Ancient Egyptian Treasure Hunt Game

The treasure hunt game I set out for the kids to play was not very complicated (I have a small house and had to keep them inside), but I think it was fairly fun. Alas, and despite my friend Lola’s words of wisdom, I overestimated the ability of the kids (4-9 yo) to read and understand the clues, they needed quite a bit of extra help. I still think the clues are great, though, I just would use them with kids at least 10 yo.

The way the game work is that the kids were divided in 3 teams and each team was given a “clue” card, with a question or task they had to perform before being given the next card. There were 6 cards altogether, the last one indicating where the treasure was. All the teams had the same cards (except for the last one, I had separate treasure for each team, to make sure they each got something), but I put them in different order so teams were working on different clues (at least in theory, some teams were slower than other). Here were the clues (with the answers):

ankh necklaces
“For your first clue
you must bring me life.”

When the party started, I gave all the kids a necklace with an ankh amulet (which the kids and I made using our Fun with Egyptian Amulets kit, and told them that the ankh was the symbol of life. The idea was that they had to come to me and show me the amulet. Some figured it out, and some did not.

“He is the son of Isis and Osiris.
Destroyer of the evil Set.
With his eye
he offers safety and protection
He stands proud before his temple.
Who is he and where does he stand?”

The answer was Horus at Edfu. I gave each kid an amulet of the eye of Horus (made with the kit mentioned above) and set out the booklet of amulets that came with the kit, which identified all the amulets. I underlined the name Horus in the description of this amulet, to make it clearer. I also had a number of coloring sheets set out on the table which showed a map of Egypt surrounded by the gods (you can see the map here, but it’s not a high quality image, I copied it from the King Tut coloring book). Next to each god there is his name and the location of his main temple. Alas, I don’t think any of the kids noticed these coloring pages. I had also set out a large picture of me hugging Horus at the Edfu temple which I labeled “Marga at Edfu”. So all in all, with a little pushes (look around!) they mostly figured it out.

“The red land
where the dead live
and the living die.
Find its name
in the ancient language
and in the one you speak.”

The answer was “dshrt and desert”.

Above this clue I wrote the word for desert “dshrt” in hieroglyphs (hand, pool, mouth, bread loaf, place marker). I printed a large key sheet of hieroglyphs to Roman letters and taped it to the bookcase next to the table where the kids were working. It was the same key that I had set out for the kids to write their names in hieroglyphs. This wasn’t too difficult and undertaking, but I made a couple of mistakes. One is that I was using the Middle Egyptian conventions for the hieroglyph key, and there is no “L” sound in ME, so I substituted it with the “r” sound (the open mouth). Alas, that was confusing because some children transliterated the word as “dshlt”. Also, I should have mentioned to the kids before I gave them the clue that only consonants are written in Ancient Egyptian, and that we add “e” sounds after each consonant to pronounce them. Once I told them that, it was quite easy for them to go from “dshrt” to “desheret” to desert.

The beautiful one has arrived
Wife of Akhetatun
worshiper of the sun
She lives in permanent beauty
under her blue crown
Find her name and color a picture of her for your next clue.

Answer: Nefertiti.

Here I set out different coloring pages of Nefertiti on the table (but without her name). There were a couple of pictures of Nefertiti wearing her blue crown on the walls of the house, and I’d colored in her crown in one of the coloring books that had her name. And of course, we’d talked about her earlier in the day as well. Still, this proved a bit confusing as there was a girl (Tut’s wife) wearing a sort-of-blue crown on the cover of the coloring book – my bad. But this only confused one of the teams.

Without it, there is no life in the land of Egypt.
I think I’m hungry.
Bring me a piece.

Answer: bred

I set this clue under the hieroglyph for T, a loaf of bread. They had the key to the hieroglyphs on the wall, but I also had a small booklet with hieroglyphs that said what each hieroglyph represented. Once they figured that out, they had to find a piece of bread and bring it to me. This wasn’t too hard.

