Interview with Mom’s Choice Award-Winner Deborah Lewis

Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.

Hello, Mom’s Choice readers! Or should we say: Ahoy, mateys! Today we’re delighted to have with us the always-engaging Deborah Lewis, aka Captain Debs, the Jolly Pirate. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention—and Deborah Lewis is going to tell us how circumstances compelled her to create the immensely popular, Mom’s Choice Award-winning game, Treasure Hunt Challenge, which transfixes children from 6 to 12—and beyond—and can be adapted easily to any game space and customized for any occasion.

MCA: Welcome, Captain Debs! Before we dive into the intriguing world of the Treasure Hunt Challenge, could you please share a bit about yourself?

When I was growing up, my father’s job meant I was lucky enough to spend much of my childhood living in the tropics. This gave me a profound love for the ocean, and by the age of 14 I was already a certified scuba diver. After university in the UK, I decided to become a diving instructor and continued my adventures. This not only allowed me to share my love of the ocean but also solidified the fact that a conventional 9-5 job just wasn’t my calling.

Two decades ago, I found a job teaching diving on the beautiful island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Known for its stunning beaches, intriguing caves, and tales of pirates, it became my haven and I never left. Over time, my love for the deep extended to sailing and boating, culminating in a skipper’s license and the start of my snorkel and dive charters that I run today. Waking up to the sun, sea, and sand is a blessing I cherish every day.

MCA: Sounds like an incredible place to live and work. What was the inspiration behind creating the Jolly Pirate Treasure Hunt Challenge? What needs were you trying to fill when you created this scavenger hunt game for kids?

During the pandemic’s peak, our island went into complete lockdown for over a year. My husband and I found ourselves brainstorming ways to engage our 8-year-old daughter beyond just her homeschooling routine—so we thought creating a homemade treasure hunt, and somehow incorporating some educational tasks, would be a fun way to keep her spirited and learning, all while staving off cabin fever

MCA: That’s a challenge so many parents faced. How did you come up with the idea of incorporating mental, physical, skill, and STEM challenges into the game?

The original idea was a basic treasure hunt. But I wanted more than just fleeting excitement. So to elevate the experience and ensure it wasn’t merely about the end but more about the journey, I integrated STEM-based challenges using household items and nature, enhancing her learning in Science, Engineering, Arts, and Math, while also honing motor and physical skills. This upgraded treasure hunt not only captivated my daughter for hours but also surprised us with the unexpected creativity it unlocked. When we shared it, the game became an instant hit among friends, and the overwhelmingly positive response inspired me to share the idea and create the game you can buy today.

MCA: We’re so glad you did! Tell us about the research behind the product’s unique features, and describe those features.

  • Flexibility & Inclusivity: Suitable for both indoor/outdoor setups, it’s customizable according to the number of players and desired playtime.
  • Fast Set-up and Long Game Play.
  • Diverse & Educational: Comprises 40 versatile clues and 20 challenges (mental, physical, skill, and STEM) using common household items and nature’s elements.
  • Durability: The cards are fully waterproof, designed for rough play, and the tin box ages gracefully, enhancing the game’s authentic pirate feel.
  • Adaptability & Versatility: Perfect for any occasion—parties, playdates, weekends, holidays, camping. No two adventures are the same so you can play over and over again.

MCA: Can you walk us through the process of setting up the game?

  1. Appoint a gamemaster.
  2. Prepare your Game Plan by charting out the clues and challenges you want to be in play. Join our Crew Club for free via our website and download a sample game plan to make set-up even easier!
  3. Set the trail, set the challenges and hide the treasure.
  4. Begin the adventure by reading the Gamemaster card.

MCA: How long does it typically take to set up the game?

Depending on how short or long you want it to be, between 10 and 20 minutes.

MCA: Can the game be adapted to different spaces, such as indoors or outdoors?

Definitely. One of the beauties of this game is that it can be played either indoors or outdoors. It’s totally adaptable to any game space and customizable for any occasion.

MCA: How does the Treasure Hunt Challenge promote creativity and imagination in children?

The game promotes children’s creativity and imagination by encouraging them to think outside the box and by including challenges that support imaginative and creative play.

MCA: Can your Treasure Hunt Challenge help with the development of motor skills and cognitive development?

Absolutely. That’s one of the beauties of the game. It helps children with the development of motor skills and cognitive development through the physical and mental challenges provided.

MCA: Can you elaborate on how this game builds communication, team-building skills, and self-confidence?

The game builds communication and team building skills by encouraging players to work together to solve clues and builds self confidence by achieving set goals.

MCA: What is the recommended age range for playing the game?

The game is designed primarily for children aged 6 to 12. However, it’s versatile enough that younger children and even seniors can join in the fun. To set the trail and challenges, an adult or older child should assume the role of the gamemaster.

MCA: How does the game cater to different age groups and skill levels?

The game presents universally enjoyable challenges suitable for all abilities. For instance, “Getting Dicey” has participants add up dice to determine who scores higher. This challenge can be tailored for older players by introducing multiplication or by adding more dice into the mix, ensuring it remains engaging and challenging for all age groups.

MCA: How durable are the cards and tin treasure box?

The cards are crafted with the utmost quality and are made of durable, waterproof PVC. Whether buried in the garden or left floating in a pool, they remain unscathed. The tin, which also functions as a treasure box, is designed to gain character over time. As it endures dents and shows signs of weathering, it takes on a more authentic, treasured, pirate look.

MCA: Can the game be customized for different occasions or themes?

The game’s versatile nature allows it to be set up in any environment and tailored for a myriad of occasions—parties, playdates, camping trips, holidays, or just a cozy rainy day indoors.

MCA: How does the lifetime promise back up the quality of the game?

The resilience of the PVC cards ensures they stand the test of time, regardless of whether they’re submerged in water or buried underground. With 40 clues, 20 challenges and six blank “create your own” cards to choose from, each game promises a fresh experience. As only a selection of cards and challenges is used in any given play session, the game remains fresh and exciting with each replay.

MCA: What is next for you and your business?

The game has received positive reviews and invaluable suggestions, which we’re eager to integrate. We’re planning to launch a Beach and Christmas expansion pack in 2024. Additionally, this Christmas we’ll be hosting a “create a clue” contest—allowing our community to influence the game’s future editions. The best clues will be integrated into the next edition.

MCA: And we can’t wait to see what the next edition will be like. Thanks again for joining us today. We wish you the best!

You can learn more about Deborah Lewis and her award-winning game, Treasure Hunt Challenge, by visiting her MCA Shop pages.

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