How To Create a Pirate Treasure Hunt & Other Easy Outdoor Pirate Activities (June Carnival of Natural Parenting)

June 8th, 2010 by Dionna | 25 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Carnival of Natural Parenting, Children, Eclectic Learning, Preschoolers, Toddlers

  • Email This Post

Welcome to the June Carnival of Natural Parenting: Outdoor fun

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their stories and tips for playing outside with kids. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Avast, ye scurvy dogs! If your little ones love pirates, this is the special outdoor activity for you. It takes some preparation and work, but the payoff is well worth it.

Kieran has been into pirates. We’ve read all of the pirate books we can get our hands on at the library, he is the proud owner of a pirate jack-in-the-box, he likes to run around the house yelling “argh! matey,” and our raised garden square out back has been dubbed “the pirate ship.”

One of the recurring story lines in any pirate book is buried treasure, so I decided to make a little adventure for Kieran.

The first thing I did I had Tom do was draw a map. He used landmarks from our backyard and drew an easy path for Kieran to follow to the “X” that marked the spot of the treasure.

2010-05-31 03

Next, I came up with a letter from a pirate captain. I used this site to find some good pirate phrases. Tom “aged” all of the paper we used by dabbing it with a used coffee filter and crinkling it up.

2010-05-31 04

I buried some treasure in his sand table. I buried a few shiny rocks (they have shiny gold flecks – like real treasure!), old costume jewelry, and small toys. We got the (cheapo) pirate hat and spyglass from a party supply store, I had the pirate stickers and tattoos in a box saved for a rainy day. 1

2010-05-31 05

When the sandbox was in place with the treasure buried, I told Kieran that he had mail. He opened up the envelope and we read the letter together, then it was time to go find the treasure. I guided him through yard according to the map’s directions, and then he “opened” the sandbox with the key from the envelope. He dug up all of the treasure, and then he asked to do it again.

2010-05-31 01

Other Outdoor Pirate Activities

1. Turn a play structure into a pirate ship using only your imagination.

2. Swab the deck by mopping a patio with water.

3. Walk the plank by sliding down a slide. 2

4. Decorate and fly Jolly Roger flags.

5. Make and decorate spyglasses using cardboard tubes, construction paper, and tape. (Simply tape construction paper around the tube.)

6. Play a modified game of “Red Light Green Light”: Kids run around like crazy pirates when you say “Ahoy, Mateys!” Kids freeze when you say “Thar she blows!” (or pick your own pirate phrases to use)

And when you’re done with that, check out this fun Eric Herman song about pirates – fun for kids and adults!

Do your kids like pirate play? Please share some of the ways you like to play pirates at your house.

We Play
“Come play at the Childhood 101 We Play link up


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  1. There is no reason to spend money on new toys for this activity. We’ve done it since then using only his old sandbox toys as the “treasure,” and he has just as much fun. Probably more fun, because there isn’t the added pressure of “oh’s and ah’s” for the new toys.
  2. Use your judgment on whether this is too morbid for your kids.

25 Responses to:
"How To Create a Pirate Treasure Hunt & Other Easy Outdoor Pirate Activities (June Carnival of Natural Parenting)"

  1. MomAgain@40   karentoittoit

    I’m sure a girl will enjoy this just as much! :D
    Great ideas!

  2. Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

    We love pirates around here! I am seriously stealing all your ideas, but I guess we’ll have to use the beach for our sandbox. :) Here’s hoping no one steals our treasure before we can dig it up…

    Can I just say I got the giggles over the return address on the envelope being “PIRATES.” And I love Cap’n Rainbow Beard! Too awesome.

  3. Marita   leechbabe

    Pirates are awesome :)

    Great party ideas too.

    We made a treasure hunt for my daughters 5th birthday party by freezing the treasure in water and then hiding them around the garden. They then had to crack the frozen ice apart to get their treasures. You could hide your pirate treasures in a similar way during summer.

  4. Michelle   seekingmother

    What a great idea and so wonderfully laid out. I am excited just reading about it and can’t wait to have such imaginative and playful moments when Sasha reaches this age. I am going to store this one in the vault with great enthusiasm and look forward to finding buried treasure with Sash.

  5. How fun! I bet Kieran loved it. Treasure hunts are popular here, too.

  6. Joni Rae   kitchenwitch

    Ohhh so much FUN! WE are so going to do this with the littles!!!


  7. Danielle   borninjp

    I remember making treasure and scavenger hunts all the time for my sister (she’s 8 years younger) when we were kids. She loved it!!