Finally, it was time for the treasure clues. My back and front yard are very small, and I thought the clues were pretty clear, and yet the kids spent lots and lots of time outside searching for the treasure. Well, I think this is the part they enjoyed the most in any case – and they’d have been just as happy without the clues. Here they are, though:

“They can be found in the dessert
providing shade and dates
you can use its leaves to fan yourself.
Search for one and look at its base FOR TREASURE.”

This was for treasure left under the palm tree at the back of the backyard

“It’s a dark place,
almost as dark and dense as the jungle.
Marked by tall plants, trees and ferns.
Search carefully
FOR TREASURE!”

I’d put the treasure behind some plants in the darkest/densest part of our patio.

“The colors of Christmas
or of life and blood
without the pain of thorns.
Search nearby
FOR TREASURE”

This was for treasure meant to be left under the red camellia bush by our porch. The kids had difficulty with it because 1) they just hurried to the backyard, assuming that it’d be there like the other kids’ treasure and 2) I’d asked Mike to hide it, and apparently he did not hide it under the camellia bush but under the roses (which I’d wanted to avoid for obvious reasons). Still, Camila finally found it.

The treasure boxes were shoe boxes that I’d wrapped in aluminum foil. Inside I put a lot of old jewelry I no longer wanted, a lot of homemade necklaces and bracelets (I love beading, just for its relaxation aspects), some little toys, a couple of keychains with Egyptian amulets we made and some candy. I gave each kid a paper bag on which Mika had stamped their name in hieroglyphs and written them in English. Mika and Camila had decorated them with Egyptian stickers, but they didn’t actually stick to the paper bags very well. C’est la vie.

Anyway, the kids had a great time playing the game and then dividing up the treasure. Camila, of course, threw a tantrum when she didn’t get to open her team’s treasure box, but that’s Camila for you.

Ancient Egyptian Party – Finally Over!

Last weekend was Mika’s 8th birthday Ancient Egyptian party. If you follow my blog, you can tell how much effort I put into this – from the invitations to the scavenger hunt. My major in college was Ancient Near Eastern Art & Archaeology (with a concentration on Egyptian Archaeology) – so I had reason to get really into it.

The party itself was a 26 hour affair. A bunch of little girls – ages 6 to 9 – came for an all-day sleepover and they were joined by other kids – ages 4 up – the next day for the party proper.

Both days I greeted the guests with healthy snacks of the type they probably had in ancient Egypt – or at least they have now (carrots, cucumber slices, grapes, strawberries, pita bread and hummus). I also set out ancient Egyptian coloring pages which I found online and which I copied from the coloring books which I got with the Exploring Ancient Egypt Fun Kit I got on Amazon. The pictures from the coloring books are very detailed, so they weren’t as popular. The four “stained glass” coloring sheets that came with the kit also weren’t as popular – probably because they also were more detailed than the ones I downloaded from the internet.

Still, I learned that children can get bored of coloring pretty quickly.

I had planned a full day of activities for the sleep-over girls on Saturday, but the schedule did not go as planned, both because I wanted to wait for all the girls to be there to do some of the more fun stuff, and because Mika was somewhat reluctant to do some of the activities. No matter, things worked out.

After drawing the girls spent some time playing with Littlest petshops and just talking. Then they went on to watch the Goosebumps: Return of the Mummy DVD, which I had planned for them to watch before going to sleep, but I guess they needed some down time then.

decorated t-shirtsAfter that they were ready to finally decorate t-shirts with Ancient Egyptian stencils and spray paint. They LOVED doing it and were very pleased with the results. They had to wait their turn to do them, as I only had two cardboard frames for the stencils (which were small enough that, without the frames, would have allowed the spray paint to splatter the rest of the t-shirt), but that was good as it extended the activity. I’m very glad with the quality of the stencils, which withstood repeated sprayings, and I can’t believe how much spray paint I have left over!

I think after that was free playtime as well – Mika didn’t have any interest on the girls making some perfume as I’d planned and we also never got to do story time – though they did spend quite a lot of time telling each other scary stories (Mika is VERY GOOD at making up stories).

