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April 14 - Bird Treasure Hunt

HYPOTHESES:

  1. Children will happily learn and apply knowledge for a game, and have a great time doing it.
  2. If we did 10 little challenges rather than 4 big challenges for a treasure hunt, we could have more fun and keep younger players involved longer.

PROCEDURE: For this treasure hunt, I knew I wanted it to be bird themed and to be comprised of more (slightly easier) challenges. Part of the prep was finding the right accomplices to work with. I needed to find some birds. Fortunately there were a bunch in Zephyr and Lyric's stuffed animal collection:

 From L to R: Sparky the Penguin, Owly, Sigmund the Swan, The Cranberry Goose, and Pigeon Pillow.

From L to R: Sparky the Penguin, Owly, Sigmund the Swan, The Cranberry Goose, and Pigeon Pillow.

I wrote out five (non-rhyming, which is somewhat a break from the norm) clues, and then five more small clues for each of the birds. Each of the birds' clues would also have a letter, which the kids would have to unscramble at the end to find the treasure. Then I hid the birds and clues at various places around the house, so that one clue would lead to the next.

Part of the fun of this is that the kids were RIGHT NEXT to a few of the clues the day before, but didn't even know it. Zephyr slept right next to Owly and didn't realize he had a clue taped to his wing. It's somewhat risky, but the effect is pretty cool to watch on the children's faces.

The kids were positively ITCHING to start the treasure hunt this morning. I insisted they wait for me (because I had to take pictures) but we got started pretty close to 6:10am. Lyric opened the first clue and gave it to Zephyr to read.

 This might be more difficult as a lot of the questions are "our house" based, but feel free to play along!

This might be more difficult as a lot of the questions are "our house" based, but feel free to play along!

The first clue spoke of an owl whose best friend has no arms or legs. Zephyr was puzzled, but Lyric knew right away who I was talking about: Owly, the amazing protagonist of an eponymous silent cartoon, and his best friend Wormy. These books (by Andy Runton) are simply the sweetest things and I can't recommend them enough, for children (and adults!) of all ages. Runton is a master of silent storytelling, and Owly books are so beautifully written and structured that even pre-literate kids can learn to read them. We have every single one and a plush Owly and Wormy, and that plush doll in Zephyr's bed is where the kids raced to. When Lyric found the note on Owly's wing he literally squealed in delight.

 [Squeal]

[Squeal]

Owly's note said that 1) his letter was O and 2) to look for the next clue in a book featuring him. Of course, as I said, we have 7 books featuring Owly, so Zephyr and Lyric started rounding up the books and flipping through them, looking for clues.

There weren't any clues in the black and white Journal-sized ones. But I was gratified to see they didn't give up, and realized there were also larger color Owly books elsewhere on their shelves. They found one, but were stymied when they found a note that said to look for the other one!

Zephyr kind of had the perfect reaction to the "Nope, Other book" note. It was a teasing joke that kind of connected, letting him know that he was getting closer and driving him to keep pushing. They soon found the right one.

 Man I love Owly comics. Get as many of those things as you can.

Man I love Owly comics. Get as many of those things as you can.

Side note: it was about now that we realized the kids had misplaced Owly's note (which they needed to keep to unscramble the letters at the end), and we looked everywhere to find it to no avail until we realized it was stuck on Lyric's butt.

 There it is.

There it is.

 But back to the hunt.

But back to the hunt.

The next bird they were going to look for was supposed to be a "rock dove" that was hiding in plain sight. Zephyr got this was referring to a pigeon (one of the bird facts he picked up at school) but couldn't quite think of where we had a pigeon around the house. They looked all over their room, but couldn't find him. I gave them a hint that it might not be in their room, and that gave them the inspiration to look out in the living room, where we have our owl and pigeon pillows.

The note there told the kids 1) his letter was V and 2)  to look for the next note on some bread. The kids ran to the fridge and searched the bread.

 Fans of alt weekly comics have an advantage on this one.

Fans of alt weekly comics have an advantage on this one.

The note talks about a penguin that wears sneakers and sunglasses, and fans of eerily prescient comics might have guessed that I'm talking about Sparky the Penguin, protagonist of Tom Tomorrow's This Modern World. Tom Tomorrow wrote a great kids book called The Very Silly Mayor which the kids love, and Zephyr understood immediately that was the book he had to find.

 Zephyr was on it.

Zephyr was on it.

The kids only remembered they had to find the plush Sparky afterwards "behind a curtain". We only have one set of curtains, so it was kind of obvious where they had to look, but they still couldn't find it, even though they were right on top of it. They asked for a clue, but I told them that when things were hard they had to try harder. In all fairness, I knew they just had to look on the floor a little more thoroughly... I could even see Sparky's sneakers under the curtain. They got it eventually.

Sparky's note said that his letter was T, and to look for his clue in his book, but of course Zephyr had already found that.

 People who attended our wedding have the advantage with this one.

People who attended our wedding have the advantage with this one.

As long time readers of the blog might know, swans are an important symbol for my wife and I. The kids knew it, at least, and went to check under the sinks, where they found Sigmund.

 Sigmund's note said his letter was S and to look for his note in a lamp shaped like him. My wife and I have swan lamps on our bedside tables (see above), so the kids rushed to our room to find the next clue.

Sigmund's note said his letter was S and to look for his note in a lamp shaped like him. My wife and I have swan lamps on our bedside tables (see above), so the kids rushed to our room to find the next clue.

The final bird was a bird we call the Cranberry Goose, which was made for Zephyr by his great aunt when he was a baby. This question didn't really test their bird knowledge or anything, but it did test their knowledge of where the Maple Syrup was, which is... practical knowledge.

The Cranberry Goose's note said his letter was E and to look for his clue on something that rhymed with his name. Thanks to Pickle and Peanut, Zephyr got that "Goose" and "Juice" rhyme pretty quickly. They looked in the fridge, found the cranberry juice, and got the final clue.

 Have you been paying attention to each bird's letters?

Have you been paying attention to each bird's letters?

Zephyr wanted the letters on pieces of paper so he could more easily switch them around... and then he got it!

 The treasure is in the STOVE!

The treasure is in the STOVE!

The prize for this month was a Dr. Strange and Silver Surfer action figure! Even my DC snob kids could see the coolness of the power cosmic and the Sorcerer Supreme.

RESULTS: The kids have so much fun ding treasure hunts, and I think this was the most fun they've had. More clues made for more fun. Prep wasn't so bad, either... not having to rhyme made things a lot easier. Plus they got to use knowledge like what a pigeon was, where penguins live, and lots of other little practical knowledge like where books and foodstuffs were. Plus they got Scrabble-esque practice mixing up letters to come up with words, which I think helped my own verbal ability as a kid. But I think that moment looking in the curtains when they realized they just had try harder when things are hard might have been the best lesson they picked up.