Babies Walkers to 2 2s to 3s 3s to 4s

Overview and benefit

It is important for children to learn the vocabulary and mean of spatial relationships (i.e. on, in, under, up, down, beside, behind etc). This understand helps the children to mentally manipulate objects and is a basic building block for future learning. Children learn these concepts best through repetition, rhyme and physical demonstration. In this activity children have to follow the instructions in their pirate treasure map to find the pirate treasure.

Equipment required

  • Props (see below, though you can change the props if you want as long as the instruction remains the same)
  • 4 large location pictures (above deck, below deck, treasure island, in the sea) for the wall
  • A small pirate treasure map for each child in the class, plus a few extra ready to start swapping (BEFORE PRINTING YOU MAY WANT TO CHANGE THE PROPS SPECIFIED ON THE CARDS TO SOMETHING ELSE)
  • Treasure such as plastic gold pirate doubloons (from party suppliers) or cut out doubloons from card. Enough for 3 per child.
  • A treasure box (optional) for the children to put their treasure back into at the end

Link to resources

Training video

Pirate Treasure Hunt from MAD Academy on Vimeo.


Up to six weeks

How it works

Children will be learning spatial concepts while following a treasure map supported by their parents. Once all tasks on the map have been accomplished they return to the class instructor who gives them their treasure reward (a gold doubloon) and another map.

What to do in the class

Put one large location card on each wall of the hall.

Lay out the relevant props at each location:

    • Beanbags x 4
    • Quoit or paper plate x 4
    • Paper pirate hats x 4 (optional – could use the paper plates or quoits
    • A length of rope laid out for a plank
    • Paper plate x 4 for the ships wheel
  • Go to the SEA
    • Blue blanket or material for the sea
    • Mats x 4 for rocks
    • Hoop x 2 for the rowboats
  •  Go to Treasure Island
    • Tunnel for the cave
    • Bean bags (group of 6) for rocks
    • Some treasure to bury (cut out pirate gold, some beads etc)
    • Selection of sea creatures
    • 1 bucket

As there are quite a few props to handle I would advise putting them into separate bags, one for Below Deck, one for Above etc to make it easy to set up quickly. Explain to the parents that this will be a parent led activity to help the children learn positional words. Give each parent a treasure card to look at while you are setting out the props in each corner of the room, you can tell them about the four locations as you do this. Explain to the parents that the exercise is to help the children learn about spatial concepts and positional words so they need to support their children while using the treasure maps to understand these (forward, through, in, on). Explain that once all four tasks are completed, the children can bring the card bag to you and exchange for a piece of pirate gold. The parent and child will then follow the instructions together using the props. If time you can give them a second card to do.
To finish the activity get the children to count all of their gold pieces back into a treasure chest or pirates purse. Have a nice piece of pirate type music playing in the background while doing this activity.


What to do in a nursery setting

To do this exercise in a nursery, pick just one action from each location and prepare the props for just that action.  Try to pick a different positional word from each card if you can.  Set out the four corners of the room as before but with only the props for the chosen action from each card.  Plan to visit the Treasure Island location last.  Before you start the lesson and without the children seeing you, put two or three mats on the floor and hide some pirate treasure (beads, gold coins etc) underneath.

With the four chosen cards in your hand, tell the children that they are going to do a treasure hunt with you.  Visit each base and get all the children to do the chosen task.  When the last task is complete at treasure island, get them to sit around the mats (not on!).  Tell them that the treasure is ‘under’ the mats and get them to bring it all back to the pirate chest/purse.

If you are doing this over several weeks you can pick different actions each week and also find different ways to hide the treasure at the end. (under bean bags, in a sack, in a box, under a blanket etc).