Monday, 25 October 2010

Making a Jam Jar Treasure Hunt

As it's half term, I thought I'd do a blog on creating a Treasure Hunt in a Jam Jar. It's very easy to do, generating 40 odd minutes of fun in the making, and when you're done you have a game to play over and over again. Other ideas (including more educational treasure) at the end of the blog.

You need a large storage jar and lots of cheap rice. Depending on the age or clumsiness or naughtiness of your kids, you may want to make the jar plastic
Add rice to the jar and don't forget to run it through your fingers for the tickle
Leave a gap at the top, so that when you lay the jar down you have a large, rice landscape to discover your treasure in
Set off in all directions finding items that are about the size of a penny, and pile them up in a bowl. My box of  broken jewellery was thoroughly raided. At this point the grown-up involved can enjoy a cup of tea.
Give a plate to each child, and ask them to select the best ten-or-so items each. Aim for variety, and a few very tiny treasures that will be very hard to find. Grown-ups should add some traditional stuff too like paper clips, buttons, beads, thimbles and a black peppercorn, so your finished jar looks suitably middle class
Here's the items we decided would be our treasure, I think there are about 30 of them. Taking a photo like this is a good idea, so you know what you are hunting for, though we opted for writing the items down too.
Pick and item and drop it in the jar, creating a list in best-handwriting as you go
Where there's fun, there's education, when you are a sneaky parent
In goes the spider, bigger than a penny we know, but who could resist adding Horace?
In goes the Eiffel Tower, bonus points for writing it down in French
Lists were taken very seriously
Once you've added everything, close the lid tight and give the jar a good shake. If you have very curious children, you can glue the lid shut for obvious reasons.
You are now ready to embark on the hunt. Armed with your list or photo, shake and roll. Items will magically appear on the surface and pressed up against the glass. Strangely, some will pop up every time, others will seldom be seen!
See how long it takes you to find everything on your list, see how many treasures you can find in three minutes, or see who is first to spot the elusive pink paperclip!
So that's the basic treasure hunt, but those of you wishing to crank-up the educational angle, can add treasures with a more pedagogical purpose. 

Other ideas

A wonderful idea came in from mikebfd on Twitter. He suggests adding treasure randomly, in secret, for the children to discover. Thank you Mike, this is a great way to keep the game interesting.  You can also...

Help their reading by making the treasure high-frequency words written on brighly coloured card.

Help with shape recognition by putting in 2D and 3D shapes for them to find and name. 

Use a full set of coins to meet at least one numeracy target.

Get funky, and mix the educational treasure with the fun items, appealing to what you know the children are into, such as tiny action figures or sparkly princess jewellery.

Use plastic animals if you want to increase their natural history knowledge. 

Create a travel version: smaller jars with smaller treasure.

Any other ideas? Let me know with a comment.

If you make your own Jam Jar Treasure Hunt, do let me know how you got on!


The lovely @michlan and her family have sent me these fantastic photographs of their jam jar hunt, lovely spider guys...


  1. Inspired!! I love this idea......... If only I'd known 15 years ago but hey..... when those grandchildren roll up I shall be ready!!

  2. Thanks, Young at Heart. I wish you some beautiful grandchildren soon enough :)

  3. love this idea. half the fun is finding the little bits and pieces to go in it :)

  4. You're right Mitch, there are two hunts involved really, and they love deciding what makes the final cut :)


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