I think it is safe to assume we all know someone that has celebrated a birthday in quarantine. or lock down. or while sheltering in place. Whatever you want to call it, most of us have either wished someone a birthday from a distance or accepted birthday wishes over a zoom call. When I asked my soon-to-be 18 year old if he had anything he wanted to do for his birthday, he replied ‘I know what I don’t want. I do not want a parade.” If you know him, this is no surprise.
Both my teenagers have been stir crazy (me too!), the golf course was opening this weekend and it was going to be 78 degrees on his birthday. All of these facts got me thinking and I decided to put together a hunt to get them outside to COVID appropriate destinations.
I started with a list of what we are currently allowed and able to do: pick up food, be at a forest preserve, golf in a pair, go into a store, stop in a friends front yard. I contacted three people I knew he would like to see and booked them for golf at 5, lunch at 2 and a front yard stop at 3:30. I then filled in the course making sure to have activities before each stop that were flexible with time and that I could pause them at if needed. Turning 18 meant he could buy lotto tickets, so I added that as an activity. I then added his High School on to the list because he is graduating this year and his elementary school as a stop just for fun.
I made a list of ways to deliver clues: puzzles, geocache/gps coordinates, pop balloons, rebus puzzle, recreate a photo from younger days, crosswords, cryptograms.
I started at the end and worked my way back making sure to account for drive times. Here is what I ended up with:
Both the birthday boy and his sister started with envelopes at the breakfast (shown above by the vase). One said ‘It’s your 18th birthday’ and the other ‘Your brother is 18 today! Inside both it said:
Your day of fun starts here: Make sure to observe all COVID rules and guidelines. Bring a mask and use santizier every time you get back in the car. Keep your hands away from your face.
I didn’t plan to write a blog post but thankfully I snapped some phone photos a long the way.
They scrambled to get ready. When they got in the car, they found a plastic camo easter egg with their first clue:
542 flags for 542 graduates front and center.
You will find your first clue by one flag that represents you.
The High School had put out flags for the seniors. I had placed a camo easter egg a few flags in.
In that egg was the next clue:
You are 18! You can now:
Open a bank account
Go sky diving
Get selected for jury duty
Get a credit card
Go to jail
And the only one that you can do today:
Buy a lotto ticket!
Take the 10.00 hidden in your glove compartment to the gas station and get your first scratch offs.
Send me a text with your scratched off lotto tickets for your next clue.
When he sent me the lotto ticket, I replied:
Look under your seat for your next clue.
I had taped a photo under the front seat. The photo showed him in line on his elementary school blacktop in second grade. When he arrived at the location in the picture he found GPS coordinates.
I have been taking my kids geocaching since they were small so they were no stranger on how to get to this next spot. .
When they arrived to the coordinates about 10 minutes away in a forest preserve, they found another camo egg by a tree. Inside the egg was a coupon for a local pizza place and the clue:
Hopefully by now you are ready for a snack:
Head here and ask for an order for Kelly
Don’t forget to sanitize & then sanitize again before you eat.
But DO NOT go in until 2.
Otherwise you will miss a familiar face in the parking lot.
Head over to the Prairie Lakes parking lot to responsibly socialize 🙂
Telling him to wait until 2pm allowed a buffer of time. If he found the cache early, he would still wait and not miss his friend.
The pizza place was more than happy to participate. They even took a photo and shared. I had ordered a pizza for him, his sister and the friend meeting them so they all had their own order and could eat from their cars in the parking lot.
(The outdoor space mentioned, Prairie Lakes, was not open and I didn’t check that. Tip: Assume nothing and check all the spots 🙂
I asked the pizza place to write his next clue on the pizza box:
When you are through,
Stop home and POP your way to the next clue.
Someone has a surprise for you
I told his sister there was no rush to move on to the next clue and to enjoy the fresh air for as long as they wanted.
When he arrived home he realized that he needed to find something to pop. His sister remembered commenting earlier on the fact that Mom put balloons outside so everyone would know it was his birthday. Realizing this was part of the hunt they grabbed them and popped them. Out came 12 letters on paper and they moved them around until they made sense. They formed two names and headed to that house.
I sent this photo rebus clue via text to the person he was meeting before and told them they could print it out or just text it to them when it was time to move on. Again this was another time where he could hang out in the front yard and socialize for a short time (or a long time) depending on how the schedule was going.
This clue says ‘Meat @ Gulf Center’. These kind of clues you have to know your kid. Mine plays hockey and that is the center position. They later told me they were a little hung up on the @ (they were usuing ‘to’), but they eventually figuered it out.
He ended his day playing a round of golf The Golf Center. The Golf Center was open for pairs and they ran into no one else while golfing because they had the tee times spread out.
After this he arrived home, we had dinner and a fire and called it a night.
In order to make this work I got everything ready and set it up in the morning before my kids woke up. And you have teenagers who have adjusted to a COVID sleep schedule you know that I pretty much had all day to do this. I wrote on a piece of paper and taped to each egg that I put in a public space: ‘Do not remove. Part of Birthday Hunt 5/2/20’ in hopes that it would help people leave it alone if they came across it. However the places I put the clues I did not anticipate anyone coming across them.
I cleaned out the car so that the first egg clue would be obvious and then stuck the egg in the cup holder. I packed a soft cooler with water and La Croix so they would have this through the hunt and for lunch. I also taped the photo under the seat and then placed money in the glove box for the lotto tickets making sure it wouldn’t be seen until directed in the clue.
I drove to the High School to place the egg by the flag, the forest preserve to place the egg at the coordinates and then I checked the coordinates to make sure they worked. (my kids said that the phone coordinates do not dial in the location enough and a GPS should be used. If you do not use a GPS then give an additional clue with the coordinates such as: look for large tree where path intersects) I went to the elementary school and wrote the coordinates in chalk and then headed home to blow up the balloons with letters in them and hang out front. I then placed the order for the pizza and asked for it to be ready at 2pm with the clue wirtten.
I didn’t expect my kids to enjoy this as much as they did. I am sure the fact that they have not been very social or out in so long played a role in the enjoyment. I think this would work for anyone, any age! Copy this hunt exactly, change it up, make one long hunt to end at a dinner or lead to one awesome present. If you create one, I’d love to see it so make sure to share!