    While my little man isn’t quite ready for this level of awesomeness (he’s only a wee little pirate), I’ll definitely be filing this idea for the future.!

  8. the Grumbles   thegrumbles

    this is SO FUN. my mom was always doing things like this and making treasure hunts and they are some of my favorite memories. i’m so grateful that she was patient enough to make me maps like this over and over even though it’s time consuming because it was the highlight of my little life!

    you are AWESOME!

  9. Jen   growwithgraces

    I have a super creative friend who does a big party every summer for all her friends’ kids and kids’ friends. Two years ago was pirate themed. She did the treasure map with hidden prizes like you did. She turned the play structure into a ship using giant cardboard boxes. She had pirate themed games. It was a HUGE hit with all ages of kids.

  10. Heather   xakana

    That’s awesome! I bet Lilly would love something like that. Too bad we need to replace the sand in her sandbox.

  11. That sounds like it was as much fun to plan as it was to play!

  12. amy@flexible dreams   flexibledreams

    Great ideas here… you have a lot of patience :-) I agree with the commenter above that said these would be great party ideas. Especially for moms like me that need a special event to play so much pretend!

  13. Parsnip Milkdud

    Captain Rainbow Beard? You clearly know nothing about pirates or their beards.

  14. Deb Chitwood   DebChitwood

    I love this! What fun Kieran must have had! The treasure map is fabulous. My children used to love finding objects hidden in sand, so I can only imagine how much fun it must have been to find buried pirate’s treasure.

  15. Chris (@tessasdad)   tessasdad

    You guys rock! Very awesome. Can I play with you guys? ;)

  16. Andrea!!!   EllaBeanAndCo

    Argh matey – this is an awesome idea! My favorite part is that Kieran asked to do it again after the first round of map following and treasure uncovering! I bet it would be fun to do this in reverse as well – have Kieran bury the treasure and then come up with his own map and path to the loot.

  17. AAAHH! Everett is going to love this! He loves pirates, his third bday party was pirate themed. Have you read the book Pirate Pete’s Talk Like a Pirate? It’s pretty cute.

    We recently did a treasure hunt to practice letters. I spelled out the word “Treasure” vertically on a paper and drew a picture of something we have in the house for each letter. Then I taped the Letter on the correct object. He looked at the paper as his map and looked around the house for the letter and object. It led him outside to the sandbox where I had buried his treasure.

    I love your treasure hunt and will use it next time, he’s been asking for another hunt. I love the idea of burying some “gold and jewels”

  18. Melodie   bfmom

    Very cute and fun ideas!

  19. Kate Wicker @ Momopoly   KateWicker

    What a fun, creative idea. I have to stash this idea because my oldest wants to have a pirate party for her next birthday, which isn’t until November (she’s a born planner).

    I’m bummed that I somehow missed submitting to this carnival. I’ve been juggling a lot lately, including renovating a home! That translates to a lot of fun AND work! :-)

  20. Rebecca

    So while I think this is a fun idea, I am wondering how you justify an elaborate ruse, i.e. “you have mail” from the “pirates” and “hidden treasure in your yard” … with the idea of not lying to your kids? Is it okay to lie when its fun? How do you make that choice? Its okay to lie when its “make believe”

    I guess I have a hard time meshing the two in my head. Enlighten me. when does ‘make believe’ and pretend cross the line into lying?

    I mean, we obviously figured out at easter that I am craptastic at the lying and “easter bunny” thing after Tater tot totally called me out for filling the easter eggs, and gave Kieran her prizes because “she already has those stickers” (I am not any better at Santa, but we do have an elf on the shelf, which is mostly a fun game of trying to find it the next morning).

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Well – because we tell him it’s pretend. He knows it’s a game, but it’s still fun. Kids like to use their imaginations all the time, regardless of whether there’s an adult involved, right? So it can still be a fun game, even though we’re not maintaining some elaborate illusion that there are pirates afoot.

  21. CurlyMonkey   curlymonkey_

    Oh so much fun!!!

  22. katepickle   katepickle

    oooh so much fun! What fabulous ideas!

  23. Marthese   romanticflair

    Love your post…it is awesome…. I enjoyed your video as well… great work…Have a look at some of my Pirate posts that I did…

    Pirates……Pretend Play…Dress ups

  24. Christie - Childhood 101   childhood101

    What fantastic fun, your little pirate is so lucky to have such fun parents!

  • Grab my new badge!

    Visit Code Name: Mama

  • Visit Natural Parents Network
  • Display & participate!

    Visit Code Name: Mama

  • Carnival of Weaning

    Carnival of Weaning