Activity

Buried Treasure

Buried treasure: the familiar stuff of adventure  But how many people have ever had the opportunity to go on a real treasure hunt?  Your children may be among the few.  All you need to do is to create and hide a treasure, make a map or directions, and set aside time to enjoy watching your child(ren) and possibly some friends go in search of it.  The treasure hunt can be a one-day’s experience or clues can be given and the search performed over several days.  You can let a child explore on his/her own or go through the process with him/her as an assistant or observer.  You may want to build up to the actual hunt over days or weeks by reading stories that include treasures of various sorts.  Then, you can make the looking more dramatic by providing clues reminiscent of those in the stories your child has enjoyed.

First, you will need a treasure container (you can make these, use a leather pouch or bright plastic bag, buy pressed paper treasure boxes for a couple dollars at many craft stores, or purchase a suitable cardboard or wood box at a gift store) filled with a treasure.  You can create treasure troves by burying numerous pennies, perhaps mixed with poker chips, plastic, or aluminum coins.    You can go to a craft, bead, or toy store to purchase strings of glass or plastic beads that look like rubies, turquoise, diamonds, and pearls.  You can use an assortment of beautiful shells or stones.  Try burying one or two small treasures in a nest of straw or heavy sand inside a box.  For extra effect, you may want to add a lock: use an old broken lock (that looks as though it may have rusted while waiting beneath the ground), a small padlock with a key hidden elsewhere or taped beneath the box, cord run round and round the box or bag, or a combination lock with a combination cleverly worked into the map clues.

After you have created the treasure, you can hide it in the yard, preferably near a landmark–such as under a rock or beneath the boughs of a pine tree.  You may want to actually bury it beneath dirt–or, for a young child, in a sandbox, where the child can easily dig to get it.

Make a map and/or directions, using picture symbols, words, a maze, and/or depictions of landmarks in the yard.  If there is writing, you may use the form of a riddle or rhyme, choose colorful language, and write in an interesting style.  You can buy paper that looks yellowed or allow paper to yellow or crinkle by lightly wetting it and allowing it to dry.  You may want to roll the paper into a scroll and tie with a gold cord, a heavy piece of rope, deep-colored yarn, or an ancient-looking ribbon.

You can simply present the map to a child, but it may be more exciting to offer it in another way. If you’re lucky enough to have an attic or simply boxes of old family artifacts, or if you have a box of items left by your home’s former owner, plant the map within them.  You can then enjoy the double pleasure of doing some sorting and looking with your youngster and then “finding” a mysterious scroll.  “What’s this?” you may ask, never letting on that you’ve seen it before.  Allow the child to open the scroll for or with you and “realize” with you that you seem to have found a treasure map.  You can be excited about setting off on an expedition together or you may achieve even greater effect if you seem to disbelieve somewhat, leaving it open to your child to find the treasure “if you really think there is one.”  If you live in an apartment or newer house, a child can still find a treasure map somewhere in the building, taped under a stone or drainpipe that you and s/he accidentally-on-purpose happen to be near, in a nearby park (in which case you probably want to hunt for the treasure soon after you plant it–and you probably should hide it more than bury it), or in an unrelated place.  For instance, you could check some old books out of the library, borrow or buy (inexpensively) an old book or figurine.  You or your child could be looking at it soon after you bring it home and something may drop out or appear: look, here is a map!  Together, “figure out” the general area where the treasure is buried.  You can even have your child look for successive clues (rather than one overall map or set of directions) all over the house or town leading up to a final search for the treasure itself.  Use your imagination and resources, and you will create a unique and enchanting experience for your adventurer.

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