Friday, 4 July 2014

Solving real, live, human clues: Set them a Shopkeepers' Treasure Hunt

I love the idea of a treasure hunt where the clues are ‘alive’ – one that involves humans and human interaction in order to solve it. I first invented this treasure hunt for my son when he was 10. Now, I couldn’t wait to do it for my daughter, 8, and her friend. They were pretty excited too. In fact, they skipped all the way to town.
I began by thinking of 10 shops in my town that I knew my daughter and her friend knew the names and locations of. Then I wrote a clue for each one  – the solution was the name of the shop  – and put them them in sealed envelopes. 
I delivered the clues to the shopkeepers (the humans!) in an order that would make a trail from shop to shop, telling them about the treasure hunt and to expect two little girls along later. I chose mostly small, independent shops with friendly, unrushed shopkeepers who would be happy to be involved. Indeed they were, tucking the clues down the side of their tills smugly, with comments like, “This is exciting!” and “I wish I could play”. Finally, I hid the treasure itself.

Now, the fun could begin. When I did this treasure hunt for my son and his friend, I’d let them go alone, with a mobile phone to ‘Phone A Friend’ (me!) if they got really stuck on a clue. But as my daughter was younger, I planned to go with them this time, but hang back, leaving them go into the shops, talk to the shopkeepers and collect and solve the clues without me (unless really stumped). I overheard the girls discussing on the way how they should best approach the shopkeepers. In the end they decided on a very polite, “Excuse me, we’re doing a treasure hunt. Have you got a clue for us?”

So, back at home, I presented them with CLUE 1 (an easy one to kick off with):
I know you don't live in my town, but can you guess the answer? It's The Teddy Bear Shop.

CLUE 2 (given to them by The Teddy Bear Shop's shopkeeper):
 Worked it out? The answer is The Knitting Centre.

CLUE 3 (given to them by The Knitting Centre's shopkeeper):
Got it? The answer is Library, not strictly a shop, I know. 

CLUE 4 (given to them by the librarians):
This clue was a deviation from using shopkeepers, but I thought it would be fun to hide a clue inside a book.

CLUE 5 (hidden in the book):
The answer to this one is Beanbag (a health food shop).

CLUE 6 (given to them by Beanbag's shopkeeper):
This took a little time and pen and paper to solve ...
... but they got there in the end. The answer is art shop next to hairdressers (there are two art shops in town, you see).

CLUE 7 (given to them by the art shop's shopkeeper):
Easy peasy. The answer is Waterstones.

CLUE 8 (given to them by Waterstones' shopkeeper):
You can't possibly know her name of course, but the answer is the Sue Shop (an oriental food shop).

CLUE 9 (given to them by the Sue Shop's shopkeeper):
You can see their workings out. The answer is Laughing Stock (a joke and party shop).

CLUE 10 (given to them by the Laughing Stock's shopkeeper):
A treasure map – stained with coffee, crumpled and ripped round the edges for that aged effect – that led them to a nearby graveyard.
I hope Martha Getrude Cox didn't mind being involved in our treasure hunt. Her grave was very, very old, crumbly and neglected, so I like to think she enjoyed the attention.

And finally to the treasure, hidden in the undergrowth near the grave: a box of Turkish Delight, which they very much enjoyed. 
But not as much as collecting and solving the clues, and all the encounters and chats they'd had along the way.

Really, it’s all in the hunt, not the kill.


  1. This is a great idea! I love that the shopkeepers were in on it too! :) xx

  2. I know! They were very good sports.

  3. What a wonderful idea! I bet they had a great time.
    Thanks for sharing #LetKidsBeKids

    1. The downside is my daughter is pestering me to make another one!