Is your trip a surprise, or do the kids know you’re going? Depending on your answer, it will change how you want to do the Walt Disney World Countdown Treasure Map. For our kids, it was a surprise. I will show you what we did, but of course you are welcome to alter it and make this project your own! Check out our photo gallery at the bottom of this post for more pictures of the Walt Disney World countdown treasure map! Make sure you also check out our Disney D.I.Y post for other great ideas!
- The Rundown
- What you will Need
- A Letter from Peter Pan
- Creating the Map
- Weekly Clue Ideas
- Our Reveal
- Ideas for Treasure Chest Contents
On the morning of the gifting, children receive a letter from Peter Pan. He informs them that he needs their help following map pieces to find treasure. Each treasure also contains a clue about their big gift. The initial letter also contains the first piece of the map (leading them to their first clue and treasure). Once per week, a new map piece arrives rolled in parchment. On the day of the big Disney World reveal, they receive their final map piece which leads them to the ultimate treasure.
What you will Need:
- Leather or old cloth material for your map
- Leather or cloth bindings
- A permanent marker
- Parchment style writing paper (for Pan letter and map delivery)
- Construction or stock paper – multiple colours
- Glue stick
- Materials for decorating the clues/notes (ie. Stickers, glitter, stamps etc)
Setting the Stage – A Letter from Peter Pan
Should you choose to use this step, you will need to print your Peter Pan letter on the parchment style writing paper. Set the first piece of your map on top, roll it up and tie together with string. Here is the letter we included. Again, feel free to change it to suit your specific needs.
“Your Mom and Dad wrote me a letter and told me you have a BIG Christmas gift coming, but it is going to take some time before you get it. They asked me to send you something fun to do while you wait for your present. This works out perfectly, because *childs name*…..
I NEED YOUR HELP! A few days ago, Tinkerbell and I were out exploring when we found a HUGE new treasure map. I’ve never seen so many X’s! (and as every explorer knows, X marks the spot!) There must be a lot of treasure! But it was stolen from us by that sneaky snook Captain Hook! I tried to get it back, but he tore the map into pieces and hid them all over Neverland Island. I have found the first piece of the map, but it isn’t safe to keep it here with me. I have asked Tinkerbell to bring you the map, so you can help me find the treasure and keep it safe! Follow the clues to find some treasure! I will send Tinkerbell with more pieces of the map as we find them.
Creating the Map
- Purchase your map material. The material you choose is 100% your preference. I chose a fake leather material. To me it gave the map an authentic feel, while keeping it durable enough to be handled by excited children.
- After purchasing your material, the next thing you will need to consider is how many weeks or days your treasure hunt will last until the big reveal. You will need to divide your map material into this many sections. For our trip, the kids waited 6 weeks. So we needed:
- 1 Map for the gifting day
- 5 maps for the following 5 weeks
- 1 map for the reveal on week 6 (or in our case, we chose to make the reveal a 3-step process, so needed 3 map pieces)
In our “story” (see Peter Pan letter above), Captain Hook had torn the map into pieces. If following this type of idea, you may want to consider making your map pieces uneven or strange shapes.
- After dividing your pieces, use something sharp to poke a few holes along the edges where you would like each piece to connect together. Cut your leather or string binding, place through the holes, and connect your pieces back together so you have one large map again. This step is important, in order to be sure each maps instructions fit together properly. (see example above)
- Draw out each map piece. Each piece needs to be a self-contained treasure hunt, however, each section should still connect together. Remember, they are received separately, but they are all piece of one large map. For the example above, our starting point on gifting day was the Christmas tree. The map finished with them opening a closet in another part of the house. Map piece #2 had them beginning at that same closet to continue to treasure #2, and so on.
- Each dash on the map was the equivalent of one step, each drawn in the direction the children needed to go.
- The circle with two arrows was our symbol for ‘turn around’. One half of the circle was drawn on each map piece. After attaching their pieces together it told them “From where you ended, turn around and take 2 steps straight forward”
- Pictures are clues about where to start, or what to look for at the end
- After choosing the treasure locations and drawing out your maps, you will need to put together the clues or notes they find with their treasure. For this I typed them out in a Word document, printed them, cut them out with crafting scissors and used a glue stick to paste them to colourful stock paper. I also chose to add some confetti sparkles to the edges. I will include some examples of clues you could use at the bottom of this instruction article.
