Whether your child is a reluctant or enthusiastic adventurer outdoors, scavenger hunts are a powerful tool to encourage their connection with nature. Some kids need an extra push, some kids need an extra challenge, but either way, scavenger hunts are a great way to re-invigorate outdoor play.
HOW DO SCAVENGER HUNTS ENHANCE OUR OUTDOOR TIME?
LET’S PLAY A GAME
- The game aspect of scavenger hunts is often attractive to kids, especially those who enjoy the spirit of competition (even just against themselves). They feel a certain measure of satisfaction and achievement every time they cross off an item. And even if they don’t find everything on the list, spending time in nature is always a win!
HONE OBSERVATIONAL SKILLS
- Scavenger hunts encourage kids to slow down and notice details in nature they may have otherwise passed by. When on nature walks, kids are sometimes so busy talked to each other or focused on the destination, they sometimes forget to really pay attention to their surroundings.
- Doing a scavenger hunt can help hone kids’ observational skills, as children are encouraged to look at nature from different perspectives. They look for small details, large features, and hidden creatures. They learn patience in the hunt, as not everything will be immediately obvious.
- Scavenger hunts help kid learn more about the nature around them. They are indirectly posed questions and challenges, learning more as they answer them:
- Can you identify a fern? Do you know what a nursery log is? Where is the best place to look for insects? What textures can you find in nature?
OUTSIDE IN ALL WEATHER
- We’ve included scavenger hunts in almost all of our seasonal activity suggestions (36 Autumn Outdoor Activities for Kids, 36 Spring Outdoor Activities for Kids, How to Help Your Kids Stay Active Outside This Winter) because they can be done year-round! There’s always something to spot in nature!
- Outdoor scavenger hunts can be season-specific or open-ended. They sometimes provide the small “bite” of nature that we need on days with less-than-ideal weather, when children are more reluctant to go outside. Winter scavenger hunts, for example, are a great activity for those who don’t enjoy traditional winter sports or don’t want to commit a large chunk of time outdoors.
PROVIDE FOCUS; GUIDED ACTIVITIES
- For kids who aren’t naturally attracted to open-ended free play, who need to visualize their time outside and know what to expect, scavenger hunts give them an initial point of focus. Once you start an outdoor scavenger hunt, it often evolves into a great exploration of the nature around you. But some children need a starting-off point that will help them step outside from the onset.
If done with friends, scavenger hunts are a great way to practice social skills. They encourage cooperation and give children an opportunity to share with each other things they’ve spotted in nature.
There is a wide variety of different scavenger hunts that will satisfy many different interest. Some are season-specific, some are open ended. Some explore the senses. Get the Kids Outside has the following to offer!
- 4 Season Scavenger Hunts: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
- Insect Scavenger Hunt (My Insect Book)
- Build-Your-Own Scavenger Hunts: blank templates + 80 game pieces
- Color Nature Walk (Super Bundle, Sensory Bundle, Themed Hunts)
- Five Senses Scavenger Hunt: (Super Bundle, Sensory Bundle, Themed Hunts)
- Nature’s Textures Scavenger Hunt (Sensory Bundle)
- Sound Hunt (Sensory Bundle)
- I Spy Scavenger Hunt – open-ended (Super Bundle, Themed Hunts)
Scavenger hunts can take several different forms:
- Collect the different items (if possible) and put them in a bag or box, to be returned to nature after the hunt. (Remember the principles of Leave No Trace.)
- Take photos of each item that you see.
- Draw a picture of each item that you cross off the list.
And can be played in different ways:
- Compete only against yourself, see how many you can cross off the list.
- Play as a team, helping each other cross off all the items as you go.
- Turn it into a game of Bingo, aiming to cross of 5 items in a row.
You can re-use your scavenger hunt:
- Print out the hunt and slip it into a sheet sleeve or zippered plastic bag, use a clipboard and a dry erase marker to cross off your items.
Make your own scavenger hunt:
- Use a build-your-own scavenger hunt to customize your hunt to your season and location.
- Before heading outside, brainstorm together some of the things you might possibly see outdoors and make your own list.
- Make up your own “I Spy” categories (“something that is…..”) and see what you can find for each one.
Outdoor scavenger hunts are guided activities that help kids get outside, but may also lead to even greater adventures! Which one will you try today?