It's a long-standing Easter tradition -- and for most kids, the highlight of the day (once the chocolate bunnies are devoured) -- but hosting an awesome Easter Egg hunt is a lot trickier than just finding good hiding spots.
If you've got a group of little ones headed to your house this weekend for The Big Search, consider spicing up the hunt with these handy tips.
Pre-hide the eggs
When it's time to start the hunt, no one wants to hit the pause button while the host searches the yard for good hiding spots. More importantly, hiding the eggs before your guests arrive gives you a chance to optimize the hunt.
First off, mark the boundaries of the search area, and don't let anyone explore them until the hunt begins -- kids can be incredibly competitive when it comes to Easter Eggs. This lets you confine the carnage and protect your garden from prying fingers.
[Related: In Germany, 10,000 Easter eggs grace tree]
Also, factor in the age of the searchers. If they're merely toddlers, the eggs should be fairly easy to spot, but if you're dealing with a group of 10 or 11 year-olds, try to add some challenge by, for instance, hiding a few eggs in the low-hanging branches of a tree.
Of course, if you're planning on using real eggs for your hunt, you won't want them to sit out too long, so make the hunt the first item on the agenda. Alternatively, you could always…
Plastic eggs not only allow you to push the hunt back as long as you'd like, they give you the chance to offer prizes to all of the participants, rather than just the kid who finds the most eggs.
They can be filled with small toys, candy, temporary tattoos or even tokens for the local Chuck E. Cheese's. Or, if you're looking to host a hunt on a budget, you could put coupons for prizes in just a few eggs, so anyone has a chance to win, not just the eagle-eyed egg scout.
Expecting a group of kids on that cover a wide age range? Separate them by egg color. Blue eggs could be for kids under 5 and hidden in fairly obvious spots, while yellow eggs could be for kids 5-8 and hidden a bit more thoughtfully
This not only prevents the big kids from spoiling the fun for little ones, it encourages egg hunters to help each other out when they see someone who's down on their luck.
Puzzle it out
Easter egg hunts are all about finding treasure, so why not take that a little more literally and turn the party into a pirate-y treasure hunt?
Draw up a treasure map, tear it up into a dozen or so pieces, then tuck those pieces into your hidden eggs. The kids will have to work together to piece it back together, which has the added benefit of turning the typically competitive day into a co-operative experience. Just make sure to have a cool prize waiting for them once they figure out where X marks the spot.
Map your hiding spots
This is a bit less critical if you're using plastic eggs, but if you've hidden the real thing, you'll want to be sure that the number of eggs found equals the number of eggs you hid. Finding an Easter egg during Easter is a lot of fun. During Halloween? Not so much.
If the kids can't find 'em all, it's helpful to have a map of all the places you've hidden them, especially if you've got a large crowd coming over. Sometimes, after all, we can be a little too good at hiding things.
Scary as it sounds, kids these days are as adept with technology as most adults. If that describes your egg hunters, consider adding some hi-tech flavor to the hunt with a GPS device. Several communities are doing this on a broad scale these days, but there's no reason you can't localize it to your yard, if you've got a sizable plot.
The idea's simple: Kids get a GPS and coordinates of their first egg. Each egg contains the location of their next mission. The first to find a select number (or whoever finds the most, if you'd prefer) wins the hunt.
Have a decoration station
The only thing more fun than tracking down Easter Eggs is dying them first. Set up a dying station where kids can color and decorate eggs. As a bonus, this is a good way for the kids to stay busy for a while, giving the adults a chance to catch up — or step away from their kids as the post-Jelly Bean sugar crash hits, followed by the inevitable crankiness.
Prepare for rain
Having a house full of disappointed kids hopped up on sugary sweets while rain pounds away the day is the recipe for an Easter disaster. You may never have to pull them out, but it's a good idea to have indoor activities planned in the event of inclement weather.
The simplest is to have a few Easter-friendly movies on hand: 'Hop' or 'It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown!' should do the trick. Better yet, have some family-friendly video games ready to go. It's probably best to avoid anything with even cartoonish violence, given the day, but Just Dance for Kids or Mario Party 9 could fit the bill perfectly.