Slowing the gift opening frenzy
Families say they like our Treasure Hunts for the Holidays because it slows down the gift-giving and makes it more fun:
“Rather than ripping through the wrapping paper, saying thanks and quickly looking for another, they went from clue to clue. It forced them to take turns and even enjoy each other’s presents. The hints that excited them but didn’t give aways the exact gifts worked really well.
I think the hunt is going to be a tradition!”
This was the plan when we included holiday Hunts, because this is what we did… Okay, I’d like to say we did it all the time, but we were exhausted from gift buying and only made a treasure hunt for the gifts one and one-half times (that is the second time I fell asleep and woke up cut it off after a few of the gifts!) Luckily for the rest of you we’re here to do it for you.
That holiday, that is, that 1.5 holidays, I found there were 3 advantages to throwing a treasure hunt onto the other festivities:
- It’s fun. Yes, receiving gifts is fun, but many feel it is supposed to have more meaning and some gifts are less of a surprise or less enjoyable than others (can you say, Aunt Clara’s bunny suit for Ralph in “A Christmas Story?”). So the whole activity can have the joy of gift-giving with all the added fun of a treasure hunt. The gift cards our children received were certainly enjoyed and appreciated, but just opening an envelope on a day of presents is a little anti-climactic…unless it takes figuring out a puzzle to get there. It also ended trying to figure how to wrap gift cards to each look different.
It also can be an opportunity to explain a less-straight-forward, less toy-like gift ahead of time. A check that is meant for something can have a clue about that something and build the excitement, even tamp it down and then build it. Here we gave the impression someone was getting a DS to play Super Mario, when the check was for a whole X-Box: “If you take the first part of Clark Kent’s secret identity ____ and add it to the first name of your favorite athlete ____ Lemieux, you get a gam you can play in your hand or elsewhere… this should cover that!”
- As the family above said, it slows it all down and makes it more of a family activity. A clue leads to a gift or a couple, and then under, inside, or just in a pile there is a clue for the next one. The usual approach is to have a rule to not read the next clue until the current gift is opened, but for less “trustworthy” gift-receivers, especially those waiting for their turn, the solution can be to hand the next clue at the appropriate time. This also allows the opportunity to slow down or speed up as desired; which is particularly handy when the rest of the day has plans or people are coming or leaving. There is also enough time to slow down the mess and throw out the wrapping paper after each gift (or try and salvage for next year, if like me you’re nostalgic, a.k.a, cheap).
- Speaking of cheap, well let’s say cost saving, a Treasure Hunt can ensure fun in a Christmas when expectations might have been too high and there weren’t thousands to spend. And/or even when spending, everyone knows how many gifts are only enjoyed for weeks (sometimes days, or minutes…), but the hunt is something they will always remember. An affordable wonderful memory or tradition is hard to beat. As always, I’d say it is also something to show off and tell friends, but that’s just my own shallow personality!
Now, if I’m being honest about my shallowness, I should also be honest about the two limitations we have with gift giving treasure hunts. Both actually have their advantages, but they do make a difference:
The first is the limitation on the usual movement and ease of setting up. Usually families want to stay by the tree or other such setting, so a massive hunt doesn’t work for all. There are those who enjoy sending there kids clear across the house and rooting through hampers while enjoying a few minutes for quiet sips of coffee, but that also involves putting out those clues when you may already be very busy. So for most, clues just go under the presents or a stack of clues is handed together or one at a time.
The second issue is that we need time to make the clues and have them approved by you, so last minute unplanned gifts cannot be fully described in the clues. Last minute planned but not yet purchased gifts are easy and omitted gifts can have the clues removed (just be careful to never let them see them or disappointment will follow). We usually create a few clues that just lead to packages without information about what’s in them, and if they need explanation parents can talk to their children….but do be sure to get your sips of coffee in!