Using Digital Hide & Seek To Get Kids Outside: A Treasure Trove of Ideas

treasureworldSept. 17, 2009 “Childhood obesity may be a problem of epidemic proportions in many parts of the world, but several games are doing their part to help keep kids moving. We’ve already covered LocoMatrix, Swinxs and The Hidden Park, and now a new contender launched last month takes kids on a wifi-based treasure hunt outside,” says Springwise (one of my fave industry resources for scraping global news on the trendwatching front)

While my ‘get ‘em outside’ hero, Richard Louv of Last Child in the Woods is using Google maps to track the Children & Nature movement other techno enthusiasts are trying to figure out how to ‘make a buck’ marrying the online and offline digital worlds to get kids outdoors while engaging kids in creative fun. (hat tip to Deesha Philyaw for pointing me to Louv’s amazing nature network to reconnect children with the outdoors, mapped by region)

Enter TreasureWorld a game for the Nintendo DS that converts real-world wifi signals into online treasures, published by Aspyr Media. More than 2,500 in-game items and ‘treasures’ (trees, flowers, fashion/food/fun) can be unlocked as players access the more than 200 million wifi treasure spots worldwide that are registered within the game.

Here’s Shaping Youth Correspondent Sara M. Grimes, gaming guru at Gamine Expedition, kids’ advocate and researcher with her take on the concept…A great big thank you, Sara for also pointing me toward ‘The Hidden Park’ iPhone app adventure that “leads children into a fantasy world of trolls, fairies and tree genies – right in their local park!” It’s a fascinating use of technology and imagination to ignite kids’ interest, beyond new sites like the Ad Council/USFS site, “Discover the” effort which targets tweens to get out and “find the other you in nature.” (which I love, btw) and other online to offline bridges like geocaching scavenger hunts in nature.

case for make believe paperbackI’m eager to test out both of them regarding “open-ended play” and see where it lands on the ‘pretend’ front, for as you know I’m a huge fan of The Case for Make Believe (great review on PreK-now blog with a video of Susan Linn discussing the Baby Einstein bit once and for all!) as well as Dr. Stuart Brown’s new book Play. (interview forthcoming on how it shapes the brain, opens the imagination)

While some may see Treasure World and Hidden Park as ‘just more screen time’ I prefer to use it for building online to offline bridges.

To me, it’s all part of the strategy to embrace integration rather than ‘either/or’ thinking and get kids outdoors with positive uses of new media energy to ‘reach and teach’ in a 21st century era of connectivity.

Strategically? I admit I also see it as a way to ‘sell’ the notion of getting ‘unplugged’ and out in nature exploring in free form fun…

It’s similar to Shaping Youth’s counter-marketing tactics using the ‘switch pitch’ weaning kids off one habit, swapping it for a healthier choice, and eventually replacing it altogether with natural, wholesome choices that are ultimately child-driven, created by their own free agency and preferences.

Whether it’s food or fun…the idea has to come from them to ‘own it’ in order to make it stick. My thoughts, anyway…

sara-grimes-2Treasure World: Nintendo’s new DS/ARG hybrid

by Sara M. Grimes

Via Springwise, short and sweet coverage of a game that I find totally and utterly fascinating, Aspyr Media’s Treasure World for the Nintendo DS. I’ve actually written quite a bit about this game, but I’m saving it for a longer article on ARG/digital game hybrids and how they relate to the “free range kids” movement.

Through the article, I also found out about The Hidden Park, an indie game/app for the iPhone that has similarly captivating features, massive potential, and will be shortly releasing tools that will allow people to create their own real-world/digital world hybrid games. Nice. For now, here’s an excerpt of the article description…see if you can figure out why I’m so enthralled:

Treasure World is a game for the Nintendo DS that converts real-world wifi signals into online treasures. The story focuses on Starsweep, a space traveller who journeys through space in his ship called Haley. In the game, however, Haley has broken down and needs more stardust to get going again. A quirky robot named Wishfinder helps players find not just stardust but also treasure during their adventure by tapping the wealth of wifi hotspots available around the world. More than 2,500 in-game items and treasures such as trees, flowers, candy and clothes can be unlocked as players access the more than 200 million wifi treasure spots worldwide that are registered within the game, and those items can be used to decorate in-game environments. Some feature musical qualities; others can be used to dress up the player’s unique character. Either way, the stardust uncovered helps move the spaceship along. Only some items are available at each hotspot, however, meaning that the more kids move around, the more they’ll find.

Find out more and watch the trailer at the official Club Treasure World website, and be sure to check out The Hidden Park as well.

After three decades of dismantling playgrounds and effacing green spaces in our urban and suburban centers, a little digital re-enchantment might be just what we need. –Sara M. Grimes

Amy’s note:

I was going to run the TreasureWorld video trailer for ‘The World’s Largest Treasure Hunt’ but I have to admit, all the bleeps and blips made me revert to my initial inclination which is to go ‘raw and real’ and reinforce Shaping Youth’s involvement in the NCLI Coalition to remind educators everywhere to ‘Get ’em Outside’ as much as possible this school year…and ignite learning through doing.

This is a generation in dire need of engagement, hands-on fun, and use of innovation for education…indoors or outdoors. Online or offline.

So I know I’ve posted this video before, but I pop it up periodically as a reminder of how we can make a difference right here, right now. Everyday.



  1. Wow, this is really using advanced technology and video gaming at a much higher level for learning. It’s amazing how they can make use of online applications to real world game activities and fun. Kudos for whoever made this amazing innovation!

  2. Oh, I posted some interesting facts and ideas about games on my video gaming blog too , it’s at Hope it helps educate as well! Thanks!

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