(This has worked amazingly well at every Seder I've ever done, since it was first taught to me by Prof. Ron Wolfson.)
Preparation Before the Seder: Decide ahead of time where the Afikomen will be hidden. Choose a location outside of the search zone. (E.g. "refrigerator".) Make sure the name of the location is not too short: you want a long name like "Refrigerator" or "File Cabinet" or "Linen Closet" so that the number of letters is almost the same as the expected number of participants.) Take a deck of identical index cards, and on each one write a single letter of the location. (E.g. On one write "R" and on one write "E" and on one write "F" and keep going.) Make sure for letters like "p" and "b" that you indicate what is the top and what is the bottom so there's no confusion as to what letter it is. Keep a blank index card in your pocket. Pick a search zone. (E.g. living room, den and bathroom.) Hide each index card somewhere in the search zone. Make sure to make some kid-friendly for finding.
At the Seder: Quietly disappear at some point and hide the Afikomen in the previously decided location. Make sure it's outside the search zone and that no one will accidentally find it.
Instructions to Participants: Show the hunt participants the blank index card from your pocket, and explain that you've hidden these cards, with a letter on each, in the search zone. Make sure to tell them exactly how many there are! (So in our example, R-E-F-R-I-G-E-R-A-T-O-R, it will be 12. For a location like "File Cabinet," it's 11.) If they find a card, they are to return to you and put the card on the floor and start trying to spell out the name of the location. It's one card maximum per person, so they may not return to the search zone to find more. (This way even the youngest children can get a chance to find one.)
During the Hunt: As hunters return with cards, they all together try to spell out the name using the cards. It's a team cooperative activity. (You may have to go help, with hints, the last ones unable to find a card find the final remaining cards.) Once they spell out the name correctly (you may have to give hints, like "it's two words: the first starts with F and the second starts with C..."), they can go fetch the afikomen. At that point, be prepared to give ALL of them a prize. I have successfully used glow necklaces, chocolate covered matzah, or individually wrapped, small fair-trade KP chocolates.
Divide up the Afikomen and everyone eats a bite!
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