treasure hunts: Backyard Treasure Hunt, and the Ultimate Guide to Treasure […]

  54. Chai says:

    Where’s the link to the clues? Cafe you share them please?

  55. Barbara says:

    Organizing a treasure hunt for our youth center and I don’t play mindcraft.
    Could you all share clues that you used, it would be a great help. Thanks.

  56. Karuna says:

    My sister created an indoor treasure hunt (due to weather) using clues with a picture to show which room the next clue was hidden in (i.e. a violin for the music room) and then a clue taken from books they’d read together, e.g. ‘where the ghost hides’ for a particular sort of cupboard. I couldn’t have helped with many of the clues because I lacked the shared experience but it was a wonderfully personalized hunt for my 7 and 8 year old. Every family has shared books or songs that clues could come from, or for a school, clues could be based on what they’ve learned in class that term… :-)

  57. […] in It’s a Jungle Out There talks about exploring parks. Jennifer recommends that you go on a treasure hunt and compare the wildlife you would find in a city park versus what you’d find in your […]

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