45 Scavenger and Treasure Hunt Clues and Ideas

Treasure hunt

Treasure hunts and scavenger hunts, are fun activities for kids of all ages. They are ideal for a birthday, Christmas, Halloween, or just to pass a rainy afternoon.

The challenge is creating enough fun treasure hunt clues for kids and making them easy enough to solve without being too easy. We’ve therefore put together this list of 45 treasure hunt ideas and riddles for both younger and older children.

How to create a scavenger hunt

Treasure hunts work best for kids on their own or with a small group of children. For larger groups, it’s likely one child will solve more of the clues than the others. You might therefore be best splitting a large group up into two or three different ‘search parties’ and reposition the clues and a new treasure each time. Alternatively, you could create a murder mystery party and include a treasure hunting aspect as part of it.

Scavenger hunts are where you give a list of items children have to find - whether it's a list of things found in nature, books with different characters in them, or shapes.

The first rule when planning a treasure hunt is to start with the treasure itself then work backwards. This way you always know which clue to place next. If it’s for a birthday or Christmas, you may want to leave a small present at each location, then the final treasure at the end of the hunt.

For younger kids, choose clues which are more visual or write extra hints on the clue (e.g. “Starts with B…”). For older kids, if they get stuck, give them an extra clue at this point. For mixed groups, one idea is to have two clues at some points (one easy, one harder) and rip the next clue in half, placing half at each of the locations. This way, both younger and older kids will have fun and develop their team building skills.

The infographic below is one we created for Talk To Teach, a site offering English language immersions in France.

How to create a treasure hunt infographic

Another thing to consider is safety. At the start of your scavenger hunt, let your kids know where they can and cannot go. You may also be able to specify something like, "You don't need to move anything to see the clues." This is particularly important if you're having a party, as your may not want dozens of children rummaging through the tools in your garage, or tipping out the drawers in your bedroom.

Clue ideas for kids of all ages

Treasure map

Whatever age your children are, there some treasure hunt clues that are always great fun:

  • Jigsaw - Draw a sketch or take a photo of somewhere, then cut it up into a jigsaw. When you piece the jigsaw together, the next location is revealed.
  • Treasure map - A sketch of one of the rooms in the house (for older kids, don't label anything, just draw rectangles for the items of furniture). Put an X to mark the location of the next riddle. If you'd like to print the image above to use as a basis of your map, just click it for a close-up, then print it.
  • Word search - Either create a 5x5 grid and write a short word like "chair", "table", or "lamp" as part of it, then fill in random letters for the rest, or create a larger word search and write a list of words to find. The letters not used then show the location of the next clue.
  • Crossword puzzles - You can also use crosswords and highlight several letters within the blank grid. When these are found, they spell the location of the treasure, or next hint. If you have a teenager in your scavenger hunt game, you may also wish to use cryptic crossword clues.
  • Alphabet code - Substituting letters with its position in the alphabet creates codes like 3-1-18 to give C-A-R.
  • Passwords - Not every hint has to go to a physical location. Sometimes you can give a hint and the child must say the password to get the next clue.
  • Invisible ink - If you write a word in lemon juice, then when you heat the piece of paper the writing will become visible. Make sure you're around for this one and appropriate safety measures are taken.
  • Maze - Pretty out a maze and write the letters of the answer along the correct path. Then write a few other random letters at dead ends.
  • Rebuses - Pictorial riddles. Scroll down for examples.
  • Hints in funny places - One of my favourites is to write a one word clue in big bold letters on a piece of toilet paper and put it in the toilet, face-up. Make sure the ink doesn't bleed.
    Then give a clue like: 
    Anagram: LIE TOT

 

Anagram Clues

Anagram for young kids

On the subject of anagrams, rearranging the letters is a great way to create customised clues. These can be household items, or be based on your kid's favourite TV show, book, or toy.

We recommend using an anagram generator to create fun anagrams based on the words you enter. Anagrams can be tricky to solve, so do one or more of the following for any that are more than a few letters:

  • Also give another clue to go with them (e.g. "A comic book").
  • Give the first letter of each word in the answer.
  • For young kids, write the letters randomly around a page and draw a line to each letter's correct position in the answer, as shown above.

Here are five anagram ideas of popular books:

  1. HARPY RETORT
  2. BASHED DIET
  3. ARMED SPIN
  4. IN ROMAN
  5. WORST SHEEP

And another three anagrams of popular authors: 

  1. US DRESS
  2. NOT LIKE
  3. HAD A DROLL

 

Book Answers:

  1. Harry Potter
  2. The Baddies
  3. Spiderman
  4. Iron man
  5. Where's Spot?

Author Answers:

  1. Dr. Seuss
  2. Tolkien
  3. Roald Dahl

Rebuses

Another idea for riddles is to use rebuses - coded pictures that reveal a word or location.

