Looking for something to keep your kids occupied for ten minutes or a couple hours? Something that entertains but also educates, uplifts, and encourages creativity and interaction? Then consider the benefits of scavenger hunts for kids. Whether you organize an outdoor scavenger hunt—where your kids get out and explore their surroundings in a variety of ways—or a home scavenger hunt—either in person or online—you can broaden your kids’ perspectives by sending them on a targeted quest.
Get the Creative Juices Flowing
Scavenger hunts are not new, but sometimes I get stumped coming up with fresh ideas for creative scavenger hunts that are both appropriate and picky-teenager approved. If this sometimes happens for you too, consider some of these suggestions for putting together a scavenger hunt for your kids. The ideas may be just what you need, or they may spark more ideas specific to your kids’ interests and abilities.
Here are a few different types of scavenger hunts you can organize, including some sample items you could include on each list.
For Older Kids
Video Scavenger Hunts: If your kids are old enough to drive safely in groups to areas within your community, this is a fun twist on a traditional outdoor scavenger hunt. Rather than collecting items, have teams collect videos of certain objects or events. (And remind them to obey traffic laws, wear seatbelts, and only film from the passenger seat!)
Here are some possible things they could capture on video:
- Acting out a one-minute play
- Singing a song
- Participating in an exercise class
- Dancing in the park (or other specified location)
- Ordering a meal
- Making a shake
- Capturing a sunrise/sunset
- Reading to a child
- Participating in a sports activity (for example, swimming a lap, maintaining a volley in ping pong or tennis, or making three free throw shots in basketball)
- Washing a car
- Creating a clown car (recording how many people they can fit into one stationary car)
- Recording a moving train (from a safe distance, of course)
- Running a race
Picture Scavenger Hunts: Another great outdoor scavenger hunt is a picture scavenger hunt. Much like their video counterparts, picture scavenger hunts require capturing moments in time in pictures. The added bonus with these types of scavenger hunts is gathering together at the end of the hunt to view the results as a group.
Here are some possible things team members could capture digitally:
- Local landmarks
- High school mascot or other defining location on campus
- A favorite burger joint
- Two people in love
- Old electronics (that are no longer being used)
- Someone striking a pose (team members pretend to be models)
- Multi—generational montage (see how many people born in different decades can gather for one shot)
- A team practicing a sport
- A muscle car
- A delivery truck and/or driver
- Road construction
- An exotic animal
- A body of water
- Children playing
Reading Scavenger Hunts: While this type of scavenger hunt will probably take days or weeks rather than hours, it’s a fun way to engage your kids at their own pace and encourage personal learning.
Here are some reading-related ideas your kids can check off the list:
- Read a fiction book
- Read a non-fiction book
- Read on vacation
- Read outside
- Read something checked out from the library
- Use an e-reader
- Read a hardcover book
- Learn a new skill from a book
- Read something that takes place in a location you want to visit
- Read something recommended by a friend
- Read something you read and loved as a child
- Read a biography
- Read a mystery
- Read something written this year
- Read a book from the AP English Literature reading list
- Read a book that was made into a movie
- Read in the dark (with a flashlight, if necessary)
- Read out loud as a family
- Read an article from a scholarly journal
- Locate famous quotes from notable literature
Charity Scavenger Hunts: If you want your kids to collect objects for their scavenger hunt, put the object to good use. Collect items to donate to local thrift stores, food banks, shelters, or refugee organizations. This could mean collecting things around your house, or branching out to your neighborhood, friends, and/or family. Chances are, your kids will be able to collect valuable items that might be collecting dust in someone’s garage or basement.
Here are a few things people might be willing to donate to a good cause:
- Canned foods
- Articles of clothing
- Coats/cold weather gear
- Cleaning supplies
- Office supplies
- School supplies
- Personal hygiene items
- Home décor
- Board games
- Small appliances
Random Acts of Kindness Scavenger Hunts: You can teach your kids the value of serving other people while still allowing them to have fun. When service becomes a game, everyone wins.
Here are some ways kids can serve their neighbors, friends, or community members as part of a scavenger hunt:
- Clean a toilet
- Vacuum a room
- Hold a door open at a local business
- Change a lightbulb
- Pull some weeds
- Say hello to five strangers
- Wash a car
- Share $5 with someone at a dollar store
- Buy food for the car behind you in a fast-food drive-through line
- Leave kind notes on car windshields in a parking lot
- Give an unexpected tip to a fast-food worker
- Buy a pack of gum/candy from the checkout line for the cashier
Virtual Scavenger Hunts: If you want to keep the experience closer to home, take things high tech with a virtual home scavenger hunt. This can look one of two ways. The first is by hosting a video conference call with friends and family members in other locations. Create a central list for everyone to use. Give players a time limit to find the items on the list and return to the screen for a virtual show and tell. The person with the most objects on the list wins. (And then remind them to go put the objects away!)
The second variation involves sending players onto the internet to find specific facts, images, or details. Here are a few things they can look for:
- Unusual items for sale
- Interesting facts about a specific subject
- A current event
- History about a specific era
- The number one movie or song the day the player was born
- Interesting facts about historical figures
- A takeout menu from a favorite restaurant
- Social media activities (for example, a pic of someone on vacation, with a pet, or participating in a sports activity)
- Items in a virtual museum (with so many virtual museum tours, visit one beforehand and give your kids specific things to look for)
- Details about a foreign country
For Younger Kids
If your kids are younger, don’t worry. There are plenty of options for home scavenger hunts that don’t involve driving a car, using electronics, or surfing the internet. Here are a few scavenger hunts for kids to consider:
Color scavenger hunts: Invite your kids to find items of specific colors inside or outside your home. You can give your kids a picture list to work from or even put the colors on the outside of a small lunch bag so they have somewhere to store their treasures.
Five senses scavenger hunts: Make a list of different things your kids can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. Have them identify which sense or senses they use for each item as they go.
Shape scavenger hunts: This is a great way to reinforce abstract concepts for young learners. Help them identify shapes in household items and in nature.
Word scavenger hunts: For those early readers in your family, take them on a word scavenger hunt. This can be done while driving around town scanning billboards and other advertising signs. This can also be done at home, looking over books, magazines, and other documents.
Neighborhood scavenger hunts: Create a list of things you frequently see on walks around your neighborhood. Create a word or picture list of these items, grab your young kids, and see how many you can spot.
Nature scavenger hunts: Whether you create a specific list for kids to complete or allow them to explore, going on a nature scavenger hunt can help your kids discover the wonders of nature right in your backyard. Bugs, rocks, leaves, flowers, weeds, trees, and other natural curiosities can help them learn and grow.
However they look, scavenger hunts can give your kids something to do that is not only entertaining but also fun, educational, and productive.