The perfect pre-school treasure hunt - 'The Bottle of Treasure'

As part of our 15 games to entertain kids on long car journeys series to help you survive an upcoming trip in one piece, we tried out the fantastic treasure hunt in a bottle game for pre-school children. This is a calming travel game and also a brilliant sensory activity to enjoy at home.

Entertain 4 Year Old - Treasure in a Bottle - perfect game for pre-school kids

In a nutshell...

Fill an empty plastic bottle with sand or rice and a number of items, letters or anything else you want to base a treasure hunt around. Different challenges can be set for hours of entertainment.

This will stop you getting asked "are we nearly there yet?" for...

Anything from five minutes to five hours! This can be picked up and put down again with different challenges being set. This isn’t just great for car journeys -any time you want to keep a little one entertained, ‘The Bottle of Treasure’ will come in handy.

LOL factor:

Low – fewer giggles, more concentration and excitement when things are found!

Required Mensa levels:

This is really easy. Even a toddler will enjoy looking at the different items and listening to them moving around.

The perfect age would be 3-6 years, but it could also be made to appeal to older children by using small, difficult-to-spot items, making it more challenging.


First, you need to construct your ‘Bottle of Treasure’ - which in itself is a lot of fun!

Half-fill a large, dry and empty clear plastic bottle with colourful sand or rice. Drop in about 10 to 20 small but identifiable objects like buttons, paper clips, etc., into the bottle, making a list of everything you put in as you go.

Top up the bottle with more sand or rice, then secure the lid with strong tape and shake the bottle until the objects are well dispersed throughout the sand or rice.

When you need some peace and quiet, give the ‘Bottle of Treasure’ to your children and challenge them to find all the hidden objects by shaking and shifting the sand around in the bottle.

Tips and variants:

  • Set the parameters of the challenge by either asking them to find and name all of the items in the bottle or give them the list of items, with one red herring added, and ask them to tell you which one is not in the bottle.
  • You could also play I-Spy with the bottle and challenge them to find certain items beginning with a particular letter.
  • Instead of objects, put letters into the bottle and challenge them to find the letters, in the right order, to spell out their name or the destination of your journey.

Looking for more car games?

You can see our full list of games to entertain kids on long car journeys here, providing you with plenty of ways to keep the kids occupied no matter their age or the length of your journey.