Here are three rebuses to inspire you:

Catalog riddle 

 

handbag rebus

 

bookcase riddle

Rebus Answers:

  1. Catalog (Catalogue in British English)
  2. Handbag
  3. Bookcase

 

Creating a combined scavenger / treasure hunt

Two boys searching

Some children love to collect objects and will find a scavenger hunt great fun. Others will more enjoy the challenge of solving riddles. You can combine both and create a great game to please everyone.

To create a combined game, do the following:

Hide the treasure

When creating a treasure hunt, it's best to work backwards. You therefore start at the end.

Choose where the treasure will be hidden and place it there (make sure the children don't know which room you're in for this).

Create the final clue

Create a 'final' clue with 6-10 parts revealing where the treasure is hidden. Hide each clue and make a note of where it's hidden. This could be:

  • A jigsaw puzzle (or image cut into 6-10 pieces).
  • An anagram with one letter per piece of paper.
  • A word anagram with one word per piece of paper.
  • Small toys e.g. toy cars and give the instructions, "All 7 toy cars must be found before you receive the final clue."

Write the main riddles

Write one riddle for each of the final clues (these can be in any order).

Write a scavenger hunt list

If you want to simply use several chocolate eggs, or one item multiple time for this, skip this step.

Write a list of objects that fit under a given theme like Halloween or Christmas. Choose objects your child will be familiar with but you don't have too many of, for example:

Halloween Christmas
  • Pumpkin
  • Spider web
  • Toy monster
  • Glow-in-the-dark star
  • Witch's hat
  • Black cat
  • Broomstick
  • Candle
  • Santa's stocking
  • Christmas decoration
  • Snowman
  • Bell
  • Gloves
  • Cookies
  • Scarf
  • Advent calendar

Either leave them where they are, or hide all the items in one room. Place a riddle under each item in the scavenger hunt.

Give the children the list

When the children receive the list of items, they must scavenge for them, then solve each riddle to find the final set of clues. Once they have this, they put all of them together to find the treasure.

This is a great way of encouraging team building and is a good game for larger groups.

 

Rhyming riddles for kids and teenagers

Coin with a mapRhyming clues are a great way to get kids and teenagers to think out of the box. As with other treasure hunt clues, if they struggle with the answer, give them the first letter as an extra hint.

Click any of the riddles below to see the answer.

FAQ

It lets the cat out, so she can explore, You just need to find the right door.

Cat Flap

A game where bishops never walk straight, The queen strides quickly, pawns number eight.

Chess

The prime minister, president, and king, Are all named after this measuring thing.

Ruler

They wait in the hall when master's at home, Yet travelling in pairs, with him they roam.

Shoes (or boots)

Write the word PET next to CAR, Aladdin’s was magic, it did fly far.

Carpet

On paper, when I bite, my teeth collapse, Whatever I bite, I attach.

Staple

I have brown feet and my clothes are green, On top of a pot I'll often be seen.

Plant

T is at my start, T is at my end, I contain more T when you meet a friend.

Teapot

I’m unwelcome at home, poisoned and trapped, Yet with every computer, I come wrapped.

Mouse

 

Is found in the ground and used as bait, I'm orange and tasty. Quick, before I'm ate!

Carrot

Though wave's in my name, you won't see me do it. I'll make things hot and easy to chew it.

Microwave

A kind of fly, oh so beautiful, Creamy and white, almost spreadable.

Butter

My bark is silent and not heard at all. At my full height, I grow very tall.

Tree

Four kings and queens are kept within me. Their hearts, clubs, and spades all easy to see.

Cards

My name means metal, rigid or cruel, Yet I make things flat, am just a tool

Iron

With a head of skin, a body laced tight, Adding much emphasis, struck with delight.

Drum

Rearrange EPICS to make something hot. I'm added to food - a little, not a lot.

Spice

A magic word all children are taught, Creates great results, requires little thought.

Please (The child must say “Please” to receive the next clue).

I wave my hands all day and all night, If I wave too slow, I’ll soon be put right.

Clock (or watch)

The fifth and forth note in musical speak. Need to sit down? Then it’s me you must seek.

Sofa

If kept by an outgoing type is packed, If empty, there’s never a time you must act.

Diary

 

 

What have you got in your pocket, my gosh? It's on the floor, not in the wash.

A previously worn item of clothing that's not been tidied away.

I’ve a golden head, a golden tail too, But you won’t see them both at the same time. I rest with my friends in a bed made of leather. To steal me is considered a crime.

Coin

Warning, this place gets very hot. Right now it's cold, so look in a pot.

A pan on the stove

I'm friendly to all who come through the door. Though they might not see me, here on the floor.

A welcome mat.

When it's sunny, I'm likely to vanish. I'm hung in the hall and look rather mannish.

Dad's coat

I contain all the words from A to Z, Including aardvark and zoology.

Dictionary

Without a word, you'll sure notice me. Every morning, I won't let you be.

Alarm clock

I'm full of water but won't get you wet. I take your clothes for a spin to remove the sweat.

Washing machine

Feel free to use the above in your own scavenger hunt or treasure hunt
game and adapt them as you wish to personalise them for your own kids.

If you share any photos or blog posts about it, you're welcome to include a link to this page.