How Yarn Can Transform Your Home Into a Treasure Hunt for Your Kids

Ever wonder what it’s like to get caught in a spider web?

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.

String treasure hunt - discover how to turn a ball of yarn into an afternoon of tangled family entertainment (obstacle course, laser maze and all fun).

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.

stringing in living room

Stringing: a treasure hunt like you’ve never seen before.

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.

You Will Need

  • One skein of yarn per treasure hunter (different color for each)
  • One stringer (parent or other helper) per treasure hunter
  • Treasure to hunt for
  • Optional: Treats or notes to place along the way
  • Tape
  • Scissors (just in case)

Preparation Time

About an hour

Activity Time

About an hour

Location

Indoors or outdoors

#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.

two skeins of yarn

Get a skein of yarn in different colors for each treasure hunter.

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!

popcorn as prize

Prepare a simple prize. You may have everything you need at home already.

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.

helper for treasure hunt

Recruit one helper for each treasure hunter to set up the strings.

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.

closed doors

Close doors to rooms that are not to be strung.

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.

broken vase

Remove breakable items from the stringing area or you may have a casualty.

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.

hidden prize

Hide the prize before you set up the strings.

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.

two right ends of skein

Find the cut ends, right in the middle.

Find a cut end of the string coming out of the very middle.

look closely to find end

Look closely to see the end.

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.

found the end

There it is.

If necessary, spread out the center of the skein a bit to look for the cut end. Be gentle. Don’t mangle the skein.

pull string

The correct end will pull out smoothly without tangling or twisting. It’s worth the time spent searching for it.

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.

wrong end

This is the wrong end. Do not pull!

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.

instruction card

Print out this instruction card and place at the starting point.

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.

starting point

Attach all the ends to the starting point.

Once the ends are secured to the starting point, go! Put the strings up everywhere.

stringing ideas

Find creative ways to hold the string in place. Here are a few ideas.

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!

crawling around string

As the string is put into place, it gets harder to move around.

Travel throughout the house and even outside. Don’t stay in one room too long.

tossing yarn

Toss the yarn to each other to cover more territory.

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.

    avoid tight spaces

    This almost didn’t fit. Avoid tight spaces when setting up the string.

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).

left over yarn

You don’t have to use the whole skein. We had this much left over.

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.

house of yarn

Take a look at your house, fully strung. It’s quite a sight!

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.

reading instructions

Make sure your treasure hunters understand what to do.

Ask them to leave shoes at the door since they’ll be climbing on the furniture.

take shoes off

Leave shoes at the door to protect your 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.

surprised kids

Your kids will be surprised when you hand them a string.

Have your camera ready. Their reactions would make a great YouTube video.

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.

kid rolling yarn

Teach the kids to roll their yarn into a ball from the start.

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.

string inside microwave

He couldn’t believe his string went inside the microwave.

Be sure to take pictures to post on Facebook or Instagram.

kid found treasure

He found the treasure. Time to celebrate.

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.

boy with yarn

Teach kids to roll a ball of yarn.

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.

Here’s how:

rolling yarn into ball

Teach your kids to roll yarn into a ball. Here’s how to get started.

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.

more rolling yarn into ball

Fold it in half and start wrapping. Turn the ball after every few passes to make it round.

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.

3 balls of yarn

The ball will get bigger as more yarn is twisted around it.

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.

messy yarn

A nicely rolled yarn ball is much easier to work with than 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.

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About the Author, Jennifer Ballard

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 »


  • Amanda

    What a fabulous idea!!! My son is going to have a “creepy crawly” things birthday party, so this will be one of the activities: a spider web treasure hunt!!

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ KJ Ammerman

    I love this idea, Jen! So perfect for birthdays or holidays. How cool would it be for kids to wake up and have a stringing maze waiting for them? A great way to make any day special!

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    That WOULD be fun. You could have the string lead them to a present that’s too big to wrap–like a bike. Thanks!

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    Thanks Amanda! That sounds like a great game for the party. You could put plastic spiders along the web–eek!

  • EmilyQuestions

    This looks like too much fun! I foresee getting caught in my little spider’s web. Thanks for the great ideas, Jen!

  • futuredoll

    Thanks for the memories-my son loved to play with yarn and I had forgotten his passion for building “traps”! Re-posted to my College Savings Dolls FB page Thanks Sarah

  • Robin Bermel

    This is brilliant! My son has his 8th birthday coming up, and wondering about doing this activity. There will likely be 10 kids, so maybe they work in pairs? Do you think five strings would be too much?

  • Robin Bermel

    One other question–I suppose there is some variance, but about how long will this activity take? 15 min? 30 min?

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    Thanks, Emily–glad you like it. It really is just as much fun for us “big kids” to set up as it is for the smaller ones! Have fun!

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    Hi Robin. Thanks! It would be lots of fun for a birthday party, either in pairs or solo. My first stringing was at my sorority house in college where 20 of us were given a string that led to our secret sisters, so 5 or 10 would not be too many. The secret to multiple strings is to have one person per string to set them all up simultaneously.

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    The longer the string, the longer it takes to complete. We used about half a jumbo-sized skein and it took around an hour. Shorter string = quicker. You could also speed it up by giving them something to wind the string around (like a pencil or a piece of cardboard) so they don’t get held up trying to make the ball.
    Good luck! I can’t wait to hear how it goes.

  • Gaelle C

    This is a fantastic idea!! I think I’ll use it at Xmas as a family activity!
    I’m wondering if kids need to pull on the yarn to keep it tight when they start rolling the string? so that the whole stringing does not hang loosely instead of staying tight?

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    Thanks Gaelle! That would be a fun way to lead them to presents at Christmas. Yes, the strings will start to drop in some places when they are wound up–just where one string is held up by another. I wouldn’t ask the kids to try to keep them tight. Too much pressure!

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