Thursday, October 6, 2011

birthday treasure hunt & some natural party favor ideas

Included in Naiya's birthday celebration at the farm last weekend was a delightful birthday treasure hunt.  I thought I would post about our search and find game both as a way to record our fun adventure and because I've had several folks in the past ask me for ideas for Waldorf style party favors made from natural materials.  Feel free to share one or all...

We began with a basket full of simple sewn fabric bags which had the name of each child on the drawstring in letter beads. 
In field and farm and all around
Our elemental friends abound
Fairies, gnomes and mermaids too
A dragon even, in one clue!
Take a bag and start your search
Begin where birds and pixies perch...

I got the beads at the craft store, and this was a handy feature that proved useful in helping avoid conflict over which bag belonged to each child after they were all left laying about.

Using the first hint, the children located a tree close by where hung a number of sweet fairie necklaces.  The next clue also dangled from the branches below a fairie cut out that swung overhead. 
Take one fairie flying sweetly
In the branches so discreetly
Seek next for an underground dweller
He’s a jolly little feller...

The necklaces hanging in the branches were made of wooden nickles (purchased at a craft store) which had been drilled with a tiny hole.  The hole had a little wire loop through it and the pendants hung from an assortment of colored ribbons.  I used a regular stamp and stamp pad to mark a different image on each side of the medallion.  I couldn't decide whether to coat them with beeswax polish or not so I did some with and some without.  (The wax seemed to very slightly blur the image but made the whole thing look richer.  The one shown is without the polish.)

Following the fairie's directions, the children next found our beloved garden gnome behind a nearby shrubbery with a basketful of gnome hats. 
One hat is for me and one for you
Choose one and follow your next clue.
Look for the place where mermaids hide
A silky blue beach where they play in the tide...

The hats were super simple to make and could be done from either fleece or wool.  I don't know where I got the pattern but there is one similar in the Fall 2010 issue of Living Crafts Magazine.  They're cut on a fold and require only one sewn seam.  Each hat took less than five minutes to make.

The gnome's clue led the children to a tableau of the sea complete with toy boat and seashells.  Sprinkled on the silky tide were little mermaids for each child to put in her collection bag.
You’ve found us here! Take one mermaid tear home
We’re glad to go wherever you roam
I know of a dragon who hides in her lair
She’s friendly and wants us to find her there...

At our festivals the children often dig for small "dragon tears" in the sandbox.  I'd seen this larger mermaid "tear" idea at several craft fairs and shops including our own school store.  I hope I'm not giving away any trade secrets by revealing how simple it is to make these magical stones.

The clear glass gems are about an inch in diameter and can be found in the floral section of some craft stores.  The images were collected from the internet and sized in my photo program to fit the stones.  (Alternately, pre-rounded 1" images can be purchased cheaply through lots of folks on Etsy for very little money.  Try searching "digital mermaid image" or "digital fairie image" to see or buy the cool collections enterprising folks have created.)  I printed my mermaids on a heavy card stock on my own printer and after cutting the pictures to fit the stones, I painted some Mod Podge (non-toxic, clear drying adhesive) onto the printed side and stuck them face-up onto the flat underside of the glass.  To give them a nice finish I painted the blank backs gold.

Lastly, the mermaids led the treasure hunters to the dragon hidden under the canopy of a low tree.  I made this papier-mâché life sized dragon for no good reason about 20 years ago.  I was just really into papier-mâché I guess.  She's been sitting in the garage and it only occurred to me a few weeks ago that I might put her to good use.  As much as the children seemed to like her, it was her eggs which were their final prize. 

I’m a friendly dragon just relaxing
I know all this searching can be taxing
So glad you made it all the way through
As a final prize, one egg is for you!

The eggs were made using the simple wet felting technique shown here and filled with a couple of dragon stickers I purchased at one of our favorite local toy stores.

The children seemed to enjoy the treasures and the quest and I too had loads of fun putting the whole thing together.


  1. Ack! How did I not know it was her birthday - I'm so sorry!!! We shall have to give her some belated birthday love tomorrow :)

  2. Wow, what a fun and beautiful treasure hunt.

  3. That is a child's dream treasure hunt! I love that you just happened to have a paper-mache dragon lying around.: ) Seriously, it's wonderful that you put so many things you already had to use.

  4. What an amazingly fun party activity! What beautiful little gifts all of the children will have to take home, as well as all of the wonderful memories! Wonderful ideas!! ~April

  5. Wow - I would have been a very delightful child at that birthday party. So much beautiful work put into all those sweet little treasures. When I lived in Miami I used to make waldorf party favors so I know just how much work goes into these little festivals. Since living in DR we mostly have family celebrations with handmade gifts for birthdays and Christmas. Beautiful....really lovely.

  6. Thank you all for all your kind comments. It's totally ridiculous to have a dragon laying about I know. I made her back when I didn't know much about mache techniques and her internal layers are flour, water and newspaper...all so naturally organic, eh? We keep her in the garage because she's full of little bugs eating her insides out!

  7. What a wonderful blog you have. I was planning on making those dragon tear fairy thingies for stocking stuffers. But then I thought what a perfect tooth fairy gift that would make, instead. Thank you, so much, in advance!!


  8. Oh what a good idea Annemarie. We haven't had need to think about the tooth fairy yet but they're so quick and last minute make-able that I think you're right that they'd be perfect for those occasions. The last batch we made had magnets on the back and they were a great hit (even for adults)!

  9. I am so smitten - we will use your idea at my daughter's 4th birthday. So magical and pure genius!!


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