- With clues and maps completed, and treasures prepared, disassemble your map and organize each set into weeks. I used a small number on the backs of each map/clue to remind me which went together. You could also use ziplock bags or any other sort of organization process that works for you. I also rolled each weeks map into parchment to give the kids the fun of opening it.
- Implement your plan and let the fun begin!
Weekly Clue Ideas
Here are some clues we used, which you are welcome to use as well! You can also make up your own to suit the treasures the kids will find!
- Week one (Christmas day) the Peter Pan letter and map led them to their treasure, which was the paper countdown chain pictured in our Disney D.I.Y list (item #2). There was no official clue, just an explanation of how the chain was going to work. We wanted them to know how long they had to wait for their gift, because I believe it increases their anticipation to watch the big day get closer. The explanation went like this, “Your gift this year is a BIG one, but it requires big patience too. So until then here’s a paper chain to pass the time for you. Every day remove a link. When they’re gone, a gift you’ll receive. The white links all hold special clues; Can you guess what it will be?” For every Saturday they had to wait, there would be a white link. Inside the link it would say “follow the map!” and Tinkerbell would be sure to deliver a new map that morning.
- This first weekly clue works if you’re doing this activity around Christmas, and refers to the NYE celebrations at Walt Disney World. The treasure they found was a bag full of NYE party decorations. “Tonight is New Year’s Eve. In our house, we have a New Year’s tradition. We eat a fondue supper and watch fireworks. (*insert your own tradition here or delete sentences #2 and 3*) Here is your Christmas clue: Your Christmas gift is used by many people for their own New Year’s celebrations!”
- This clue was purposely misleading….
“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! (And maybe Bugs and Dinosaurs too!)” – Older kids will think of Wizard of Oz (which is not made by Disney), but this clue refers to things you will find in Animal Kingdom. Lions and tigers are seen at Animal Encounters, you can meet Baloo the Bear, It’s Tough to be a Bug is a neat 3D experience, and Dinoland offers many dinosaur themed experiences. This week their treasure was a dinosaur themed kids’ novel (Dinosaurs Before Dark) that we planned to take along to read with them when they needed a distraction.
- “Your gift has something to do with where Cars are made” – This obviously references the very popular Cars movies. However, the treasure our kids found were small toy cars, and the treasure map led them to a package placed on the trunk of our car, so they thought the clue referred to a car factory and were very confused. (being sneaky is fun… )
- “The Force is strong with your present” – with this they found Star Wars keychains for their backpacks.
- “Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, away from the ground and up to the stars. To get to the Moon there was a big race, with your Christmas gift you may end up in space!” – reference to Mission: SPACE in Epcot. With this clue they found travel journals.
The rest of our clues were very personalized for our reveal. The day before we flew to Florida, we had to drive to get near the airport, so our map and clue showed us taking a road trip to another city. (We pre-packed the car in secret the night before and as soon as the kids found the clue in the morning, we had them get dressed and directly in the car – which blew their minds haha)
When we arrived at our overnight destination, they found another map piece and a clue that told them where to find the treasure (in a “deep dark cave that only the bravest pirates dare enter”… also known as my in-law’s cold cellar). In the cold cellar they found another note from Peter Pan. It told them that their Mom and Dad had hidden their Christmas gift inside a treasure chest, but there was a spell on the chest and it would only appear at a certain time of day. If they weren’t there when it magically appeared, it would be lost forever. This was our excuse to wake them up at 5am. The next morning, they found a treasure chest filled with the items they needed to start their trip to Walt Disney World.
Walt Disney World Countdown Treasure Map – Ideas for Treasure Chest Contents
- The last map piece showing an airplane flying (or car driving) to the Disney castle
- Home made T-shirts like the “We can’t keep calm, we’re going to Disney!” shirt shown in our Disney D.I.Y list
- A print out of their plane tickets
- Their passports
- Minnie and Mickey luggage tags
- Magic Bands
- Disney gift cards for them to use for souvenirs
- Home made Disney vouchers for things like a Dole Whip or Mickey ice cream
There are many ways you could choose to reveal the Walt Disney World trip to your kids. If you need help, ask me! I LOVE planning, and would be happy to help with a few ideas. If you’re confused about any of these instructions, comment and ask!! If you’re unsure, someone else may be as well and it gives me a chance to clarify for everyone. I loved every part of this Walt Disney World Countdown Treasure Map and it was clear that my kids did too. I hope you have as much fun with this as we did.
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