Screen-free coding treasure hunt

Following on from our successful first foray into learning about coding, I thought I'd try something similar a few days later.  I used the same cards as with the Duplo farm for writing algorithms; the small boy had understood what the instructions meant, and I saw no reason to use anything different.  This time the activity I set up was a treasure hunt rather than a farmer searching for his animals but it's essentially the same idea in disguise.

I wrote a simple algorithm to guide 'Bob the Builder' to locate and dig for treasure.  'Bob' was a Duplo mini-figure, but he has a yellow helmet and the boy likes to pretend he is his favourite TV builder.  The treasure was a 1p coin (he doesn't know the value of money yet but finds coins fascinating...).  I used the coloured rice that I made when we experimented with separating pasta and rice to conceal the coin in an ice cube tray (if you have noticed the horrible colour and bizarre pineapple shapes, my only explanation is that it was cheap).

Moving the Duplo figure following the step-by-step instructions

I started with a really straightforward route to follow, and he got the idea very quickly.  He wanted to rush ahead and not move 'Bob' step-wise because he'd figured out what the next step was before he finished the first, but I persuaded him to slow down a little to make sure he got it right.  He enthusiastically dug for the treasure with the Duplo spade, and found the coin.

Digging for treasure (in the right place!)

He wanted to do it again, but was a little impatient with me trying to make sure I'd got the algorithm right!  We had a couple more goes with increasingly lengthy algorithms which took circuitous routes around the ice cube tray before he wanted to do something else.

He wanted to do it again the following day, and to do it with his Dad.  This was definitely a sign of a successful activity, and we will have another play with something along these lines soon to build on his enthusiasm.


  1. We also tried this a few weeks later with a 3x4 bun tin baking tray and used the rice and coloured pasta. This was partly to add some variety to the same activity, but also to solve a bit of frustration that the Duplo minifigure kept falling over which caused a bit of 3 year old unhappiness.


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