How to Create a Puzzle Treasure Hunt for Kids
How about a treasure hunts?
Combine the two into an activity that’s fun for everyone.
In this article I’ll show you, piece by piece, how to put together a puzzle treasure hunt that will send your family on a search for clues through the house or around the neighborhood.
Why a Puzzle Treasure Hunt?
Treasure hunts can be lots of fun. There are endless variations so you can mix things up to keep them interesting and hold your kids’ attention.
A puzzle treasure hunt adds an extra element. It requires players to work together and problem-solve to reach the end of the hunt, because the players must put together a small jigsaw puzzle to reveal each clue. What a great way to foster cooperation and communication skills among your kids—all while they’re having fun!
A recent episode of The Big Bang Theory inspired my family to add this puzzling new twist to the good-ole family treasure hunt. Even if you don’t watch the show, I’m sure you and your kids will enjoy it just as much as we did.
I love to take online or onscreen activities my kids enjoy and turn them into “live” games and adventures that get them up, active and outdoors. Maybe you’ve seen the Minecraft-inspired treasure hunt or the Angry Birds slingshot I shared in previous My Kids’ Adventures articles.
The puzzle treasure hunt was inspired by an episode of the television show Big Bang Theory that had my kids rolling with laughter.
In the episode, the character Raj created a treasure hunt for his friends.
Raj introduces the treasure hunt.
We had a lot of fun watching this episode because the characters’ crazy personalities added a whole other element to the hunt, and the activities Raj came up with added fuel to the inevitable conflict between each team.
Think about your children and how you could create clues and challenges that play to their unique personalities.
The teams get started on their first task!
It would have taken way too much time to create all of the elements of the Big Bang Theory treasure hunt so I decided to focus on one aspect: making puzzles.
Looking for an activity for a large group? Or is it just you and your kids? This Big Bang Theory puzzle treasure hunt is equally terrific for family gatherings or parties where you can divide into multiplayer teams and for smaller groups or families with just a few players. It’s easy to modify the clues so that a single player or two-player team can quickly solve the puzzles or a larger team is a little more challenged.
Let’s get started creating your puzzle treasure hunt!
#1: Plot Your Path With Pictures
First, decide on the locations for the clues and take photos of them. They can be indoors or outdoors, wide-angle shots or close-ups. These photos will become the puzzle clues for your treasure hunt.
Think about the players’ ages and abilities when you plot the path of your clues. Older kids may have fun chasing locations all around the neighborhood, while little ones may have more fun if their search is limited to your house or backyard.
I took photos of five locations where I was going to hide the clues.
#2: Create the Puzzle Clues
To save some money, you can make your own puzzles. It’s easier than you might think!
Upload your photo clues into a Word document and size them to take up one sheet of paper per image. If you want to include a riddle or hint along with the picture, add a text box to the image.
How many teams will be following your clues? Print out a copy of each image for each team. (We had two teams playing, so I printed out two sets of clues.) A color printer produces the clearest clues, but if you don’t have one you could print in black and white or print them at a copy shop.
Glue the photos to cardboard. Be sure to distribute the glue evenly because once the glue sets, you’ll need to cut the cardboard into small pieces. You don’t want to have spots that aren’t glued down.
If you’re using thin cardboard, place photos between some heavy books to dry, to prevent curling. This is just like pressing leaves or flowers.
Be sure to keep track of where each photo will be placed along your treasure hunt route. It will be harder to identify the photos once they’re cut up.
Next, cut into puzzle pieces. It’s a little time-consuming but it’s fun to see what shapes you can come up with. You can cut simple shapes with scissors. For more intricate pieces, use an X-acto knife.
If you have older children or large teams participating, you can cut the pieces smaller and make the shapes more complex.
I recommend shapes no smaller than 1 inch (2.5 cm) for older players and no smaller than 2 inches (5 cm) for younger players.
Remember, you don’t want them to get frustrated and give up on your treasure hunt.
Put each puzzle into ziplock bags and place them in the clue locations. The first puzzles are given out at the start of the treasure hunt—one to each team. Subsequent puzzles lead the players to the next location.
You can place a prize at the end, or have each team race against each other for bragging rights—your choice.
Optional: To add an extra incentive, place a treat or small prize at each location so there’s an immediate reward for completing a puzzle. If you’re going to leave treats outdoors, put them in a container to keep the critters out!
#3: Play the Game
Divide your players into teams, give each a bag containing the first puzzle, explain the rules and set them loose.
For our treasure hunt, we kept with the Big Bang Theory theme and split into two teams: Team Sheldon and Team Will Wheaton (two characters from the show). I thought about having the kids dress up as their favorite characters, but it was a hot day and they just wanted to get on with the game. If you were doing a Big Bang Theory–inspired birthday party, that could be a fun option to include.
My parents were visiting so Grandpa got in on the action too. A great thing about treasure hunts is that anyone can join in and have fun!
Be sure to tag along with your kids as they hunt for clues and assemble the puzzles. (But let the kids lead—don’t give anyone an unfair advantage!)
Some Final Thoughts…
For my family, finding the locations was easy. I don’t think I made it quite difficult enough.
However, I made a rule that they had to complete the puzzle before moving on to the next location, even if they guessed what it was before the puzzle was done. That way, both teams had a fighting chance and the game lasted longer than 5 minutes.
It was fun watching the kids and Grandpa put the puzzle pieces together. They seemed to fall into distinct character types, just like the show: Son #1 was like Bernadette, ultra-competitive and bossy. Grandpa was like Sheldon, needing every piece to be in place before moving on.
Watch your family play and see what personality traits emerge.
Overall the game was a lot of fun for everyone and the puzzles were a hit.
I hope your family has as much fun on your puzzle treasure hunt as we did.
What do you think? Have you ever created a treasure hunt or other game based on a TV show? Have you ever tried creating your own puzzles? Leave a comment or photo below.
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 Cas McCullough »