We’re in the home stretch of Christmas preparations. Are you ready? I’m a little behind this year, but close. I still have a few gift baskets to deliver and a few groceries to pick up, but for the most part, I think I’m ready. Well, except for the puzzles, of course. I don’t think there’s been a year that we weren’t still creating puzzles in the last days before Christmas.
Our family has an odd tradition at Christmas. We hide the children’s gifts, except for the perfunctory socks, underwear, and a toothbrush that are under the tree. Each child gets a clue to solve that leads them to some mysterious location in the house. Sometimes they find another clue at that location or a present and a clue. Then they have to solve that clue to find the next and so on and so on. It’s a little crazy, but so much fun!
About sixteen years ago, when older two children were very small, they received way more presents than any two children ever should receive at one time. Between Tommie’s and my overspending and relatives overspending, the kids were drowning in brightly wrapped boxes! It took them approximately 7 minutes to rip open every package, and then look around stunned. “That’s all?” This was the biggest haul my kids had ever seen, and they’d plowed through it all in minutes. We knew we had a problem. Thankfully, a solution presented itself that same year in the form of a train set.
Did you ever notice that no amount of colorful paper and ribbons can disguise the very distinct box of a train set? I realized that when I bought one for my husband that year. So, instead of wrapping this huge, flat box and placing it lovingly under the tree, I hid it in my daughter’s closet. Somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, inspiration struck, and I created a series of poems to lead the boys to the train. Each stanza was a clue to a place in the house where they would find another clue to another place. It was fun to see them read each clue, then deliberate a solution, and finally race off to find another. A new Christmas tradition was born.
These days we don’t stick to poetry. We’ve found and created a whole host of fun and challenging puzzles. Word searches are great. The clue is found in the unused letters. Compass points combined with steps, paces, or measurements are always a hit. The Algebra quiz isn’t quite as popular. Tommie always creates an acrostic, which my daughter loves. We even gave them global coordinates that they had to plug into the computer, match up with the correct city, and use the first letter to make a clue. It’s a lot of fun, even if it is a lot of work!
When Jared and Colleen were young, we used instant photos of places around the house like the hamper, dryer, and even their own bed. As they got a little older, they got cut up pictures that they had to put together first. Each year the puzzles get a little harder to match their age.
I should warn you, though, if you do this, be prepared for retaliation when you least expect it. For quite a few years I created all the puzzles, and Tommie checked them for accuracy. I would also make a set for him and hide one of his presents. His were usually one-line riddles with a theme like “Mrs. Peacock in the dining room with the candlestick” which meant he had to find the candlestick in the dining room with the blue candle in it. Another one of my favorites was giving him the title of a CD and a number. The clue was the title of the song on that track of the CD. Obviously, “Paradise By the Dashboard Lights” meant a trip out to the vehicle. Ok, so I have a strange imagination.
Anyway, my dear husband got me back on our anniversary a couple of years ago. My father-in-law showed up unexpectedly at my house with an envelope from my husband. It contained a clue. I ended up driving all over the county finding clues and presents. I was crying and laughing and praising God and thanking God for this amazing husband. Everyone driving past me must have thought I was crazy. The final “treasure” was a surprise weekend at the beach for just the two of us. Unforgettable.
The kids will also get into the act occasionally. They make treasure hunts for us, too. We just to remind them that they can plan ahead of time, but not plant ahead of time. Guaranteed, they will “accidentally” find what you’ve planted for them.
By the way, the kids no longer get huge piles of presents. Besides the traditional sock, underwear, and a toothbrush under the tree, they get three presents representing gold, frankincense and myrrh. They’ve been known to take a couple of hours to actually find them, and yet they look forward to these hunts every year.
Thank you for stopping by! I better get busy. Many clues to create. Did you know that absolutely nothing rhymes with orange?
Grace and peace be yours in abundance,