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ShellGame; Here's how to get cracking on a children's Easter egg hunt to dye for.; FOCUS ON EASTER


It seemed like a good idea at the time. You agreed to hold an Easter egg hunt, so all those kids, big and little, are coming to your house to party. Now, in a moment of pre-party panic, you face such worrisome questions as ...

1) How many eggs do I need per child?

2) Who's going to dye all those eggs?

3) Aren't the big kids going to find all the eggs first?

The answers, unfortunately, are 1) the more the better, 2) you and 3) yes, unless you do something about it.

Actually, an Easter egg hunt can be a lot of fun if you plan it carefully. After all, this is one children's party that has a built-in activity. And, if you're lucky, the sun will be shining, birds chirping and so on. So it will be an outdoor activity.

But it's not a moment too soon to get started. First you need to know ...

How not to boil an egg

According to the American Egg Board, the water should never get over a simmer. The idea is that you put a single layer of clean eggs in cold water, cover the pan and bring the water just to the boiling point. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes.

Dye eggs according to directions on the Easter egg kit or food coloring box. Store them in the refrigerator until you're ready to hide them. If the eggs stay out longer than two hours, they shouldn't be eaten.

While you're waiting for the water not to boil you can consider this ...

Interesting mythological fact

Did you ever wonder why it's a bunny and not a chicken who hides colored eggs? The hare is connected to the worship of the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, whose festival took place in spring (according to "The Easter Bunny Book: A Celebration of the Easter Season" by Leona Wesley Hunter). Over the years rabbits somehow got confused with hares, and from there it was only a hop and a skip to Peter Cottontail and the bunny trail.

However, it's going to be you and not Peter Cottontail who'll be hiding the eggs for your party. So here's ...

What you need

* Five or more dyed hard-boiled eggs per child.

* An exact count of the eggs you're going to hide. When the hunt is over, make sure they've all been collected. You don't want to discover well-hidden rotten eggs in your yard later this spring.

* Plastic eggs that hold chocolate candies, a few coins, sparkly "gems," tiny figures or other small prizes. For older kids, the plastic eggs could contain treasure hunt clues to the location of the grand-prize golden egg. (See below.)

* A grand-prize golden egg. The child who finds it gets a stuffed animal or some other season-appropriate gift wrapped in pretty paper and ribbon.

* Lieutenants (older kids or spouse or other parents) to help hide all of the above.

* A small prize for each child to be awarded at the end of the hunt: One for whoever has the most eggs, the prettiest egg, whatever. Just so everyone goes home with a prize.

What you don't need

Pets. Keep them in the house when you're hiding the eggs and during the party.

In fairness

If your guests are different ages, you'll need to make sure everyone gets a chance to find his or her fair share of eggs. The easiest way is to color code them. Over-10s, for instance, could be limited to blue, green and striped eggs. Your lieutenants put these colors in the most difficult hiding places. (If the under-10s find a big-kid egg, more power to them.)

Or you can give the little kids a five-minute head start, and urge the older children to leave the obvious eggs to them. This may be hard to do in the excitement of the hunt.

Be clever but not too clever in your hiding places. Put a pink egg among the pink tulips, for instance, but don't hide an egg in a prickly holly bush. And be careful not to tempt a child to do something unsafe by putting an egg in an out-of-reach place.

Party on

It doesn't hurt to have some other activities planned in case the hunt is over more quickly than you expected. Party planner Susan Goodell, director of Centerpiece Events in Pikesville, suggests setting up an Easter craft area.

"Children can make a jelly bean mosaic by gluing the candy on an old sheet," she says. "Or you can have them paint bunny faces with theatrical makeup or make bunny ears with inexpensive plastic headbands and craft material."

The etceteras

* Don't forget to tell each guest to bring a basket filled with "grass" for collecting.

* Plan simple refreshments like fruit juice, cookies, grapes and strawberries.

* Take an instant photo of each child with his or her basket as a memento of the party.

* If you're going to have another hunt next year, buy supplies like the hollow plastic eggs the day after Easter, when they're on sale.

* More advice can be found on the Internet: and (click on the xxEaster egg basket).

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