Treasure Hunts (or scavenger hunts) are a fantastic DIY event that you can run for individuals or groups, and the best part if you can make them as simple or as complex as you like.
How does a treasure hunt work?
A treasure hunt is simply making a pre-printed form with all the items your teams have to find. Each individual or group receives a form (which may be a simple list of items they need to find, or for younger participants, an image of each item), and they must find as many of the items within a designated time.
You can run the treasure hunt over a 1-2 hour period or even over 1-2 weeks.
At the end of the time, teams must bring all the treasure they have found back to be assessed, and the winner is the team who has found the most items.
Different ways to run a treasure hunt
- Traditional: hide items around your school/oval/local neighbourhood that teams need to find (good for the youngest participants)
- Suggestions: Small bouncy balls, bottles, coloured paper shapes, painted rocks, rubber ducks, plastic Christmas ornaments etc. Each team needs to find one of each item.
- Make sure you remember where you leave items, so they can be collected later if not found
- Natural: list items in your area that are suitable for people to remove
- Suggestions: A leaf at least 15cm long, a magpie feather, a fallen lemon, a dandylion, a rock shaped like a dogs head etc
- Make sure it is safe/legal for people to remove the items you select
- Photographic treasure hunt: rather than people collecting the items, all they have to do is photograph it (perfect for bush or park-based treasure hunts where you don’t want people removing anything)
- Suggestions: A person walking a black dog, a pink flower, the number 100 on a sign, an ant mound, a butterfly, a cloud shaped like an animal, a tree with a bench underneath it, a tyre swing etc
- Handbag hunt: include items people might have in their handbags/backpacks/cars (great if you want families to only spend ten minutes on the hunt)
- Suggestions: $20 note, 5c coin, a library card, a bandaid, a pink hair elastic, a picnic rug, a red lipstick, a phone charger etc
- Trash-treasure hunt: people must collect certain items of trash, cleaning up the neighbourhood while also potentially winning a prize (provide gloves)
- Suggestions: Two empty soda cans, 5 cigarette butts, a McDonalds bag, three plastic straws, a catalogue, a bus ticket etc
- Action hunt: people must take photos of themselves in certain places or doing certain things
- Suggestions: Doing a handstand, standing in front of a house with the number 4 on the letterbox, a selfie in front of a blue car, a licence plate where the letters make a word, hugging a stranger, someone wearing a blue hat, drinking from a water bubbler etc
- Clue hunt: this is harder work for the organiser and involves hiding clues in various locations that the teams must solve to find the next clue
- You can have multiple ‘courses’ with teams assigned to various colour clues. This helps prevent all the teams just following one another
- Clues can be math based (the first house on x street that has the square root of 49 on the letter box), geographical (the highest point between x and y) etc and really depends on your community and location. Google ‘treasure hunt clues’ or make your own
You can mix and match all these ideas to make the perfect treasure hunt for your community, and don’t forget to include some harder items that are unlikely to be found by everyone.
How to make money from a treasure hunt
- Charge an entry fee per individual or per family
- Find sponsors (they can donate prizes or cash, in return for promotion and logos printed on the hunt forms)
- Combine it with other money-making ventures, such as a cake stall, sausage sizzle, mini-market or raffle
Things to remember when designing a treasure hunt
- Make sure your treasure hunt is age-appropriate for your specific community and environment. If it’s only for kids, the clues will be very different than if you’re aiming it more at adults or family groups. Give each ‘age group’ a chance to shine with clues designed specifically for them
- Decide if you want to have a time limit (find as many items in the next 60 minutes) or you want everyone to find everything on the list and the winner is the team who is most inventive
- Don’t make it too easy, you need to include a few tougher items otherwise everyone will win
- Establish your rules before letting people loose – if you only have one prize, then it needs to be the team with all the items and who arrives first, brainstorm what items might cause confusion/difficulty and be prepared for what people might actually bring back, will you give bonus points for funny/clever treasure finds
- Make sure you’re prepared at judging time – how many judges will you need? One option to deal with this is having everyone back within a designated time, calling out each item one at a time, the teams find that photo on their phone or holds up their item, then the judges walk around looking at each, awarding points as they go (someone needs to follow with a scoring sheet)
Generic ideas you can include in almost any treasure hunt
These clues are pretty broad, so you will get plenty of different items that all fit the same clue. They can be adapted to any sort of treasure hunt and allow people to have a little fun and be creative with their finds.
- Something that smells good
- Something that is yellow
- A leaf that covers your hand
- Something that is stripey
- A stick that is as long as your foot
- A coin
- A spotty leaf
- Something that starts with D
- Something that has the number 3 on it
- Something made of metal
- Something round
- Something that is broken
- Something edible
- Three things that are identical
- A rock or leaf that looks like something else
- Something that is gold
- Something you can see through
- Something related to a dog
- Something that is cold
What other great treasure hunt ideas do you have?