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.
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.