A treasure hunt is such a lively way to play with your kids – but it is not all fun and games: there’s ample opportunities for social-emotional growth and practicing those valuable executive function skills too.  Beyond that, kids can really develop literacy skills when they play! I personally love a treasure hunt because it gives some helpful scaffolding to indoor and outdoor play. When the hunt is over, inevitably the unstructured playtime ends up being rich and rewarding!


Watch the Video of Treasure Hunt to See How to Play


Here’s the Simple Set-up


Pick at least 5 objects.  They should be ones that have a fixed location that your child knows in the house.   For example:

  • Scooter helmet
  • Pillow
  • Toothbrush
  • Computer
  • Pet food Bowl


Find an ending reward of “treasure”…


But don’t stress out about it!  The treasure could be a balloon, their (delicious!) vitamins, a sticker, temporary tattoo, or a popsicle.  You know your kid and what would put a smile on their face. A little token (or something yummy) and the satisfaction of actually getting to the finish-line is reward enough!  


Channel Your Inner Poet

Grab some note cards and write a short clue for each.  For a literacy-boost, rhyme the ends of your lines. 

Here are some sample rhymes I made up!  Feel free to use them in your own treasure hunt and customize for your home and kid!  


You use me to go to and fro.  

You make me go fast or else I’d be slow.  

I’m not a stroller, I’m not a bike.

I’m a useful tool that you really like.



I can tote books, lunch, even a toy
But i’m for one very special boy
F-E-L-I-X spells his name
But every kid here has one of the same.


Tub Toys

Splash around with us, if you wish
You can pretend that you’re a fish
These toys are fine if they get wet
For some clean splashy fun, we’re your best bet.



To make teeth clean and white is my goal
wash rinse and spit into the bowl
scrub and scrub those pearly whites
and then you get to say your goodnights
What am I?



You love to peek into me to get some food
I keep cheese, milk and eggs for when you’re in the mood
What am I?


Baby Crib
I have a mattress and some bars
______(insert name of baby sibling) snoozes here so s/he wont roll far,
I’m a great spot for babies to get zssss
Now come find me pretty please!


You can zoom around the city on my three wheels
To whizz down the street – you know how it feels
You steer holding onto my handlebars two
Just don’t go too fast or you might say “boo hoo”


It is fun to pretend in a concert that you are
plunk out the abcs or twinkle twinkle little star
My keys are white and black and my notes go a to g
so pull up a bench and please do sing along with me!



Here is a spot where cold treats are!

You’ve finished the treasure hunt, you are a star!


More Pro Tips for a Successful Treasure Hunt

Stay organized: Number the clues.  Start with #1 and that’s what you will hand to your child to start.  That will lead them to the first object where #2 clue will be.  Careful not to place the clue about the object on the object you are describing!  This part of the set-up requires the most amount of concentration.



Add excitement…by having the kids hide while you set-up the space.  This builds tension, but also makes it possible to have minimal distractions so you can execute this accurately!


Stick with the challenge:  If your child is stuck, help your child work through the challenge.  Don’t give them an answer right away, find a way to play “hot/cold” with them, or add extra clues before leading them to the object.  For more tips on how to play guessing games to support healthy brain development read this.


Switch up the responsibilities: Once you have modeled how to set up a treasure hunt, it is time for the kids to make them for you!  It is fantastic to practice writing, planning and seeing something through from start to finish. What better way than to practice these skills through PLAY!

An All-Weather Game for Indoor and Outdoor Play

Now that it is springtime in New York, any excuse to roam around the playgrounds and parks is most welcome.  I love playing a Treasure Hunt game to add a little excitement to a park trip or picnic. Obviously, it is a super staple for those rainy or muggy days when it gets too yucky to go outside.  For more games that work in all-weather, inside and outside check out Hide and Seek and Call-and-Response Games.


Treasure Hunt Has Social-Emotional Benefits

No doubt, playing treasure hunt fosters collaboration. Kids have to work together to read the clues and decide on where to go.  Nurture a spirit of teamwork by reminding the “hunters” that there is treasure for all to go around and that it isn’t a race. This unity can be especially welcome when siblings play this game together.  


To keep practicing kindness with collaborative games check play board games with your kids where you all work toward a common goal.  My favorites are the Parent’s Choice Award winners: Dinosaur Escape and Busytown.  Chime in below to tell me your go-to ways to build teamwork skills in your kids, and which games your family loves most.

Gross Motor Boons of A Treasure Hunt

Whether you are playing this inside or out, little hearts will be racing, and not just from the sheer excitement!  Strategize beforehand and place clues physically far from each other. You can even place commands (like Simon Says) inside the clue itself, asking your child to run or skip to the next spot.  Something about that omniscient command makes kids do that kind of exercise (plus, they actually like running!).


Executive Function Skills

When kids have strong Executive Function Skills they’ve been shown to have successful life outcomes.  This game helps with strengthening these skills, through pleasurable play, of course!



When making their own hunt, kids have to decide on the objects and make a plan for the clues and how to place them.  


Working Memory:  

While going on a treasure hunt, kids have to hold information from the clue in their brain as they simultaneously work toward finding the object.   


Flexible Thinking:  

More often than not, kids have to adjust their expectations during a treasure hunt.  For example, they may think a clue is under their pillow, and when they don’t find it there, they have to adapt, and keep thinking and working toward their goal.  Practicing these opportunities to “get it wrong” in a safe space, helps build resilience and strengthens their ability to adapt.

Read and Rhyme for Pleasure When you Play

Rhymes are one of the most enjoyable ways for kids to strengthen their literacy skills.  Rhymes boost kids’ awareness of phonetics, so they understand how to spell and recognize words that sound the same.  

  • Build in rhymes to your clues at the end of the line.
  • Highlight the rhyming words with a highlighter or write the last word in a different color.
  • If your child is making their own clues, or you are helping them make a treasure hunt, encourage rhyming couplets.


Boost Resilience and Grit

There is a great deal of stamina involved in a treasure hunt, whether you are creating it, or going on it.  Along the way there’s bound to be micro-failures that actually build up resilience and that ever-sought grit.  Maybe your daughter writes a clue but misspells a word. Maybe they place the clues incorrectly or think they know where a clue is but it turns out they are wrong.  The idea is that they keep going, until that treasure is found (think, carrot on a stick!). As they persist, they are learning, and they are even learning about persisting!  Praise their effort in getting through the treasure hunt, and commend them on their hard work.


Treasure  Birthday Party Game

A treasure hunt is a fabulous game to play at a DIY birthday party.  It is also great at a slumber party game or to do on a playdate.  I love customizing clues depending on the scenario.


The game itself has a focusing-nature which brings all the guests together.  Naturally, the build-up to the cake or goodie bags make for an automatic “treasure”.  Play the games in character, or plant clues that have to do with the nature of the party.


Connect with me to get a customized treasure hunt for your own party based on the objects in your own home!


Looking forward to hearing how you play Treasure Hunt in your home!


Thanks for watching and reading,





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