The Hidden Art of Homemaking, by Edith Schaeffer, is a book that profoundly influenced my thinking and actions while our children were young. I love Mrs. Schaeffer’s infectious creativity, and the joy she took in making the lives of others more beautiful. One of Mrs. Schaeffer’s ideas that I grabbed hold of was the “Treasure Hunt Meal.” We had so much fun with these meals! I can hardly wait until we can have treasure hunt meals for the grandkids!
These meals are perfect for a ho-hum sort of day, a day when the children have been irritable or a disappointment has occurred, or on a dark, rainy day that follows many other dark, rainy days. The announcement that a “Treasure Hunt Meal” is coming can give new energy to the entire day!
The idea is to prepare separate courses for the meal and hide them, with clues leading your children to each course. Meals can be as simple, extravagant, or ridiculous as you want, and there’s lots of room for creativity. Every treasure hunt meal is different! It does require some work on Mama’s part, but it is such fun work, and it makes so many people happy!
Start by planning your menu. How many courses will you have? Write five to ten clues for each course, with the first clue leading to the second clue, the second to the third, and so forth until a clue finally leads the children to your first course. When the first course has been eaten, hand them the next clue and send them off to hunt down the next course.
Clue-writing will give you an opportunity for creativity! If you’re feeling poetic, write little jingles to direct them to each place. Or write a word on a card and cut the card up and put all the pieces in a reclosable baggie to hide. When the children reassemble the card, they will be able to read the clue. Riddles are fun, too, or you can use verses from Proverbs for clues. “The sluggard’s is broken down, Proverbs. 24:31” can send them looking for the next clue on your wall outside. These clues will test your children’s knowledge of the Proverbs, or will send them running to look up the verses.
For your first course, you might have silverware and plastic cups filled with fresh fruit packed into a pretty box or basket inside the closet. Everyone sits on the floor and enjoys the fruit before launching on to the next set of clues, which may lead them to piping hot pizza in the oven, along with a basket with a picnic blanket, napkins and paper plates in front of it. The next set of clues may lead them to a stack of pajamas folded and ready for putting on, with the following clue sending them to change and put their clothes away before following the next clue. The final clue might direct them to the family room, where a cooler is waiting with ice cream bars or a carton of ice cream and some cones, along with an exciting book to read together.
The possibilities are endless. Have your clues lead them in gathering all the materials for a backyard barbecue and campout or a living room picnic with individually packed box lunches. Lead them to a beach blanket, an already-packed picnic basket, a map with the destination marked out, a basket full of play clothes, and the car all ready to take off for a day at the beach. Or have them find individual ingredients for making a batch of homemade ice cream at the end of the hunt.
The idea is to have lots of fun running from one clue to the next, and to share a meal and rich family time together. Want to try this idea? For those of you with children who are old enough for tougher clues, here’s a bunch of Proverbs-related clues to get you started!
“The sluggard’s is broken down.” Proverbs 24:31 (Wall or fence)
“This will be filled with plenty if we honor God with our increase.” Proverbs 3:10 (Barn)
“People will curse the man that withholds this.” Proverbs 11:26 (Corn – Hide clue under a can of corn or out in the corn patch, if you have one!)
“Wisdom invites us to eat this with her.” Proverbs 9:5 (Bread)
“The slothful man’s way is a hedge of these.” Proverbs 15:19 (Thorns – Hide clue in some rose bushes, or in your own patch of stickers and weeds)
“Man can prepare these for battle, but our safety comes from the Lord.” Proverbs 21:31 (Horse – hide clue with a toy horse)
“Only eat what is sufficient for you so you don’t throw up.” Proverbs 25:16 (Honey)
“A good word is like gold ones of these.” Proverbs 25: 11 (Apples)
“Good news from far away is like this to someone who is thirsty.” Proverbs 25:25 (Cold water — Hide clue by a cold water faucet or a water cooler)
“A sluggard turns on his bed like this does on its hinges.” Proverbs 26:14 (Door)
“Meddling in someone else’s disagreement is like grabbing the ears of this.” Proverbs 26:17 (Dog)
“This rejoices the heart like hearty counsel from a friend.” Proverbs 27:9 (Perfume)
“The sluggard says there is one in the streets.” Proverbs 26:13 (Lion – Hide clue under a stuffed animal lion)
“The teeth of a rebellious generation are like these.” Proverbs 30:14 (Knives)
“Wisdom is more precious than this.” Proverbs 3:15 (Jewels – Hide clue in jewelry box)
“Bind your father’s commandment around this.” Proverbs 6:21 (Neck – Hide clue inside the collar of your blouse or your husband’s shirt)
“Wisdom has set this for the simple. She calls them to eat with her.” Proverbs 9:2 (Table – Attach clue to the underside of the kitchen table)
“A beautiful woman without discretion is like a gold ring in this.” Proverbs 11:22 (Pig’s snout – Attach clue to nose of a stuffed pig, or to the nose on a picture of a pig that you put up somewhere)
“The righteous will flourish like this.” Proverbs 11:28 (Green leaf – Attach clue in an obvious way to a leaf in a tree or bush)
“The diligent man’s will rule.” Proverbs 12:24 (Hand – Write clue on the palm of your hand)
“The man who spares this hates his son.” Proverbs 13:24 (Rod – Attach clue to the implement you use for spanking)
“The words of a whisperer are like these.” Proverbs 18:8 (Delicious morsels – Hide clue with a bag of chocolate chips)
“Quarreling is like the bars of this.” Proverbs 18:19 (Castle – Hide clue with a Lego castle, a picture of a castle, etc.)
“The man who finds one of these finds a good thing.” Proverbs 18:22 (Wife – Hide clue somewhere on you!)
“A wife’s quarreling is like this.” Proverbs 19:13 (Continual dripping – Hide clue next to a faucet that has been left dripping)
“He who loves this will not become rich.” Proverbs 21:17 (Wine or oil)
“Don’t crush the afflicted here.” Proverbs 22:22 (Gate)
“You may lose this if you sign for another man’s loans.” Proverbs 22:27 (Bed)
“Let your foot be seldom here.” Proverbs 25:17 (Neighbor’s house – Hide the clue with your neighbor, who can give it to the children when they arrive at the door. Perhaps the clue can include inviting the neighbors to join in on the rest of the hunt!)
“A fool who repeats his folly is like one of these who goes back to his vomit.” Proverbs 26:11 (Dog – The boys will like this one!)
“A wicked ruler over poor people is like a charging one of these.” Proverbs 28:15 (Bear – Tie clue to a teddy bear)
“The virtuous woman’s doesn’t go out at night.” Proverbs 31:18 (Light)
“The virtuous woman makes these for herself.” Proverbs 31:22 (Bed coverings – hide clue between blankets on a bed)