Meanwhile, I cooked dinner. I varied a bit from my dinner plan, in that I made an Egyptian lentil soup as well. I’m not one for lentils, but this was DELICIOUS – and I wouldn’t doubt the ancient Egyptians ate something like it as well, as both onions and lentils were part of their diet. Alas, only one of the girls really liked it, Mika ate some, and the three others wouldn’t touch it. I also made Ancient Egyptian chicken, but only one of the girls liked it (it wasn’t that good). For dessert, I’d plan on Egyptian Palace Bread, but the whole thing became a mess, sticking completely to the baking pan, and I gave them not-at-all-Egyptian sorbet-yogurt bars instead.

Mika's birthday spaAfter a little cleaning up, and more chatting by the girls, it was spa time. We started with facials. First I had the girls wash their faces with an all-natural face cleaner and then I had them lie down on their sleeping bags and covered their faces with a homemade facial mask (ground oatmeal + sour cream + a little bit of honey). I covered their eyes with cucumber slices. At first they thought it was a little gross, but they believed my claim that that would make their faces really soft and the longer they had it on, the softer it would be so they withstood it for quite a long time. It was very cute. I finished the facials by rubbing a tiny bit of jojoba oil on their faces.

The next step was a manicure. Here I left Ancient Egypt altogether, and started by making a soaking gel with the “crystal mud” (aka sodium polyacrylate) I got with the Elmer’s Magnificent Manicure Kit which I bought a couple of weeks ago. Mika had loved the gel then, and I had a feeling the girls would as well. Boy, was I right. They had the best time soaking their hands on the substance and playing with it. I heard comments of how lucky Mika was to have a mom to give her a manicure and how this was the best slumber party ever. This stuff is basically a crystal powder that is able to absorb hundreds of times its weight in water – basically it’s the stuff that diapers have inside. When it has enough water it becomes a gel. I think this is the same stuff that the Insta-Snow you can get on Amazon (you probably need to add more water to make it jelly like, though). I would /definitely/ encourage you to get some of this stuff (in as small a container as you can) for manicure-pedicure use. I’m sure it doesn’t do much for the skin, but lord, the kids loved it.

By then it was pretty late, so we did not go on with other aspects of the manicure. Instead the girls got ready and went to sleep – they were out by 9 PM!!!!

The girls woke up around 7 AM, but they reasonably quiet and non-demanding, watching cartoons and talking until we woke up, after 8. I had plan to make fetter for breakfast, a type of Egyptian pancake which is likely to be very old. Alas, after I woke up I didn’t feel I had the energy to actually make them. So I figured I’d make buttermilk pancakes instead – not at all Egyptian, but very yummy (specially with real maple syrup).

Mika wearing her galabiya After breakfast (well, after I had breakfast), it was time for putting on Egyptian makeup and dressing up in Egyptian clothing (well, back in college I bought myself a rectangular piece of gold fabric that I used to make an Egyptian style dress – now I used it to wrap the girls as well, one at the time). Mika, meanwhile, bought the galabiya we bought her atthe King Tut Festival last fall. All the girls LOVED their looks. I used sparkly eye-shadow that I got at Grocery Outlet, black eye pencil, a little bit of blush and lipstick. They looked gorgeous (I’m only posting the pictures of my girls here for privacy reasons):

Camila in Egyptian garb

After that I encouraged the girls to make bookmarks on papyrus-looking paper with the hieroglyph stamp kit I have, but I don’t think anyone did so. Unfortunately I had to get the house ready for the party and didn’t have time to do it with them (I did affix a large hieroglyph alphabet to the bookcase to make it easier on them).

