DIY learning treasure hunts for kids

Treasure hunts aren't just about buried pirate gold anymore (although there is still a prize at the end)! They can be a fantastic way to engage kids in learning, encouraging critical thinking and problem-solving skills. 

We started creating treasure hunts for our son when he was 5 years old. We had so much fun creating puzzles for him to solve to find the next clue. This was one of our go-to activities on a Saturday morning or a rainy day. It is highly engaging and it motivated him to practice his math and reading skills. 

This guide will equip you with ideas to create educational treasure hunts that are both fun and enriching for your 5-10 year olds.

Plan Your Route and Difficulty

  • Map it out: Decide where you want to hide the clues and the final treasure. This could be indoors, outdoors, or a combination of both!
  • Number of clues: Consider the attention span of your children and tailor the number of clues accordingly. We recommend 4 to 6 clues.
  • Difficulty level: Start with an easier clue and gradually increase the difficulty as the hunt progresses. This builds confidence and keeps them motivated.

Keep Track of Your Clues

It is easier to know how to create your clue puzzles when you know where you are sending them for the next clue. Here is an example of how we keep track of clue locations:



Clue 1

Give to child

Clue 2


Clue 3

In the tub

Clue 4

By a sock

Final Treasure

Under a pillow

Example Clue Locations (Indoors):

  • Under a chair
  • Inside a book
  • Inside a drawer
  • Behind a picture frame

Example Clue Locations (Outdoors):

  • By the tree
  • Beneath a white flower
  • Next to a birdbath
  • Mailbox

Craft Engaging Puzzles

Here's where you can incorporate learning into a treasure hunt activity. It doesn’t have to be complex, but small tweaks can get kids thinking.

  • Mazes: Print a maze and get creative! Hide words within the maze that spell out the location of the next clue. Alternatively, incorporate math problems throughout the maze – solving them reveals a series of numbers. Create a cipher to accompany the clue and they can decode the numbers to find the next clue.
  • Ciphers: I love ciphers because you can create so many different kinds! This is one of our go-tos because you can create a simple code for kids to decipher messages leading to the next clue. A fun and easy cipher is the Pig Pen Cipher. You could also create a symbol substitution cipher or a number replacement cipher. The number replacement cipher is great if you want to incorporate numbers or math problems into your treasure hunt.



  • Crossword Puzzles: Take a pre-made crossword puzzle and circle specific letters in the grid. Once they've solved the puzzle, unscramble the circled letters to reveal the next clue's location.
  • Workbooks with a Twist: Dust off an old workbook with math problems. Circle specific problems for them to solve and provide a decoder to convert the answers into words, leading them to the next clue.
  • Riddle Time: Write a riddle with a twist – write it backwards! They'll need a mirror to read it and solve for the next clue's location.

Tip: Adapt the complexity of the puzzles based on your child's age and skill level.

Let the Adventure Begin!

  • Set the Stage: Create a theme around the hunt. Maybe they're searching for lost pirate treasure or helping a lost explorer find their way.
  • Presentation Matters: Make the clues visually appealing with pictures and symbols. You could also make the paper look old. Here is a quick and easy tutorial on how to make plain white computer paper look old.
  • Celebrate Success: Acknowledge their problem-solving skills and celebrate their accomplishment upon finding the treasure! The problem-solving and searching are the most exciting part of the treasure hunt, so you do not need an extravagant prize. A little candy, trinket, or even video game time are all good prize options.

With a little planning and creativity, you can transform a simple treasure hunt into an unforgettable educational adventure for your kids! But if you're short on time, we understand. We also offer ready-made, printable treasure hunts that incorporate these problem-solving elements for a fun, hassle-free learning experience.  These themed hunts come with everything you need –  just print, cut, hide, and watch your child become an explorer! Click Here to check out our Treasure Hunts.

 Check out our ready-made treasure hunts

Pirate Treasure Hunt | Escape Game for kids | Printable Treasure Hunt | Ages 5-10 | Digital Download Horse Treasure Hunt | Riding Wild & Free | Printable Treasure Hunt for Kids Pirate Treasure Hunt for Playground | Printable Outdoor Treasure Hunt | Ages 6-10 | Digital Download