North, South, East, West! Directions can be a challenging concept for children to learn. However, you can easily make it hands-on and fun with this DIY Treasure Hunt for kids.
I always find directions a challenging concept to teach, but this activity made it a lot easier for children to understand and a lot of fun! This activity is also a great way to make learning meaningful and real life experiences.
To learn their directions, each student gets their own compass for them to hold and explore with. We started in the classroom and learned how to hold the compass properly and how to read it.
I asked them to hold their compass still and flat in the palm of their hand at their belly button. We then ventured out of the classroom and through the school- on a treasure hunt.
Treasure Hunt Materials
All you need for this treasure hunt is a compass for each child who will be participating. You can purchase compasses at most outdoor supply stores. I have also included a link below to save you some time if you are interested in purchasing.
You also need something for treasure. I used an old treasure box and filled with with some gold chocolate coins. Gold coins are a great option for treasure.
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Setting up Your DIY Treasure Hunt
Once you have your compasses, it is up to you how complicated or how much time you want to put into planning your route or hunt.
I often used this lesson with my students when we were learning about directions during our mapping unit. Being outside and watching the arrow move on the compass as children moved and change directions is a great, hands-on way to learn about directions.
One way that you can set up your treasure hunt is to simply decide where you want your hunt to end. Do you want to lead children into a building or your home? Is there somewhere special outside that you want to guide them to for them to see?
You decide where you want to go. Wherever you decide your final spot is, this is where you can place your treasure box.
The Treasure Hunt
Once you are ready and have hidden your treasure box/treats you are ready to start your adventure!
Start by giving children each a compass. Give them time to hold and move with the compass in their hand. Determine which way is north and make sure that all of your compasses are working properly.
Once everyone is comfortable using their compasses, you can start by testing out their abilities with the compass. Ask children to move west and have them walk for a minute or two.
Walk as a group and call out directions as you go to get children to move and turn according to their compass.
Children will learn a little bit about directions and even learn north as a marker in their neighborhood.
Treasure Hunt Ending
Once you are ready for children to find the treasure start guiding them directly to the treasure box. Remind children that in their case the directions lead them to chocolate, but in the real world following direction carefully leads us to different locations that we need to get to.
Treasure Hunt Extension Ideas
If you want to try this activity in a different way, you could create a map or list of directions telling children where to go. For example, “walk north for ten yards/meters”.
You can also encourage children explore the area as they walk in different directions. I often did this activity outside and it was a great opportunity to explore and inspect everything around us.
Another idea, if you want to encourage a more independent treasure hunt, you could put children into groups and have one child be a caller.
They can say a direction to the group and the group has to move in the direction called. Make sure that you are playing in a large open area and that it is safe for children to move.
Activities like this make learning fun. They are hands-on and make learning meaningful and memorable. It is also a great way to take learning outside.
After doing the treasure hunt, I then challenged children to think about which direction the sun sets and rises using north as their marker.
Outdoor Escape Room
If you love the idea of going on a scavenger hunt, but would also like to focus what kids are looking for, then you’ll love this Outdoor Scavenger Hunt Escape Room. It can work anywhere from a park to a backyard and for groups of all sizes.
The puzzles are all printable so you don’t need any other special clues or materials, like locks or keys. Simply print and easily prepare the puzzles, then hide them in specific locations around the area outside.
Give kids the starting clue and let me start exploring. This activity is a bit of an escape room and a bit of a scavenger hunt. Children have to solve the puzzles and then search around for the location of the next clue, based on the puzzle solution.
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