Treasure hunts

As Easter approaches I wanted to share with you one of my favourite Natural Environment Teaching (NET) activities. I love treasure hunt activities because it’s perfect for incorporating so many skills and it’s so fun, your child/children won’t even realise they are learning! It’s perfect all year round, but there’s no better time to do this NET activity than over the Easter period!

Taken from:

There are a variety of ways you can do this activity. The first way is to use a map. You can draw a very basic treasure map; it doesn’t have to be fancy. You just need a basic picture that outlines important features within the home or the environment you intend to do the treasure hunt in. When I’ve made one before I laminated so I could reuse it (after I stained it with teabags to give an authentic look). For the purpose of this blog I made a quick example on word using images from google,


Example of a simple treasure map

On the map draw crosses with a board marker (if you laminated your map) to show where an egg, or a clue is hidden. Doing the treasure hunt in this way contrives motivation to look at the map (“let me see”), or to have the map (you child could ask “map”, or “can I have the map?”. This activity can also include requests (mands) for help, for example “help me look”, or different actions that will help your child look, “lift it up”, “lift me up”, “push” or “pull”. There may also be motivation for requests (mands) for information using “Where”, for example your child might ask “Where is the next clue?”. This NET activity also offers many opportunities to teach and generalise knowledge of prepositions. When you child finds the egg or clue, you can ask “Where was it?” and they might answer “under the sofa”, or “on the TV”. Alternatively, this may be done receptively, for example by instructing your child to “look under the sofa” and then checking where they look to see if the understood “under“. Keep in mind where you hide your eggs or clues so that you incorporate a variety of prepositions. Here is a list of prepositions for you to include

  • on or in
  • behind or infront
  • between, next to or beside
  • under or over

You can also include locations, as receptively identifying and labelling (tacting) locations, for instance bedroom, kitchen, etc., is another important skill to work on.

Another way to do this activity is to have clues that lead to one prize or goal. These clues can be pictures or words depending on your child’s abilities and what targets you want to incorporate. I find it easier to work backwards when I set it up, so if I put the prize under the table, I then put the clue that leads to the table by the computer, and then the clue for the computer in the next hiding place and work through until all clues are hidden. This way I know that when my learner and I go forward through the chain of clues that they all make sense and there’s no confusion! The picture of the table could be hidden under the sofa, when it’s found you can ask your child to tact it and then go to table to find the next clue.

Alternatively, you could have written clues. These could be simply one or two words if your child can read themselves and you want to encourage reading. Asking to have text read to them is an important prerequisite skill so this can also be easily incorporated if your child has not yet learned to read, or reading is still emerging. You can set up the clues in a similar way as explained above, so each clue leads to the next. You could also make your clues a little trickier and include some conversational (intraverbal) targets! For example, “tell me something you sit at?” or “what do you watch?” (answers, table and TV respectively). The answers to these conversational (intraverbal) targets could leave you to another clue, so if the clue says “Tell me something you sit on?” and they answer “sofa”, the next clue would be around the sofa.  Feel free to mix these targets and use pictures, receptive written targets (“look under..etc.) and conversational (intraverbal) targets.

Examples of written clues (top middle and bottom left = receptive targets, top left, top right and bottom right = intraverbal targets)

When planning your treasure hunt ensure you mix in mastered and new/current targets that your child is learning. In addition, be mindful of how you plan the hunt so you can optimise the prepositions, receptive/expressive targets or the requests you intend to work on

I like to use empty plastic eggs when I do this with my clients around Easter. Generally you can use any rewards that your child enjoys and is motivated towards. Some learners struggle with delayed rewards (reinforcement) so may need a small prize with each clue, or to help make the activity enjoyable or your child losing interest. When using edibles, it’s best to break them into smaller pieces. Feel free to use any reward that your child enjoys that fits into the eggs. Or with one of my own clients, we worked towards finding a train (one of the Thomas and friends characters) who had been kidnapped/got lost!


Plastic eggs are perfect for this activity: Taken from

If you want to buy some of the plastic eggs, they’re available in many stores, for example Tesco, Poundland (see picture above). You can also find a variety on, click here, and here for two different examples. There are also eggs with stickers included, click here to see these.

I reviewed treasure hunts in the March 2017 newsletter, so if you want to see the NET section in the newsletter which includes references to VB MAPP targets, then click here.


I hope you have lots of fun trying out this activity and have a wonderful bank holiday weekend!


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