Saturday, April 26, 2014

Buried treasure birthday party, with map.

The treasure box.
Complicated birthday parties are not my forte, but when it occurred to me that my five-year-old would love a treasure map leading to actual buried treasure, I couldn't resist. So we had a buried treasure birthday party last year.

I kept my preparation time reasonable by avoiding things liked decorating a cake, mailing invitations (I just emailed people), or anything fancy besides the treasure hunt itself.

I told all the invitees to bring shovels.

My mother gave us an old hinged wooden box. (Key point: It got really dirty, so it wasn't something she was attached to.) I filled it with foil-covered chocolate and a few cheap plastic beads.

I bought the chocolate coins in the bulk candy aisle at Wegman's. They have the advantage of being real chocolate, unlike some other candy money, and they're less expensive per pound than the little individual bags of chocolate-y coins for sale elsewhere.
I kept the treasure box hidden from the birthday honoree, but I let my two-year-old sample the treasure the day before. He was truly delighted.


In advance, I made a treasure map that roughly represented our backyard. I decided to locate the treasure near the badminton net, so that it would be easier to find. There are all kinds of neat ways to age paper, but I didn't have time to do more than singe the edges with a match and sort of rumple it.

We were perhaps a bit too ambitious and decided to bury the treasure box (wrapped in a scrap piece of cloth to protect the wood) about a foot deep. We wanted to make the kids work for their treasure!

The treasure map. Naturally, X marks the spot.

I wrote a few clues and hid them around the house. They were simple clues like, "Look in the coldest place in the house," or "Look under the couch cushions." Each clue led to the next one, with the final clue leading to the treasure map. 

Once the treasure hunt started, the kids were excited as they raced around the house looking for clues. Since some of the children could read, they didn't need much adult help. They found the map under the fruit bowl. 

That was a good moment.

Finding the map.

Then they ran outside with their shovels! Fortunately, the kids were able to figure out how to interpret the map, more or less. There may have been some adult guidance here, when we realized how unfortunate it would be to have a bunch of extra holes in the backyard that didn't yield any treasure.

Following the map.

Starting to dig.
There was a lot of digging.

As I mentioned it before, we probably dug the hole a little too deep. At some point, my husband started scooping out big shovelfuls of dirt, because the digging process was taking so long. In the end, the difficulty they had digging down to the treasure probably added to their excitement when the box was finally unearthed.

That was a very good moment.

At last!

At just five years old, Johnny may have already peaked as far as birthday party fun goes. I can't see myself doing something equally cool in the future.


  1. Replies
    1. Yes, he would enjoy that. These days, when he wants to give me a special treat, he creates a maze on paper for me, so it would likely be a maze-themed party.

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  3. Has Doug ever told you his story of the summer of buried treasure? It was good.

    1. No, but that sounds like Doug. I remember when he made a fantastic elaborate treasure hunt for Lesli when they were dating. Your family always seemed to be doing creative, magical things, like making chain mail and building a forge in the backyard.

  4. Hey!! This seems quite interesting party. The treasure seems really good so glad to see the wonderful party arrangements here and kids are also having great time. Planning to arrange such similar party at one of San Francisco event venues for my niece and her friends.