Create your own treasure hunt for any kid’s party theme. Hide little treasures that become take-home treats, and you’ve halved your party bag cost!

I love a good Treasure Hunt. When I’m entertaining at kids parties, I’ll often hold a treasure hunt as one of the first party activities. It’s a great way for the kids to burn off that start-of-party excitement, and gives me a chance to catch my breath after the initial flood of arrivals.

How To Make A Theme Party Treasure Hunt

Here’s how I create customised treasure hunts to match any party theme, without blowing the party budget.

Gather some treasures

Take a look in party, toy and bargain stores, and see what little trinkets you can find that match your theme. You can purchase licenced items, such as Disney princess figurines, but the cost can really add up, so think also of generic items. For example, teacups go well with an Alice In Wonderland theme, while chocolate coins would suit a pirate party.

Decide whether you’re going to provide a treasure for every child to keep, or just a few. Consider the overall cost, and time taken to make treasures. Also consider the age of the children – older kids are generally better able to handle the notion of not everyone receiving exactly the same prizes. Always have a few extra treasures to keep on hand. This is in case the kids can’t find everything, the dog runs off with something, or you can’t remember where you’ve put them.

Get creative with labels and packaging. For an Alice In Wonderland themed party, I purchased these tiny bottles at a bargain store, filled them with a few tiny candies, and added an ‘eat me’ label, downloaded for free here. For an Octonauts party, I placed plastic sea-creatures, fake seaweed and glass pebbles into ziplock bags and filled them with blue water to create mini-aquariums. The kids loved them.

Treasure hunt ideas

Tiny candy bottles for an Alice-In-Wonderland themed treasure hunt; sea creatures for an Octonauts hunt

Create more treasures

Now here’s where I use a little craft to create treasures at minimal cost – I print out pictures on card and cut them out. If you have a laminator, use that to make them more hard-wearing and weather-resistant. I generally use a mix of clip art, party printables and downloadable colouring pages. It doesn’t matter that these aren’t expensive prizes – kids just love finding stuff!

Take-home treasures

You can turn these tokens into take-home treats by making book-marks, rolling up a bunch of colouring pages, creating name-labels, cut-out paper dolls and so on. Search Pinterest or the internet in general for lots of downloadable printables. During the party, have your party bags nearby, labelled with the kids names, and let them store their treasures in their bag.

The best bit about this is you don’t then have to buy lots of extra take-home goodies.

Play-with-me treasures

Another idea is to hide objects that will become part of the next party activity. For example, hide various puzzle pieces, and then hand out the completed picture on a card. The kids can then spend some time sticking their puzzle together. I did this with a Disney ‘Frozen’ themed party. I hid the body parts of Olaf the snowman, then stuck the completed picture on a bag. The kids collected the pieces and had to put him back together.

For other ‘Frozen’ parties, I’ve also hidden cardboard carrot noses, which we then use to play Pin The Carrot On The Snowman. I’ll also hide foam tiara cutouts, and then get the kids to decorate them. These will also become a take-home item.

Olaf Frozen treasure hunt

Pieces of Olaf the snowman, being stuck together.

Create a treasure map

If you have time, you can create a map of your venue showing exactly where the treasures are hidden. Here’s a handy treasure map printable that allows you to print, cut and paste such a map.

If your party-goers are too young to read maps, or you’re not sure exacty where you’ll be hiding your treasures, then you can simply create a picture card showing everything the kids should find. I create mine in Powerpoint, using clip art, photos and web images, then print on sturdy card.

DIY treasure hunt

Treasure hunt picture cards I’ve made using Powerpoint; photos by Sllvergum Photography

You can also decorate a bag for the kids to collect their treasure in, or pin the map to a plain bag.

Running the treasure hunt

Remember to leave yourself time to hide the treasures before party guests arrive! Don’t make it too tricky, or spread items too far and wide. If you’re in an open area such as a park, keep everything within your seeing distance, and within landmarks. You can then tell the kids to look “Only as far as the first row of trees”.

If you have a lot of party-goers, it might be easiest to divide the children into teams for the hunt.

Give each child or team a bag or container in which to collect their treasures, plus their map, and send them on their way. Tell them to return to you once they’ve found all their treasures, or when they hear your whistle or call. Now stand back and enjoy the spectacle!

There are various options for how you finish the treasure hunt. Here’s a few:

  • Tick off the items that each child or team has found, and award a prize to the child/team who found the most objects;
  • Allow each child to keep all the treasures they’ve found. Place them in their party bags ready to take home.
  • Get the kids to place all the treasures in a big tub, then you divide them evenly into everyone’s party bags. This can be a good option for little children. Have a few spare treasures on hand, and enlist the help of a parent for this time-consuming activity, or do it while the kids are otherwise occupied (such as while they’re eating).

For all the preparation, I find kids can be incredibly quick at finding their treasures. Expect the hunt to last around 10 minutes. Checking and dividing the treasures, and possibly playing with them, will string this out longer.

Happy treasure hunting!

Want lots more great DIY kid’s party ideas? Check out my Essential Kid’s Party Planning Guide, plus a whole range of themed party guides in the shop.

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