Finally, it was time for the actual party. My friend and former Egyptian archaeologist Lola came over with a great handmade banner celebrating Mika:

Mika's BD banner

st 8 hr Mika di ankh ra mi djt
irt n Michael mst n Marga mrt snt Camila

Year 8th of Mika, may she be given life like Ra for ever
begotten of Michael, born of Marga, beloved sister of Camila

Once again, we had snacks and coloring until the pizza came (yep, non-Egyptian, but there is so much you can get out of those kids). After that there was more free play and coloring until it was time for the mummy game. This is a fun game in which the kids divide themselves in teams and they get to wrap one another in toilet paper like a mummy. The team that finishes first, wins. The game itself didn’t work so well with this crowd. First of all, I bought the cheapest TP I could find, which proved a bad idea, as the squares kept breaking of. Second, all the kids wanted to be wrapped and they weren’t good at keeping with the task. So it became just a game of getting wrapped with TP, by one, two, four, whatever. They had a GREAT time, under Lola’s leadership. She even got them to clean up by challenging them to do it as quickly as possible.
Camila wrapped in toilet paper

After the TP game, it was time for the treasure hunt. The hunt was pretty complicated, a bit too much for the kids, but I think they all enjoyed it. I had a LOT of treasure for the kids – old necklaces and stuff I didn’t like, a few small toys, some candy and lots of handmade necklaces and bracelets (I love making them, but then I don’t know what to do with them). They took most of them 🙂

Then it was time for the cake, which Mika had decorated with Egyptian figurines. Everyone liked it.

And then there was free play until parents picked them up.

In all, it went as well as it could be expected. Mika mentioned that next year she wanted an Ancient Greek themed party – I’m not sure I’m up to that. This was fun, but exhausting!

The Theodosia Throckmorton Mysteries

theodosiachaos.jpgA couple of Xmas ago, my friend and former egyptologist Lola, got Mika her first Theodosia book: Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos. Mika, as was her custom back then, threw a fit about the book (my kids have severe transitional issues). But it didn’t take long before she wanted Mike to read it to her. It may not be an exaggeration to say that she became immediately enthralled by the story – and that it quickly became her favorite book every.
The book (which is followed by Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris and the just published Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus) concerns a precocious 11-year-old girl name Theodosia who lives in Edwardian London with her egyptologist parents, who run a small museum. Theodosia is not just a budding egyptologist herself, but she has an uncanny ability to feel the black magic arising out of antiquities. This leads her to uncover mysteries and live exciting adventures and become the unacknowledged heroine. I haven’t read the books myself (Mike is the one reading them to Mika, and I’m not much of a reader of kids’ books), but of course, Theodosia seems like your stereotypical spunky, wise-beyond-her-years, courageous little girls on which much girl literature is based. In other words, the sort of girl all little girls aspire (or should aspire) to be. No wonder Mika loves it.
The books have also fueled Mika’s passion for Ancient Egypt – something which I, of course, have encouraged (for those who don’t know me, I was an Ancient Egyptian Archaeology major in college). This year we are throwing Mika an Ancient Egyptian birthday party. To my great happiness, the 3rd Theodosia book came out early, so I will actually be able to give it to Mika for her birthday.
As for this posting, the purpose is to encourage everyone whose kids (specially girls) have shown any interest in Ancient Egypt to get the books for their children. The San Leandro library now has them (thanks to Mike who told them they should get them), and I’m sure other libraries out there do as well. The first two are now on soft-cover and quite affordable. Sorry, we can’t loan you our copies because Mike is currently reading them to Camila (not that I think she’s getting much out of them).
I’m happy to say that the author has written on her blog that she’s just finished writing the fourth Theodosia book, Theodosia and the Last Pharaoh, so the adventure will continue.

Cat Mummies – book review

Cat MummiesCat Mummies is a delightful book about the worship of cats in Ancient Egypt. It’s written in serious, yet accessible language (though I wouldn’t read it to a child under 8) and the illustrations are gorgeous. The information is accurate and fascinating, though I’m not sure why the author put so much emphasis on the Persian conquest. Mika loved reading the book.
My only issue are a couple of paragraphs that implied that Egypt was conquered by the Persians because of its animal worship. I’m not sure if it was a veiled attempt to get a Biblical point of view in, or just sloppy writing.
In any case, it’s a great book to read to your little Egyptologist – and you can probably find it at the library or for very cheap online.