Who doesn't love a scavenger hunt? Get your kids outdoors this summer and 'scavenging' for treasures in nature. Armed with a list of items to find, they'll eagerly look at the world around them with more observant eyes. Nature watching will be exciting as they collect specimens, take pictures of animals, and do fun activities. This is a great afternoon project for a group of kids, or it can be expanded into a summer-long family project with siblings and parents working together to create fun displays with the results of their summer's explorations.
Use the ideas in this article to get you started designing your own scavenger hunt that is a good fit for your location.
Your scavenger hunt can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish to make it. As you plan, consider carefully your location, the participants, and how long the hunt should last.
1. Location. Choose items for the scavenger list that the kids will most likely be able to find. If they are hunting in a local park, for example, don't ask them to find leaves from trees that don't grow there. For a summer-long hunt, your kids will look in many different locations, and it isn't necessary to plan these out ahead of time. If you are going out of town on a family vacation, though, you could do a little internet research to find out what kinds of trees and flowers are common in the area you are traveling to. It's a good idea to lay some ground rules first, as some places (such as certain national parks) don't allow you to pick any wildflowers, and it's illegal to collect feathers from some species of birds, etc.
2. Participants. Design your scavenger list with the ages of the participants in mind. Younger kids may get frustrated if the items on their list are too hard to find, while older kids will enjoy the challenge. If you are working with a large group, form teams and let younger kids work with older kids. Decide whether your hunt will be a contest or not—some kids enjoy competition more than others. If your group is well-suited to it, have a prize for the person who checks the most things off the scavenger list. (Here are some inexpensive science gift ideas.)
3. Duration. Have a manageable list for the amount of time you have to work with. If you only have an hour or two, just make a list of things each participant needs to look for. For a longer-term project, include things to collect, activities to do, and things to photograph.
The possibilities for a nature scavenger hunt are endless! The following are some ideas to get you started designing your own scavenger list:
Things to See
Things to Collect
Things to Do
Things to Photograph
Encourage kids to keep a nature notebook with a record of everything they saw on their nature explorations. Their notebook can include pressed flowers and leaves, pictures they took with a disposable camera, written descriptions, drawings, and more. Let them display three-dimensional objects in a display case or keep them in their own decorated cardboard nature box. Items such as seashells and rocks can make an attractive decoration in a glass jar. Insects can be pinned and labeled to be kept either on a piece of corrugated cardboard, or in a more permanent and attractive exhibit case. After hunting all summer, they should have quite a satisfactory collection!
Before setting out on a nature expedition, gather a few important tools from around the house:
Kids don't need lots of fancy equipment to observe nature, but here is a list of suggested tools to make their study even more rewarding: