Remembering Who Matters

As with any creation, it is always important that our primary concern be on who our audience is and what is best for them. (Perhaps some great creators— geniuses—can create just for themselves; it might be that da Vinci wasn’t concerned with Mona Lisa’s opinion, but that’s not our case.) Plain and simply: If it is not fun for you, then there is no point making a Treasure Hunt.  That has to be a critical element of the “Personal.”

We can love a clue, and think it’s fun, clever, or hilarious, but if those on the hunt don’t get it or enjoy it, then our work is wasted. In creative writing, the saying is “kill your darlings.” That is, just because you think it is a wonderful turn of phrase doesn’t mean it fits in the work.  (That’s probably true of the Mona Lisa metaphor above and why that, and this, is in parentheses.) The early childhood educator in our group pointed out a better example. She once had an assistant teacher who made beautiful charts “about learning” for their classroom. The posters looked great and impressed the parents, but did nothing for the students. By contrast, when they made sure that they involved the children in the posters and/or put up their work, and allowed them to take pride in the achievements presented, the impact was significant.

While we think our printed clues and the the instructions and hints may look good, they’re not the major creation. If those are what people remember after a treasure hunt then we haven’t done our job.  Even if we are making a hunt for a children’s party and there is a lesson that is supposed to be provided, we absolutely have to make sure it is fun for the kids.  Sometimes we have to remind each other…

I was trying to make a clue directing the hunters to look inside a linen cabinet, and I was quite proud of the following:
You get it?
Inside (from “Inside Out”) the (John) “LennonCabINet

You didn’t get it? Neither did anyone else.

Some old enough to know John Lennon, weren’t young enough to know “Inside Out.” Others couldn’t figure out if it was “Cab,” “Yellow,” or “Taxi.” Even when they understood it all, they thought it was some Russian history clue about Vladimir Lenin’s cabinet. One claimed he thought it was directing them “Inside the john,” but I think he was just giving me a hard time. It cut me to the quick.

In the end, the only place I could use it was in our blog.
I’m hoping this audience enjoys it!

Providing Professional “Fun Dad” Services

We have been asked in the past, “wait, aren’t those treasure hunts just what fun dads parents do?”
Well, first of all, very fun parents!
Second…um, yes, but we do it really well.
Third, exactly.

If you have the desire, the inclination, the imagination, and the time to make a treasure hunt for your child(ren), absolutely go forth.  We’re pretty proud of our design, our key and extra hints, our puzzles that we’ve developed based on different players, different levels, and feedback.  But, do we insist we can beat you doing it yourself? That’s a dangerous claim to make.  Can we provide you an incredibly fun activity that everyone will love and occupy a good chunk of a party and save you hours (probably 10+ hours) of time setting it up? Yes, that we can promise.

In fact, the reality is that these personalized treasure hunts were originally personalized for our own children and it usually took a week full of nights to prepare.  Eventually, these could not be at every party or we’d miss out on spending time with our family and lose the fun.  But, we did develop and hone our skills and, once our children were grown (and wanted to help), we were looking at a service we specialized in.  To our joy and that of other families, we realized we could provide it to others.  In essence, “Fun Dad Services” is our business model!

To Buy Happiness, Spend Money on Saving Time.

Last year a study came out that supported what many knew: money can buy some happiness, if it buys time.  That is, if there is something you need to do (cook dinner or clean laundry) or something you would like to do (have a perfect lawn or give your child a perfect personalized treasure hunt party), money spent to make it happen and free up your time can make you and those around you happy.  Given that our hunts start at the price of an affordable good wine, we think it can give enjoyment to you and your family and friends. Perhaps it can give you some time to drink that wine.


Personalized without ever seeing us

I have discovered that is not that easy to explain what we do. We think of it as straight-forward.  The treasure hunts we create are what you would make if you had the time, the background, and the inclination to spend hours creating a fun, personalized activity that involves everyone, plays on their knowledge, and provides just enough challenge.  In that way, it might be something like hiring an entertainer or party host, BUT we never come by.  Everything happens online and you have an easy-to-follow key that let’s you run the treasure hunt with the work already done.

I’m sure you’d love us if you met us, but understandably you would be just as happy not having a stranger at your child’s party, company outing, family or school setting.  We do miss the fun, and love to hear about it and see the pictures.  The most recent pictures and videos of the school performing our hunt/mystery (in character) were a joy to see.

It is interesting, when there is so much news (and true concern) about the internet being a threat to your privacy, that there are opportunities such as our service where it can add to your privacy.  We often do not even know the address of the treasure hunts we’re sending you out on (unless there are elements of a park or such that are involved).  With anonymity you still have a completely individualized — figurative, but not literal — “hands-on” craft product, specific to your hunters and setting.

Again, we think we’re very presentable and fun; of course, lots of people are scared by clowns!

Center Street School

Earlier this month we were very excited to create a treasure hunt for the Center Street Elementary school in Williston Park, NY.  It was our largest number of hunters (nearly 500 students) and our longest time span (7 days), and included over 100 clues, as well as other activities. For their annual “Pick a Reading Partner” program, they always have a theme with activities and games to encourage reading, and it was an honor to be such a big part of this year’s PARP.

Parents and staff came together to produce an incredible learning experience.  As we touched upon in our last blog, we provided a complete fictional story with the school staff members playing characters. Our clues were designed to hint at and teach U.S. states and solve a mystery! We also provided these clues on three different levels, from Kindergarten to Grade 5.  This larger and multiple-focussed set of clues created challenges and we are also particularly appreciative of the close working relationship with the lead parent involved and the various members of the faculty to provide what clearly was a very successful and fun week.

The sequential nature and pursuit of clues in Treasure Hunts that is perfect in settings of 1-20 hunters, do not naturally lend themselves to simultaneously involving hundreds of children across ages. It is the challenges that help us grow. Adjustments had to be made to ensure everything worked and that school requests and rules were always being followed; in the end, the varied ideas and efforts has provided us entirely new kinds of activities to include in our hunts. The final storyline—that everyone was involved in—may not have made it to the Oscars, and the songs may not have earned any Grammies, but perhaps we were just too late for this awards’ season!

Thanks again Center School Elementary for thinking of us and letting us be involved.

Story Lines

Connections. When studying film you learn how important and overriding sound and ordering can be. You probably thoroughly understand the theory that walking through a forest can feel peaceful, uncomfortable, all the way up to terrifying, based on background music. And most already recognize that dialogue can turn a serious scene into humor as seen in “Mystery Science Theater 3000” or “Whose Line Is It Anyway” (with voice-overs replacing the original script with silly conversations). What is surprising is how easily random images can seem connected by being cut together and then adding a narrator, soundtrack, and/or dialog.  This can be accomplished without “telling” (extensive exposition or recapping) but with “showing” and conversations or moods.  As we are working on a large upcoming Treasure Hunt, we realized this possibility can easily spread to our fun or to any type of party/get-together.

Certainly, a theme party is nothing new. Basing our hunts and clues on the themes of a birthday party or the interests of a hunter also is something we are familiar with.  In this case, however, we are making a story and fitting clues into it.  And, as with all creativity, there are numerous occasions when one of these—the story or the clue—will naturally feed the other as if they were meant to be together and were just facts in nonfiction.  Here, we are making a mystery with teachers as detectives, and when we needed to distinguish between the ages of their students, we realized the natural joke of Detective First Grade vs. Detective Kindergarten.  We were told who would be involved in the story and, from their characteristics, new characters were born adding to the plot. The clues we were making on one theme (geography) were incorporated into the story by being a key plot point (travel).

There is a definite new level of work in taking a game and making it into a themed story.  To such an extent that we have now added “Storyline” as a feature you can affordable add to your hunt. And it definitely needs to have some back-and-forth to make it work; this is why “personalized” is at the heart of our business.  The potential for fun, humor, and something unique is an absolute.

Creative Collaboration

Art without loneliness. We all tend to think of creativity and creating as solo activities, but very few creations involve only one person and many of those generally are based on an assignment or a specific audience. The Mona Lisa was a consignment, as was nearly every great piece of architecture—and certainly all of those relied on contractors and workers. We praise fantastic chefs on a spectacular meal but (with the exception of TV competitions that usually turn out bad) they all have sous chefs and other staff. And this is ignoring the fact that the paint the artist brushed, the lumber the architect constructed, the grains and meats the cook sautéed, were all prepared and created by others.

The team. Not only does Steven Spielberg now have crews of hundreds, college filmmaker Spielberg had a crew, and, in fact, at age 13 he won a prize for a film, which had a cast of classmates and help from others. There is nothing embarrassing or less creative about getting help from others or building on an idea of others. Plagiarizing and presenting it as your own in public may be another story, but, then again, most sitcoms rely on the “restaurant meal faked as home cooking” or “Cyrano providing love poems” episodes. (So, as much as we want others to know about our treasure hunts, if you want to take full credit who are we to complain?)

Parenting help. Parental creativity has grown tremendously in the last 50 years. Colored bumpers and murals on the walls were just the start of baby rooms’ decorating. Birthday parties have jumped a lot further than just “Pin the tail on the donkey” evolving to “Pin the tail on Donkey from Shrek.” Ideas from parenting magazines or Martha Stewart or seen in shows are infinite… but so are the variations and creative way that families take these ideas. A carnival party that can’t afford a pitch and dunk tank, can easily substitute a “hit the face through the board” with a sponge activity; and can draw any thematic outfit around that face.

Team building. Likewise, when companies, or schools, or reunions, or friends get-together for activities, there is little reason for the coordinators to kill themselves with hours of brainstorming. Whether it is a hike, a “room escape,” a campus olympics, or a trust game, there have been others who came before. It is interesting to mix it up and give a new twist, but to think you have to reinvent the wheel, is expecting too much.

“Leonardo, we’re not impressed; paint from your imagination!”
When people hear of our website, some ask “well, couldn’t I do that myself?” and the answer is “Absolutely yes.”  While we think we do a particularly good job of making our Treasure Hunts and believe we will come up with fun ideas you might never think of, we believe we are also providing you something fun that frees up your time and your own creativity. For many it is this year’s event, or this season’s, or a recurring one (our favorite!). For others it is only part of a bigger set of plans for which we can either follow their theme or stand as one in a series of activities. We have never heard of someone saying to a host afterwards “how come you didn’t do it all by yourself?”

After all, treasure hunts are only part of being a pirate.

New Year’s Resolution or Late Gift = an easy great party next year!

Usually a New Year’s Resolution is about improving something through effort and/or pain.  The great thing about Personalized Treasure Hunts is they can make your life (well, your party) better and easier.

Okay, yes, this is more of a sales pitch than a blog post today, but I also am confident it’s true.  You can check one thing off your next year’s list (planning a party) and have it be improved (and fun), for probably well under what you usually pay for supplies or favors.

AND, if you know someone who has parties in their future—a parent of a child or a someone in charge of team-building—Our Virtual Treasure Hunt Gift Certificates are like hiring them a party planner.  

We call them “Virtual” for two reasons:

  1. Personalized Treasure Hunts are digital hunts for the family to print. Note, they can be worked on smart devices and/or when allowed time for mailing we will print and send to you.
  2. We don’t really have an elaborate Gift Certificate as it is hard to get across the concept on a slip of paper.  Instead we send an email explaining your gift, our service, and where to find all the information they need.

SO, if you want to start 2018 with one box checked on your to do list or with a big “Thank You!” for an incredible gift, we have a humble suggestion.

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:

  1. 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!”
  2. 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).
  3. 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!