21 Poetry Clues

Last year and this year, Heidi-Ho and I somehow convinced our kids that on Halloween it would be more fun to hang out at Casa Flamingo than it would be to dress up and beg for candy door-to-door.  Last year, when we concocted this alternative, we knew it would have to be extremely attractive to the children to convert them over to our side.

So we bribed them with LEGOs.  

[LEGOs are at the pinnacle of my children's (perceived) hierarchy of needs.  In fact, I would be interested to know (especially now that there are LEGO Friends for girls) if there is any child anywhere who could not be bribed with LEGOs.]

I thought it would be fun to have a treasure hunt for the kids where they found LEGO sets or mini-figures at the end.  Last year’s hunt was comprised of about 10 or 12 clues and a treasure map.  I searched the internet and found some clues I could make work and drew my own treasure map for the end.  It was fun, but it kept the kids busy hunting for all of 15 minutes.

Compared to this year’s hunt, last year’s was for amateurs.

A week or two ago, Casey needed examples of poems with refrains, so I looked up The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe.  While we were reading through some of it, Casey suggested that I use verses of the poem as clues for our scavenger hunt this year.  I thought it was a great idea, but after reading it all the way through, I realized that I could only use a few of the verses (“chamber door” could be a bedroom door, but other than that, I would need some purple curtains and the kids would have to crawl on the roof to where shutters would be, if we had any, and Heidi-Ho tends to frown on her children crawling around on my porch roof).  But the poetry suggestion was a good one, so I ran with it.

The boys’ curriculum from Sonlight came with a large book of poetry this year (Favorite Poems: Old and New) which contains several hundred poems appropriate for children.

I merely picked 21 of them.

At the beginning of the hunt, I told the children that there were two rules: 1) the poem had to be read all the way through to the end because often the actual clue was in the last line; and 2) they were not allowed to shout out in the middle of the poem that they knew where it was leading them.

Here are some examples (if you would like references for all the poems I used and where I hid the corresponding clues, email me at frolickingflamingo@gmail.com and I will gladly send you the list):

The second clue of the hunt was A Book by Emily Dickinson, so the children knew to look on a bookshelf.  We have several, but the clue was sticking out of the bookshelf in the playroom like so:


Once they found the clue, one of the children read it all the way through so they would know where to go next:


The third clue was a poem called “Primer Lesson” by Carl Sandburg (“Look out how you use proud words . . . They wear long boots, hard boots; they walk off proud; they can’t hear you calling . . . “), which  led them to a pair of boots in the boys’ room:


And so on.

My favorite clue was another Emily Dickinson poem called “Locomotive” and is a fine example of why I did not put the titles of the poems on any of the clues.  “Locomotive” does not actually use the word “train” or “locomotive” within the poem itself.  So I knew it would be a difficult clue for the children.  So difficult, in fact, that while Heidi and I were at the grocery store earlier in the day with only her two children, I turned to Kate and said, “Kate.  It’s a train.”  She looked at me as if she had missed something and said, “What??”  I said, “It’s a train.  You may need to know that later.”  We had the same exact back and forth three or four more times (“What?” “It’s a train.” “What?” “A train — just remember that.” “Why?”  “You’ll know.  It’s a train.”).  So when the children got to that particular clue, they couldn’t figure it out and came running into the kitchen to ask us for help.  I tried to give them a few hints (“What chases itself downhill?”  “What feeds itself at tanks?”) to help them out, but they were still mystified.  Finally, I looked at Kate and said, “I’m pretty sure Kate might know the answer to this clue.”  She just stared back at me.

“Really, Kate, you don’t know what this might be?  I thought you might know?”  Heidi and I are both looking at her and nodding as if a conversation we had in the dairy aisle could be nodded back into her brain.


Finally, I told the children that the poem was about transportation and they finally guessed it.


Kate finally said, “Ohhh!!”

The final poetry clue was “Sister Nell:” “In the family drinking well/ Willie pushed his sister Nell./ She’s there yet, because it kilt her –/ Now we have to buy a filter.”

So the children ran out to the well, where they found their treasure (but no drowned sisters):


Then they spent the next hour building their LEGO sets and the remainder of the evening playing with them.

Do you think they give out the Homeschooling Mom of the Year Award for tricking children into an hour-long poetry reading?

Well, maybe it will at least cancel out the day I threw Mace’s I Can Read! book across the room in frustration.

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  1. “Do you think they give out the Homeschooling Mom of the Year Award for tricking children into an hour-long poetry reading?”

    No, but it does get you the nomination for the funniest homeschool blog at The Homeschool Post!!! I already voted for you :-D

  2. This is hands down, the BEST ever Trick-or-Treating substitute I’ve ever heard of! Bravo!

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