The Twelve (Outdoor) Days of Christmas Treasure Hunt


Get the family outdoors this Christmas with a fun treasure hunt

It’s ten in the morning on Boxing Day. The shine has already dimmed from the presents scattered around the house. The batteries in the whizz-around toy finally died two hours ago (thank God) and the kids have already started asking when Santa will be coming back. You sit slumped on the sofa; a combination of exhaustion and red-wine hangover creates a thick fog in your mind.

Sound familiar? With all the build up to Christmas and weeks of preparation, it’s easy to feel a bit blue come Boxing Day. But there is a solution! Something that will wake you up, keep the kids occupied and take their minds off their new toys (or the TV) for a few hours.

So dig out those wellies, hats and scarves. Get out of the house to your local wood or park and prepare to play the Twelve (Outdoor) Days of Christmas Treasure Hunt.

What do you need to play?

At its most basic level all you need is a bit of imagination and a place that’s safe for people to explore. You can either do the treasure hunt as a family or split into teams (ideal if you have relatives over). If you’re in teams and want to be competitive you may want to bring along a pen and paper and some kind of timing device plus a prize for the winning team or family. (Just re-use one of the boxes of chocolates you gave as presents – no one will notice.)

The beauty of this treasure hunt is that is needs absolutely no preparation. Because let’s face it, after Christmas Day, you’re all prepped out.

How to play

The purpose of the treasure hunt is to collect different types of natural materials in numbers relating to the Twelve Days. For example:

12 beech twigs
11 tiny pebbles
10 pine cones
9 holly berries (watch those prickles!)
8 orange leaves
7 pieces of silver birch bark
6 acorns
5 golden feathers (ok, brown feathers may have to do)
4 strands of ivy
3 earthworms
2 black stones
1 oyster mushroom growing on a tree (have an adult along to help pick the right edible mushroom)

You’ll probably need to adapt this depending on the flora and fauna in your local area. For example, if you live near a beach, you could look for shells and seaweed instead. Please DO NOT try and literally recreate the items in the Twelve Days of Christmas song. Gold rings are rather hard to find in your local park and swans have a nasty bite.

If you have teams competing against each other, the winning team is the first to collect all their items. Or the team with the prettiest feathers. Or whoever makes the best nature art out of what they’ve found. You decide. Need a tie-breaker? Get them to calculate how many of nature’s presents they’ve collected in total.

Adults-only version

Just because you don’t have kids doesn’t mean you can’t go on a treasure hunt! And what’s more, an adult treasure hunt can involve pubs (many of which do hot chocolate if you’re feeling a little delicate). Why not get some friends together and set a photo treasure hunt? A group of swans, a pear(less) tree, a bunch of mistletoe. First team back with a photo of everything wins (and gets to buy the first round).

However you decide to play, the main thing is to get outside, get some fresh air and have fun.

Merry Christmas everyone, and have an even merrier Boxing Day.

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