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Go Ask Mom

Need a summer activity? Clued in Kids offers fun, educational treasure hunts

Posted May 25, 2014

Growing up in England in the 1980s, Helen Bertelli was among the many fans of a popular TV game show called "Treasure Hunt." 

In the show, contestants went on treasure hunts, guided by BBC broadcasters. Bertelli and her friends were so taken with the hit show that they made their own treasure hunts. Bertelli fondly remembers days spent hiding clues and searching for others with her friends.

Fast forward some years and Bertelli found herself looking for a similar activity for her older daughter a few years ago. She wanted a fun, educational activity to occupy her then four-year-old daughter for an hour or so without resorting to the TV.

"I wanted a way to teach her and I wanted an hour to cook dinner without her under my feet," said Bertelli, now a mom of two and creator of Clued in Kids.

Bertelli started creating her own treasure hunts. Pretty soon, word spread around her Wake Forest neighborhood about the hunts. Other neighborhood kids began joining in. Bertelli looked online for an easy way to create the treasure hunt clues. Each clue sends kids from one spot in her house to the next as they work to retrieve the treasure. She didn't find anything so she continued making her own.

Two years ago, Bertelli's mother started the conversation that would change the course of Bertelli's career. Up until then, Bertelli had worked from home in marketing and public relations, primarily for law firms.

"We were having tea and she said 'why aren't you doing this for a living?''" Bertelli remembers of the conversation.

Why not, indeed. 

Bertelli spent the next two years taking classes at Wake Tech to learn about everything from design to accounting. One of her instructors, Bob Ostrom, a prolific Cary-based illustrator behind the "Magic School Bus" series, among others, provided a lot of guidance. He has collaborated with Bertelli on her project. She also has worked with students at Living Arts College in north Raleigh.

Bertelli launched Clued in Kids in November. In February, she traveled to New York with her product for the major American International Toy Fair. Clued in Kids is now on sale online and at 25 stores and counting across the United States and Canada.

The series of treasure hunts, designed for kids ages 4 to 12, come with themes such as birthday party, slumber party, play date, pirate, princess and ballerina. If you're headed out of town this summer, a new vacation hunt is designed specifically for hotel rooms and vacation houses.

The hunts, which work best with one to 10 kids, sends kids searching for clues around a house. To get from one clue to the next, they answer questions and puzzles. The clues are typically found in common parts of a house - by the silverware, the bikes or the door bell, for instance.

The hunts have easier and more difficult clues so kids of different ages can play together. It takes an adult about eight minutes to set up a hunt. It takes kids about an hour to complete it.

Bertelli has big plans for Clued in Kids, including new treasure hunt themes and products for classrooms.

She hopes that treasure hunts become a popular alternative to screen time and video games.

"Our goal is to make treasure hunts part of living and learning in homes and schools across the country," she said. 

Locally, Clued in Kids is found at Ship on Site and Lily Mae's in Wake Forest; Science Safari in Cary; the Teach Me Store and Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh; and local Learning Express locations, including the Falls of Neuse Road store in Raleigh where I met Bertelli to shoot a quick video interview. You also buy them or print treasure hunts from Clued in Kids website.

"Kids today have a lot of stuff, but fewer and fewer opportunities to make meaningful memories and relationships," she said. "With our treasure hunts, kids are collaborating in the real world."

Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.

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