Pirate Treasure Hunt Game Tutorial

Since our Family Pirate Treasure Hunt was such a success with everyone at Conroy’s party, we thought we’d share how we created it with you.

Our son Conroy turned two years old this past August and to celebrate we threw a Pirate Party! Most of his friends are 4 years old, thanks to his older sister. Since they are at an age where they can truly play and enjoy party games, we wanted to do something special for them. At this age, they completely understand an egg hunt and Hide & Seek is pretty much their favorite game so we figured they would totally love a Pirate Treasure Hunt.

Here’s how the game was played: 

Each family would work as a team. This essentially consisted of the four-year-old and their younger sibling. We gave each team a map of the grill area featuring an image of the treasure in the middle and an “X” that marked where they could find that image. They were to use the map to locate the same image on a treasure marker and then look inside. Inside there was an envelope with that family’s photo on the front (so they knew they found the correct one). Inside the envelope was a puzzle piece. Once they found their piece, everyone had to work together as a group to solve the puzzle in order to reveal the image. All the kids loved this!

Here’s how we made the game:

TREASURE MAPS: We were very fortunate to have an actual sketch of the grill area that had been emailed to each resident when our complex was improving our community space. We brought the image into Photoshop and simplified it a little by covering up some of the details. We added a red square to the bottom of the map. This is where we placed the different symbol on each map. We knew we really couldn’t decide where we were going to actually hide each “treasure” until the day of, so we had all the maps printed and wrote the family’s name on the outside. The morning of the party we placed the “treasure” in the spot, marked the X on the map, and then rolled it back up.

TREASURE MARKERS: Each piece of treasure was hidden in a disguised piece of decoration. To make these “treasure markers” we printed out each symbol on a regular sheet of paper as an image roughly 9in x 9in. We glued it to black poster board and then folded the poster board to create a folder-like pocket. We stapled the sides to make sure the treasure didn’t fall out. We then hot-glued a tongue depressor on the bottom so we would be able to easily stick it into the ground. 

PUZZLE & PUZZLE PIECES: In Photoshop we created the image using a photo of Conroy, the words “Happy Birthday Conroy Watson”, and two different balloons. We had it printed as an 8x10 photo through Snapfish. We ordered two prints in case we made a mistake the first time.

There were 9 families coming to the party, so that made it easy to divide the picture into pieces. We first made a grid pattern with regular white paper. Using a ruler we measured out 9 rectangles and then hand drew with a pencil the different shapes to make the shapes into puzzle pieces. Once we had it how we wanted it to look, we outlined it in black sharpie.

We numbered the pieces and cut them out. We laid them on the back of the photo face down and traced in between the pieces with a pencil. We then cut the photo into pieces. The key here is to make your cuts smooth. You want it to fit back together perfectly so you can’t accidently cut off a piece.

We wanted the pieces to be thick so we then glued them to cardboard and cut the cardboard with an exacto knife and scissors. We purposely attached the cardboard secondly because we knew we wouldn’t be able to make a smooth cut to the thick cardboard. This way the photo pieces had a smooth cut and then we were able to make many cuts to ensure the cardboard matched exactly.

ENVELOPE: We placed each piece of puzzle in a separate envelope. We used some red envelopes we had in the studio and decorated them with washi tape. We used iPhoto to turn a photo of each family black & white, cropped it to be 3x4 size, then printed them at CVS – using our favorite mini-prints feature. Having the name of the family, plus their photo, let the kids know they found the correct treasure.

This game was a big hit. It was so fun to watch the kids search for the “treasure” symbols and then work together to solve the puzzle. We plan to save the puzzle as a memory of the party.

We also need to mention that the puzzle idea was inspired by my aunts. On my 10th birthday at my sleepover party they had a photo puzzle made of my brother and me. All my girlfriends worked together to solve it. At the time it was slightly embarrassing because the photo they chose was of us kissing, but today it still hangs in my parents room glued together and I think it’s super cute.

If you have children around the age of four years old, we highly recommend doing a treasure hunt! You can alter the game however you like and cater it to your party or playdate. You can use prizes as the treasure if you don’t have time to make the photo puzzle or just make a photo puzzle as a stand alone activity. If you have any questions, feel free to email us. We’d love to hear about your favorite party games for children, especially now that our kids are old enough to truly enjoy them.  

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