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Treasure Hunts Are a Magical Staple of Childhood

Dear Parents,
The recent game app craze Pokemon Go has universally captured the imagination of growing crowds of players, perhaps providing a temporary and carefree distraction from other more disturbing events happening around the world and in our country recently. Unfortunately, the obsessive nature of the game is distracting players to the point that attacks and injuries are occurring in unsafe areas or late at night, some resulting in car accidents.
Complaints are coming in from designated “Pokestops” such as hospitals, museums and funeral homes, where unaware and unwanted players are gathering and interfering with business as usual.
Parents with young tweens and teens who will naturally be attracted to playing Pokemon will need to set their own family limits and boundaries on a game that has none and could potentially invite danger for risk- taking youngsters.
Pokemon Go has its roots in treasure hunting, a magical staple of childhood. Babies are first invited to search for the familiar faces of their parents in the innocent game of peek-a-boo, a simple hunt that has a pleasing reward. Likewise, children play Hide and Go Seek, which involves waiting and anticipating discovery, critical thinking in the search, courage and persistence to continue the search to the end, and the rewarding delight of finding the treasure.
No matter how old children are, they’re never too old to be part of the annual Easter egg hunt. Children have an innate curiosity about their world, and are always searching for answers and wanting to discover more. Parents have the privilege of providing opportunities that will encourage their children’s desire to hunt and discover, prod them to be persistent in their search and watch confidence grow in their children as they delight in discovery.
Treasure hunting is the principle that underlies all life-learning, in children and adults alike. My Santa Barbara grandchildren are attending daily to the nest of mourning doves they discovered in the lemon tree, observing the papa fly out for food and the mama sitting unblinkingly on her nest. They are awaiting the ultimate treasure of baby peeps soon to be heard.
This summer, parents will have more time to involve their children in the delights of searching for treasure all around them, satisfying a child’s desire to discover and learn, and tapping into their natural and heightened sense of observation.
Besides being educational, treasure hunting is stimulating to the imagination and simply fun. No wonder it is a staple of a delightful and magical childhood. Plus, it’s much safer and innocent than Pokemon Go.

1) At the beach, look for shells, unusual rocks, sand crabs, tide pool creatures, shore birds and driftwood.
2) In nature, at parks, Descanso Gardens, the Arboretum, look for unusual plants, insects, bird feathers, acorn “fairy hats,” fish, ducks and turtles.
3) On road trips, look for animals along the way, license plates from all states, vanity plates, play the alphabet game A-Z, play “I Spy” for a Dairy Queen and use a map to track your final destination.
4) At the library, look for several books on one treasured topic or theme: stars, gardening, birds, Egypt, art, under the sea, Arctic animals.
5) Birthday parties: Through the years, all of my daughters’ parties had a small treasure hunt as a party game.
6) At the Norton Simon in Pasadena, look for Van Gogh’s peasant with a yellow hat, Rousseau’s monkeys stealing oranges from a tree, Degas’ ballet dancer with a net skirt, Murrill’s sitting cheetah in the sculpture garden and so much more. (I sent art postcards to my grandchildren, and when they come to visit next, we will go search for their paintings at the Norton Simon.)
7) In books, go on treasure hunts within the pages of books, such as “Going on a Bear Hunt,” “Where’s Waldo” and “Curious George” (always getting in trouble hunting for something) to name a few.
8) GEO-Caching: a worldwide, hide-and-seek treasure hunt for families, using a GPS to find metal containers with a log book and small treasures. Go online for a list of locations with approximate coordinates.

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