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What’s more fun than using a treasure map to find buried treasure?!  Honestly, I can’t think of anything.  But besides fun, there are soooo many social skills that can be supported while using a treasure map to find “pirate treasure.”  I like to use this treasure map, pirate theme activity when teaching team building activities and to support the important social skills concepts of Teamwork and Cooperation. Setting up a treasure hunt is a great opportunity to spark critical thinking within your classroom community.

After spending some time discussing and working directly on these two concepts, my students go on a treasure hunt as part of a team to celebrate all of the wonderful skills they have learned and practiced. Beyond teamwork and cooperation, this fun activity will also support; 

  • Self-Regulation
  • Good Sportsmanship
  • Creativity
  • Patience
  • Perseverance
  • Following Directions
  • Communication Skills
  • Problem-solving Skills


Just to name a few…



Here’s how I made my Pirate Treasure Hunt


Material Prep:

Print Treasure Map on regular piece of paper. A great way to make it look old is to stain the edges of the paper by dipping a damp corner of paper towel in some used coffee grounds or a bit of tea, and gently spread around the edges.

Here is what my maps looked like, when done…



Print the Pirate’s Letter on regular paper and handwrite in your fun message to your students. Make this team-building activity even more fun by using pirate talk.  

Alternatively, open up the file and type your letter in the text boxes.


This is my pirate’s letter…



Print the Clues on regular or card stock quality paper and handwrite in your clues for students to go from one to the next, leading them eventually to the treasure. If you like, you can take photos of the location of each clue, and add them to your treasure map. This way, kids can use picture clues and/or written clues. Simply download the pictures to your computer and drag them onto the map where you would like them to go.

Alternatively, open up the file and type your clues in the text boxes.

Here is how my clues turned out…



Print the Pirate Talk cards on card stock quality paper, cut out, and laminate.



Treasure: Get a small box such as a baby’s shoebox, and fill it with inexpensive goodies that your students might like.  If you like, you can decorate the box to make it look more like a treasure chest, but it is not necessary. Your kids will still love finding treasure, even if it is in a shoebox!


Before Playing:

Material prep: Prepare your map, write your pirate letter, write your clues, fill your treasure box, hide your clues and treasure box.  

Student prep: Talk to your students about using your imagination, teamwork, problem solving, creative thinking and cooperation. You will need to use all of these skills to enjoy this game and find your treasure!

Go over the pirate talk cards and get students familiar with the vocabulary that they can use while searching. You could even give each student one or two cards to carry and see if they can find a good time to use their word or phrase during the play.


To Play:

Start at a determined spot and give each student a map. Read your pirate’s letter to get the students excited about finding treasure. Make your pirate’s letter as fun and creative as you like.

Depending on the number of students, have them work in small teams or groups, to find the clues that ultimately lead to the treasure.

While playing, encourage imagination, teamwork, and cooperation from the entire group.

Either have Clue 1 at the starting point or have the pirate’s letter include a clue for where clue 1 is. It may say something like, “Look ye under the swings to find clue 1.”  Clue 1 should be located under a swing. If it’s a windy day…be sure to put a rock on top of the clues! You can get as creative as you want with your clues, and make the difficulty level appropriate for your students' age group.

*NOTE: If you feel you can’t leave the clues lying around…you can carry them around with you, as long as you only have the kids work together as one group, and give the kids the corresponding clue at each location. It’s a little less exciting maybe, but I had to do it for one of my groups and it was still super fun. The kids didn’t mind at all!

Students should find each clue, in order, until they eventually come to clue 10 where the treasure chest is hidden. As the kids find each clue, be sure they know to leave the clue where it is, so that the next person or group can find it after them.

Clue 10 should tell the students, or, pirates, where it is hidden. It may say something like, “Look under the bush in front of you.”  Or, “Look behind the trash can to your right.”


When the students find the treasure box, there are some team work decisions to be made about opening up and enjoying their find {depending on your students, you may want to make these decisions ahead of time, or at least agree that no one is to open the treasure chest until everyone is present and agrees:

  • Should they do it right there?
  • Should they bring it back to the classroom?
  • Should only one person open it?
  • Should everyone gather around and open it together?
  • What do they think is in it?
  • How should they divide up the booty?


Make sure you have enough “treasure” in the box for everyone playing to have at least one thing.  Here’s what my treasure box looked like…


I went a little overboard…{pun intended!} and bought some goodies that I knew my students would enjoy…but you do not have to do that. You can also find “treasures” for free by keeping an eye out for free items throughout your day(s) before having the hunt.  Where/how can you find little goodies for free?  


  • Things you find at the bottom of your own kid's toy box! Or just things they’ve outgrown
  • Things in your “junk” drawer
  • Things left “up for grabs” in your teacher’s lounge
  • Things gave away for free in places like banks, i.e. pens, erasers, candies
  • Day after yard sales when they set out all of the items that didn’t sell….for free!


Want to make your own treasure hunt for teaching team building activities?


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Thanks So Much and Happy Teaching!
Cindy ~Socially Skilled Kids

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