Things To Do 2: with Children

Suggestion 1: Treasure Hunts

Treasure doesn’t have to be diamonds and pearls. I first started treasure hunts with my brood when we were on holiday with my sister, staying in a borrowed family cottage with five small children, three terriers and no money.

Not all of the children could read yet, so I devised picture clues for the smallest and hid enough ‘treasure’ to go around, even for the slowest, as long as everyone only took one (a lesson some of our adults have yet to learn, apparently). Mostly this was sweets or biscuits with the odd stash of balloons or bubble-blowers). We had treasure hunts on the beach, in the local forest and, when it was raining, in the cottage .

Indoor treasure hunts are easier to set up in an unfamiliar building.

The best buildings for treasure hunts were the Landmark Trust buildings we sometimes stayed in when the children were much older. These are rescued buildings, not important enough for the National Trust to take on, but nevertheless interesting. We stayed in a martello tower, a former chapel complete with graveyard, a manor, a water mill. . . all ideal for treasure hunting (have a look at their website. No, they’re not paying me.)

Up until a couple of years ago I was still penning rhyming clues for family treasure hunts (all by then in their thirties). But after a few hunts in the same house it gets trickier to find new places to hide clues. Especially since mine is much smaller now – I’ve downsized twice since the family home.


These became more complicated as my children grew. They’ve ranged from simple drawings (think wardrobe, under the bed, in the bath. . .) to verses.

In the cupboard behind the stair
A treasure clue awaits you there

No fairies in the hut at the bottom of this track,
But a treasure to use when summer comes back.

(Not exactly Wordsworth.)

In later years, the clues developed so they had to collect letters for codes and anagrams that form the final clue.

Hook a duck for your first clue
Then hunt your first prize as a crew.
Collect two letters from each chest,
You’ll need them for your final test…

And there might be an occasional mini-treasure along the way.

Read well
to learn what you must do.
Then choose your prize
and your next clue

More recently the clues have been tackled in groups or as families (to acclimatise new partners and small grandchildren) and I’ve set the clues in a circular route, so that I can allocate each their first clue by means of some kind of ‘lucky dip’. That way, everyone isn’t looking for the same clue at the same time.

First to come on a treasure trove gets first pick of that collection, hence the lucky dip to start things off so everyone gets first pick from one or other location (although a certain amount of swopping might take place at the end). Most of my ‘treasure’ was collected over the year, much of it from charity shop bric-a-brac.

Looks like I won’t be visiting many charity shops this year.

But I’ve already decided it’s time to hand over treasure hunts to the next generation. They can devise clues more suitable for their offspring (since decoding abilities develop as rapidly as their height when they’re out of sight for a while).

Suggestion 2: Why not read them The Pond People?

Currently available on this blog, this is my story about little people who live in a fish pond.

It’s unlikely to interest small children, but your feedback from older ones would be invaluable (eg. how quickly did they get bored and fall asleep…).

It starts with Meet the Mirlings and continues in very short episodes.

(For those who have been following… yes, I did mess up the scheduling and post two together this week. But, as you’ll know, I’m good at messing up scheduling.)

Updates are posted every three days (unless I mess up again). The final episode is due early April, so it should keep you going for a little while.

fish in pond

What holiday activities do you recall from childhood?

How have you adapted them for your own children or grandchildren?

29 thoughts on “Things To Do 2: with Children

  1. A great idea, my sister in law and her husband used to do treasure hunts for our children when they had short holidays with them. My sister in law’s husband would hide the clues in a local park (from his wheelchair). They made a map and called it Old Bob’s Treasure Map. the children loved it, Old Bob, (my sister in law’s, father in law) is no longer with us but the memories linger on. I am grateful to my sister in law and her husband for giving the children such great memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Brilliant Cathy, glad I’m not the only parent that did this. Also did the rhyming couplets for the Easter egg hunts too. Still doing it for the grandchildren.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We were never into Easter Egg hunts, but the grandchildren are. I’m just wondering what to do with these little Easter bunnies and chocolate ‘fried eggs’ I’d bought for them, since we won’t be travelling to visit them this Easter.
      Ah well… maybe there are no calories in undelivered Easter chocolates (rather like the broken biscuits at the bottom of the tin).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I grew up in a very large house with a very large yard. We never exhausted hiding places in Hide and Seek and played it for years. We played a lot of board games, so of which the grandkids still enjoy, such as Sorry.

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    1. We were lucky enough to acquire a large Edwardian semi when my oldest son was a year old – mainly because it needed a LOT of work, and the owners were desperate to sell before an imminent move out of the country. It was ideal for family Christmases (including Mum and my sister’s family), for somewhere the kids’ friends could gather after school, and for treasure hunts.
      When my children were grown, my marriage broke up, and I would have loved to buy out my husband but, with only five years to retirement, a loan that size wasn’t an option. I comfort myself with the knowledge that the cost of maintaining it would be out of my range… but family get-togethers are becoming a squeeze now the grandchildren are big enough to need a chair around the table. They don’t make houses that size anymore that normal families can afford, and those that exist have been split into flats or maisonettes.
      I know we shouldn’t hog more rooms than we need when our children are in need of affordable housing, but I do miss the space.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I tell myself I couldn’t cope with the housework now (although, to be honest, housework wasn’t a priority back then either…) I’m just thankful we had it while the children were growing up. Sadly it’s now being used for student-type multiple occupancy.

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          1. Both my offspring who’ve bought homes are living in houses smaller than the one I downsized to. Although they’re not planning to have more children than the two they each have.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Oh, we’d planned for four… but I was having second thoughts by the time we got to pregnancy no.3. She got impatient too: she turned up two months to the day before she was due.

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  4. We always made ornaments and small cloth sacks with some candies for the local nursing homes. I passed the tradition down to my daughter. I hope when she becomes a mom, she carries it on!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a nice idea. I don’t know about other time zones, but here in the UK it’s a good time to introduce children to growing veg in gardens, tubs and window boxes. I don’t have any living with me now, but in the past mine were always too busy to help with planting, weeding and harvesting (although, their help with weeding, when it happened, could be a mixed blessing.


    1. Scavenger hunts – now there’s a thought! Followed, perhaps, by collage-making? Or maybe a dreamcatcher… the possibilities are endless.
      I understand dreamcatchers are based on spiderwebs. We did spend one afternoon making spiders from those wire twists for plastic bags (I keep them to use again) so we could practice picking up spiders with our long-arm spider-catcher. (The pupppy had chewed the plastic one that came with it, but ours were better.)

      Liked by 1 person

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