How Yarn Can Transform Your Home Into a Treasure Hunt for Your Kids
Or to be a thief winding through a maze of lasers?
Looking for a fun activity that will get your kids (and you) all wound up?
Give them a stringing! It’s part treasure hunt, part obstacle course, part laser maze and all fun.
In this article I’ll show you how to turn a ball of yarn into an afternoon of tangled family entertainment.
Why Surprise Them With a Stringing?
Picture this: You arrive home from school or work or practice or wherever you’ve been, open your front door and find that your house is full of string. It zigzags everywhere: upstairs, downstairs, over doors and under furniture. Every room is a maze of multicolored web.
And then you’re handed one end of the string and told that if you follow it in all its twists and turns, you’ll find a prize.
Sounds pretty cool, huh? THAT is a stringing and your kids will love it!
You’ll love it too, because it’s just as much fun to set up the string as it is to follow it to the end. Your prize will be the looks of surprise and glee you’ll see on their faces.
A stringing is simple and inexpensive. You can surprise one person or a large group. You can do it anywhere for any occasion (or no particular occasion at all). But it’s always exciting and always fun.
Having a party? Invite your guests to unwind and have a ball as they follow different-colored cords and try not to get too tangled up. It’s a great gathering activity to keep the kids entertained while you wait for others to arrive.
Hoping to surprise someone for a birthday or other big event? Stringings for one are miles of fun, too.
Just looking for something fun and unique to do with your kids? Perfect—this will rope them in. Beneath all the frenzied fun, stringing for two or a few is a great way to foster cooperation and make memories that tie the sibling bonds up tightly.
#1: Set It Up
Get everything ready to set up the stringing and keep it a surprise. Scheduling the players is actually the hardest part of the activity, but you’re a busy parent, so you’re already an expert at that!
Know how many people you will surprise with the stringing. If you’re doing this for your own kids, it’s easy. It’s a little harder to pin down an exact number of party guests.
Get a skein of yarn for each person. It’s best to use a different color for each so they can see their own paths. It’s fine to use the cheap stuff—you’re not making a nice sweater. Check your cupboard of abandoned crafts (everyone has one of those, right?). You may already have yarn at home from another project.
Optional: Print out an instruction card to place at the starting point.
Decide on the treasure the kids will find at the end of the string. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. I gathered popcorn paraphernalia from my kitchen and wrote a note that the winner gets to choose the movie we’ll watch next Saturday. My 9-year-old was STOKED to win this—he’s in CONTROL!
A stringing can also be a fun way to reveal a secret in a creative, memorable way. In college, my pledge sisters and I (around 20 of us) were each given a string that we followed all through the sorority house (four floors!). The end was tied to a teddy bear in the lap of our big sister/mentor. That stringing was giggling madness and a fun way to learn who had been leaving anonymous gifts and advice all semester.
Imagine following pink and blue strings to find out which one leads to Mom and the new little sister or brother she’ll be having. What a fun way to share the news.
Recruit people to help you lay the strings, one per color (i.e., one stringer for each treasure hunter). All the strings must be strung simultaneously, so you’ll need to find some help if you have more than one treasure hunter.
Arrange for the kids to be away for about an hour. Lay the strings just before the bus drops them home from school or a relative is scheduled to deliver them home. Or set the strings up after they’ve gone to bed and have them awake to a big surprise.
Since the house will be all tied up (literally), don’t try to set it up too far in advance. It will be impossible to move around easily in your house after it’s been strung.
The planning was the hardest part. Now comes the fun!
#2: Prep Your Site
Wear comfortable, close-fitting clothes and prepare to climb around.
Decide which rooms will be off-limits and close the doors to them. You may want to keep a room or two clear to store breakable things in.
Remove breakable and valuable items from the string site. Clear obstructions from the floor. Even if the cords aren’t wrapped around something breakable, the tugging and settling that will occur could pull things over. We learned this the hard way.
Hide the prize before you start setting the strings. Put it behind a door, in a cupboard or drawer or somewhere else that’s hidden. Do this first, because if the prize is large, you probably won’t be able to open any doors or drawers or cupboards wide enough after the strings are up.
Stick a small piece of tape for each string loosely on the prize so you can easily attach the yarn when you reach the end.
#3: How to Find the Correct End of a Skein of Yarn
If you are unfamiliar with the engineering of a skein of yarn, read this section to save yourself some frustration and headaches. If you know the correct way to pull yarn from a skein, skip to #4.
There is a right end and a wrong end. The right end will pull easily from the middle of the skein, smoothly and effortlessly. The wrong end will get tangled and twisted and make you miserable.
I’ll repeat: The correct end comes out of the middle of the skein.
