The Art and Science of the Treasure Hunt

Posted on December 6th, 2013 by Denise | No Comments

The Art and Science of the Treasure Hunt


Denise Koonce OTR

Say the word “Treasure Hunt” and your imagination begins to swoon!  It brings the thoughts of fantasy, exploration, and adventure along with the promise of gold and jewels.  You can envision explorers, buccaneers, and pirates on mountain tops, tropical islands, and oceans.  It summons the chance for excitement and a change from our day to day routine.  Regardless the age, when you are presented with the chance to participate in a treasure hunt, something deep down inside leaps and urges you forward.  Maybe it is your inner child or the unquenchable desire for “the treasure”, either way you are drawn in and the adventure begins.  

As I have mentioned many times before, being a parent of a young child has its fringe benefits.  In this case the fringe benefit is treasure hunts.  My daughter has enjoyed treasure hunts for several years now.  We started creating treasure hunts for her to encourage letter recognition and reading.  Over the years as she has grown, we have had to become more and more creative, detailed, and the clues more difficult.   When she became older and needed to work on handwriting and spelling we required her to create treasure hunts for us.  As she evolved, so did the treasure hunts.  We have created indoor and outdoor hunts, used symbol or written word clues, simple to complex, short to long, obvious to obscure, and themed or not themed.   If something could be turned into a treasure hunt for an educational or physical purpose we have done it.   So, it only made sense when my daughter, while preparing to spend time with her younger cousins over Thanksgiving, made a family treasure hunt.  As I observed and listened to her explain the treasure hunt I began to reflect on all the hidden benefits of the art and science of the treasure hunt.    

A treasure hunt is an immensely adaptable and gradable activity for a range of developmental ages and physical abilities.  It can be geared towards the end goal you are seeking whether that outcome is physical, cognitive, or educational in nature.  The art of the treasure hunt is your imagination and creativity in engaging the individual.  The science is how you construct the treasure hunt to produce the outcomes you are seeking.  Another words, if you are working on expressive and receptive language skills, your focus will be on the wording of the clues.  If you are working on posture and movement then your focus will be on what the clues require the individual to do, interact with, perform, or access. 

 Here are a couple of extra hints for a successful treasure hunt:

  1. Number the clues to help you “the creator” and “the hunter” go in order.  As your treasure hunts become more complex, make a list of where the clues are hidden while you are hiding them.  (I realize this sounds silly but trust me it helps.)
  2. Most Importantly – Make sure to have some kind of “treasure” at the end.  This can be anything from a tickle fest or ice cream to a shiny quarter or trinket.      

Whether you decide to connect with your inner child over the holidays and create a Treasure Hunt or not, definitely consider doing it sometime in the near future.  You will not regret it!  It is fun, motivating, exciting, and produces wonderful lasting memories!  If you are buccaneer enough to gather some mates, produce a treasure hunt, then off with ya and a big “Yo Ho”!  But be sure to come back and share your treasured adventures with us!

treasure map

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