My boys have a thing for treasure hunts, scavenger hunts and anything else that involves a prize at the end of a quest. I came up with the idea of a Backyard Photo Treasure Hunt because neither of my boys can read and this seemed like the perfect option for non-reading junior pirates to feel like they were on a real treasure hunt without mommy's help.
It did take a bit of set-up on my end, but I can now re-do this treasure hunt without much work at all. At the end of this post I've listed some variations for those of you who might be snowbound this winter. The idea of the hunt is that the boys will get a photo of someplace in the backyard and run to that place for another photo clue. When they get there, they'll find another photo of somewhere else in the backyard and so on and so forth until the final photo leads them to a place with the treasure. Simple. Here is the setup.
First you need to go outside and take lots of photos of different areas in your backyard. This is very easy - just snap away at different areas that will be part of the treasure hunt. I got down on my knees and took the photos from a kids-eye-view so it would be a familiar view for them.
Then I came inside, uploaded the photos and printed them out on cardstock paper. I then laminated each photo so it would last a bit longer and stand up to the rigors of outside weather and two little boys. If you don't have a laminator you can purchase the self-adhesive laminator paper… or just print it out on cardstock and save the file and print it out again the next time. I made 11 photo clues for our treasure hunt.
Then I made the treasure box. I got a piece of black craft foam and folded it in half and then slid it back a bit so there was about 2 inches left over to form the flap of an envelope. I then got a stapler and just stapled down both sides. I then got a piece of self-adhesive white craft foam and drew on a skull and crossbones with a pen. I cut it out, peeled off the backing and stuck it on the black envelope. You could use anything for a treasure container - a real treasure box, a cloth bag, or you could even make an X out of construction paper to place on the ground and bury the treasure in a sandbox. I had foam on hand, so a piratey foam envelope was my choice.Next I went around the house and found the "booty" for the treasure envelope. It was just random junk I found laying around, but I knew the boys would be happy with it. We've got 2 organic Yummy Earth lollipops, 2 plastic Halloween rings, 2 Spiderman sticker sets, 2 party blowers and some coins. I then got a piece of raffia and wrapped it around the envelope to close it up.I then wrote-out a little treasure-hunting poem and printed it out and stuck the first photo clue to the poem. I used some Word clipart to put a pirate treasure map on the top, which was great because both boys screamed "TREASURE MAP!' when they saw it. I then stuck the whole thing to the sliding glass door so the boys would see it when we walked in the front door after preschool.
Then I went out into the backyard and put a photo clue down on each of the hiding places I had already photographed. I made sure that the boys would end up zigzagging all over the yard so this would take up a bit of time. I made sure to put one clue in the back of the yard and the next clue up front, then back to the back, etc. I made sure to write down the order in which I placed the cards in case any got lost. Finally I put the treasure envelope next to the final photo clue and waited for the boys. (Oh it's important that the clues aren't easily visible when the kids are running around or they'll get out of order).
As soon as they walked in they saw the Treasure Map on the door. I read it to them and they instantly got the game. "Lets go to the tire swing!" they screamed! It was great fun watching them chase around the backyard from photo clue to photo clue. They really got into it and it was fun watching them work together (really!) to find the next picture.
Each time I do a Backyard Photo Treasure Hunt I'll add a couple of new photos to the mix. I'll also do everything in a different order and hide the photos in a slightly different place on the object. A fun idea would be to photograph something moveable. Next time I'll photograph our wheelbarrow. Then I can move it to a different place in the yard each time we do the hunt.
I kept the treasure envelope and put the photo clue cards in the envelope so it's easy for me to find next time.
I've done this for indoor play too and frankly it's even easier to set up. Photograph their bed, their underwear drawer, the kitchen sink, the shower, the dog's bowl, etc and have them do an indoor hunt that way. The best thing about an indoor hunt is that you can photograph a pillow as a clue, but you can move the pillow to somewhere different in the house to make it more challenging.
You can even take the photos from different angles or crop them in such a way that it's harder to tell what the actual photo is. So… instead of taking a photo of the entire green tire swing, you can crop it down so the kids see a bit of green and a couple of chain links and have to figure out it's the tire swing. This might even make it more fun for older kids.
This was fun for me to prepare and tons of fun for the boys. When I tucked Aidan in to bed that night he said "Mommy, you know what my favorite thing in the whole wide world is?"
"What's that?" I asked.
"Treasure hunts" he said.
Made me feel good! We'll definitely do this every month and make it harder as the boys get bigger.