Look at the ends of your skein of yarn.
Find a cut end of the string coming out of the very middle.
It’s short and it may be smoothed down with the rest of the yarn. Keep looking and check both ends if you don’t see it right away.
If necessary, spread out the center of the skein a bit to look for the cut end. Be gentle. Don’t mangle the skein.
Once you find the cut end, you can slide it easily out of the center of the skein for the entire string laying.
You may see a cut end sticking out from under the label. This is the wrong end. Do not touch it.
It’s a trick. Resist the temptation.
#4: Start Stringing
Give each stringer a skein of yarn.
Place the instruction card at the starting point. The outside of the front door (or whatever door your kids use) is a good place to start.
Find the correct ends of the strings and attach them to your starting point. We tied loops that were big enough to slide on and off the doorknob.
Once the ends are secured to the starting point, go! Put the strings up everywhere.
Go high, low, over, under, in between. Catch the string around anything that will hold it safely. Open cabinets and drawers to catch the string inside, lift small furniture or cushions to slip the string underneath.
Expect to climb over, under and around the strings—even to crawl. It doesn’t take too long for the web to start to trap you!
Travel throughout the house and even outside. Don’t stay in one room too long.
Work together with your helpers. Throw the skeins to each other from room to room, upstairs and downstairs.
Things to avoid:
- Knots—wind the string around things, don’t tie it. It will be too hard for the kids to untie.
- Lamps or anything that may topple over when the string is tugged.
- Tight spaces. The ball they roll the string into will be wider than the skein. You don’t want to have to cut it.
Keep in mind that anything you do, the kids will have to do. They’ll need help reaching the high spots.
Optional: Tape a few treats and messages along the way. You can print some stringing cards here.
You don’t have to use the whole skein. You may choose to lay a shorter maze (use less yarn) for younger kids. My boys are pretty competitive, so we made sure to use the same length for each of them. (We gauged this by amount of yarn left over in the skein).
Make sure that you end up where you’ve hidden the prize. If you used the whole skein, you can tape the end of the string to the prize. If you have excess, just hide any remaining yarn with the prize.
When you come to the end, stop and take a look at your creation! Wasn’t it fun to string the whole house (or yard, or classroom, or…)?
#5: Ready… Set… Go!
Meet your treasure hunters at the starting point when they arrive home so you can explain the activity before seeing the string distracts them.
If you want to lay some ground rules, this is the time to do it.
Ask them to leave shoes at the door since they’ll be climbing on the furniture.
Give each child his or her color yarn.
Then open the door and watch their faces as they react to a house laced completely full of string.
Help your kids start a yarn ball right away (see below). Otherwise, you’ll end up with a tangled mess that will affect all the other treasure hunters.
Stay nearby so you can help with tangles or high places.
Watch as they wind their way through the house, discovering where the strings will lead them next.
It’s fun to listen to their comments. My son was shocked to find that he had to open the microwave to follow his string.
Be sure to take pictures to post on Facebook or Instagram.
When they reach the end and find the treasure, be sure to celebrate!
#6: Have a Ball
A stringing is a good time to teach your kids how to roll yarn into a ball.
It’s one of those overlooked, insignificant-yet-useful life skills that everyone should know how to do, so take advantage of the relevant opportunity to teach them.
Steps 1-2: Starting with the cut end, wrap the yarn around a few fingers 8-10 times. Not too tight!
Step 3: Remove the loops from your fingers.
Step 4: Hold one end while you wrap the string around the middle of the loops 5-6 times.
Step 5: Fold the bundle in half, matching the looped ends from both sides evenly.
Step 6: Wrap the yarn around the bundle a few times to hold the loops together. It may look nearly square or cylindrical.
Step 7: Once it’s secure, start to turn the bundle slightly after every few revolutions. If you’re turning it enough, it will start to form a sphere.
Step 8: Continue to wind the string around and turn the ball after every few passes in one direction. It will get easier to hold and turn as the ball gets bigger.
Keep wrapping the slack around the ball until you reach the end.
Caution: Cats and kids may turn your nice, neat, manageable ball of yarn into something like this.
Good luck with that.
Some Final Thoughts…
My son’s comment about our stringing says it all: “That was hilariously fun and hilariously fun is the funnest kind of fun, Mom.”
I’d call that a successful adventure! I hope you and your kids have a hilariously fun time, too.
What do you think? Have you ever done a stringing? How did your kids react? Please tell us about it and share some pictures below.
Jennifer Ballard is the associate editor for My Kids’ Adventures where her past experience as a Cubmaster, birthday party entrepreneur, marketing writer and mom of two boys fits together and finds relevance. Other posts by Jennifer Ballard »