Sunday, March 15, 2015

How can you tell if you have a light saber or a heavy saber? (How to Entertain Children #1)

For my son Liam's tenth birthday party, his chosen theme was a mashup of Star Wars, Star Trek and Dr. Who. Here's the invitation my wife sent out:


The Doctor (10th one of course), Captain Picard, and Yoda request your presence at the celebration of Liam turning 10!  

Please drop your children off for a scavenger hunt and birthday treats.

Gifts are welcome but not required. Daleks, Klingons, and storm troopers will be turned away.

WHAT: Liam Rudoff is turning 10!
WHEN: Saturday, February 7, 2015, 1:30 pm - 4:00 pm
WHERE:, wait……Alderaan…oh, that won’t work either…Okay…our house 

We promise to have your children returned to this time period and universe by the time you come to pick them up.

The activity he requested was a scavenger hunt. I had about a month to come up with how to do a scavenger hunt in our house (with a January birthday in Seattle, you really don't want to do it outside). And the scavenger hunt needed to be related to the Star Wars, Star Trek and Dr. Who theme.

First, I had to come up with what this scavenger hunt would be. I decided it would be puzzle clues, one leading to the next. With 14 of his friends invited, and not wanting everyone hunting for the same clue en masse through our house, I decided to break everyone one up into teams of two or three, each team searching for their own set of clues. That meant five teams, and conveniently I found this set of 50 small envelopes, with 10 each of 5 bright colors. Each team would be assigned an envelope color and would hunt for their envelopes one by one.

This meant I needed to come up with 50 Star Wars, Star Trek and Dr. Who themed clues. Which seemed daunting. Then I decided that all teams would share the last clue (more on that below), which cut down the number of clues to 45. Over a few weeks, I mostly succeeded in coming up with the clues on the theme, and some that were completely off theme because I ran out of ideas for theme-related clues. 

The ones I thought that would be relatively easy:
  • The Royal Mail has a stamp to honor Dr. Who’s 50th anniversary - (Under the basket holding our mail).
  • This place is hotter than Tatooine! Are those the ashes of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru? - (In the oven).
  • The Empire Strikes Back starts on the planet Hoth - (In the freezer).
  • Did you know Spock was a vegetarian? I wonder what his favorite recipe was? - (In a vegetarian cookbook).
  • It's so wet here on Dagobah! I must find something to keep a least a part of me dry - (In a rain boot).
Some of my favorites:
  • How can you tell if you have a light saber or a heavy saber? - (Under a bathroom scale).
  • This well known planet is definitely not in Star Wars - (Under a globe).
  • It' snot under a Tardis that fell over - (No typo. Under a blue tissue box in a bathroom).
  • La Amenza Fantasma is the Spanish title for Stars Wars Episode #1 - (In the box holding a deck of UNO cards).
  • One game Trekkies like to play is “What are the worst episodes of the original Star Trek?” You’ll find “Spock’s Brain” in here - (In the box for the game "Cranium").
  • "It's a trap!" said Admiral Ackbar as he bumped his head on the low ceiling - (In a game of Mousetrap in the loft above Liam's room).
(And to not bore you, I won't list the 30+ other clues, but if you're really interested I'd be happy to email them to you.)

I tried to be helpful in hinting to the location of the next clue in the previous clue. For example, if the clue had "water" or "clean" in it, the next clue would be in a bathroom. If the clue mentioned "game", the next clue would be in the family room where we keep all of our games.

For the five teams, I tried to give them a good spread of clues with various levels of difficulty, and distributed relatively evenly around the house.

For their last clue, I decided to give everyone the same task to complete: to go to Liam's room and out of Lego build either a Tardis, a land speeder, or the Starship Enterprise. I thought this would be good way to end the scavenger hunt, with all the kids together in one room keeping busy and hopefully relatively quiet.

I wanted the kids to have fun, and for this to not be too competitive, so it was set up as a challenge, not a contest.

These are the rules I read out before the hunt began:

  • There will be 5 teams of 2 to 3 people.
  • Each team has 10 clues to find around the house.
  • Each clue is in an envelope colored blue, green, orange, yellow or pink.
  • Each team will randomly be assigned one color of envelopes. The teams only look for envelopes of their color.
  • At the start, each team will be given their first envelope.
  • Each envelope contains a clue. The clue will lead you to some place in the house where to find another envelope of the same color with a new clue.
  • Read the clues carefully. Some are easier than others. Every word in the clue may be important, leading to a room or thing in the house where the clue is located.
  • There are some places in the house where there are no clues hidden. These are: the basement, the laundry room, closets, in dressers, any drawers. Do not look in those places.
  • The envelopes are mostly hidden under things or in things. You do not need to dig though anything to find an envelope. When you lift something or open something you will see it. Nothing you need to lift will be heavy, hard to move or gross.
  • If you see an envelope belonging to another, you are not allowed to move it.
  • If a team is stumped, Liam's mom or dad will be able to give out hints.
There was some squabbling about who was which team (which I solved by my assigning the squabblers to teams with the explanation "Because I said so.").  At the start a lot of the kids need help understanding how the clues worked ("The Empire Strikes Back starts on the planet Hoth - I don't get this. What do we do." Me: "Do you remember the start of the Empire Strikes Back?" "Yes." Me: "Where were they?" "On the ice planet Hoth." Me: "Okay, if it's an ice planet, it's very cold. Where is somewhere cold in the house?"). Hints were needed by almost every team, but as the hunt went on, they needed fewer hints.

And it all turned out well and not only did the kids had fun, I really had a good time coming up with the hunt and its clues as creative diversion.

I'll leave this with what was probably my hardest non-theme clue:
He took away the tea and was left with a table. The police could charge him with theft as he left a lot of fingerprints on it.

If you can solve that, here's the last of the cookies I made for the party:

And in memory of Leonard Nimoy:

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