Although presenting some basic math and word problems to a group of young kids at a party might not always go down well, to say the least, the following activities incorporate an educational element that the kids might just enjoy as they ‘hunt for treasure’.
The basic treasure hunting game structure
To play this basic treasure hunting game you will need to give each guest a card that has something like “Go to the next blue spot” and a number on it. On the ground you make a trail of colored ‘spots’ that the kids walk to when it is their turn in the sequence, which is represented by the number on their card. The trail of colored spots are pre-prepared placements of six main colors in any order (e.g. blue, green, blue, red, yellow, white, blue, black, blue….), but only by following the instructions on the cards in the correct sequence will the treasure be ‘found’. The last guest has ‘Lift the next red spot’, or some other color and that is where the ‘treasure’ is. This game involves each child following the instructions with the other guests ‘double checking’ the move. Each new ‘move’ begins at the last colored spot that the previous guest was standing on (or near, since these will be frail paper or card ‘spots’). Only the child who has the next numbered card in the sequence can make the move and then after they have moved they can show the rest of the guests their card so the move can be ‘confirmed’ by all. The last card can be given to the birthday girl or boy, if appropriate, and the rest of the cards can be shuffled and given out at random. If there is no ‘special’ person that you want to give the last card to, then all of the cards can be given out at random. Also, with the same basic trail, you can make three or four ‘variation’ packs of cards with different sequences arriving at a different destination with a different ‘treasure’ under the last card in the given sequence. The treasure should be an interesting (possibly matching the party theme) picture of something that is also noted on the last card itself, so that if you have prepared multiple ‘sequences’ you will know if the treasure matches the correct result. All you need to do is to work out the correct sequence instructions and prepare the cards, ahead of time, which is quite an activity within itself!
The same treasure hunting game structure with letters and words
Another variation, that is slightly more educational, involves you laying out large letters that form a trail (these can be printed or hand drawn) . You then give each child a numbered picture, the pictures are of a dog, cat or other simple objects. Then, in numbered card sequence, your party guests spell out the word for the picture that is on the card and stop on the trail at the last letter in the word. The next guest takes over and these steps repeat until the last guest arrives at the ‘treasure’. This game will need supervision and some prompting from the hostess, and of course the party guests can ‘help’ each other. This game is slightly more complicated than the first but follows the same basic game structure as the colored spots. The layout of the letters can be simple or complicated, for example the trail sequence a,c,d,d,g,o,g,f for the picture word ‘dog’ has the guest standing on the last letter ‘g’ in the given sequence, if they start from the letter a.
The same treasure hunting game structure with numbers and simple math problems
This one is the most difficult of the three and involves giving out a numbered sequence of cards with a simple math problem. For example “What is 3 + 2 ?”. The guests follow the cards in sequence, as with the other games, only numbers are laid out as the trail. The guest with card number ‘one’ looks at their math problem and then goes to the first number that matches the answer. The next guest starts at the answer of the first guest then reads their math problem and goes to the next number that matches their answer. The game proceeds, as with the previous games, until the guest who has the last card arrives at their answer, which has the ‘treasure’ under it. This last game takes a little more preparation but, hopefully, will get the kids doing a little math ‘along the way’.
Over the years I have researched many party ideas, in particular educational games, that would be suitable for birthday and other parties. I have found that by having a large supply of these games, in reserve, I can adopt a play, repeat or discard strategy depending on how well the games are going. If things are going badly, for whatever reason, I just move on to the next game or activity until I find one that is well received then I repeat that activity a couple of times. Also, if the task is a little complicated and you suspect a guest might become flustered, have the guests form small teams to help each other out.