Give kids a mission

May 30, 2007 by  

Scavenger GraphicYou’ve heard the rumor: Children aren’t spending enough time out of doors. In your heart, you know those children are your own. (They’re mine, too.)

So, what’s a mom to do to keep from hearing “after this game” or “but Mom” just one more time?

Solution: Send ‘em outside with something do. Hey, we’re not saying they should mow the lawn (although that’s not a bad idea). Try a scavenger hunt.

This idea can be adapted for a hike in the woods, exploring your own backyard or even playing indoors on a rainy day.

Years ago, a genius baby sitter used a variation of the scavenger hunt trick to keep my brother and me busy for an entire summer. She’d send us out for a walk around the block equipped with a clipboard for tallying various landmarks: mailboxes, stop signs, cats, cars, etc.

The designated items would change by the day. We’d often take the walk twice to compare how the neighborhood had changed in just a few minutes. (Cars and cats come and go.)

Kids love a mission and a challenge. Scavenger hunts combine a child’s natural curiosity with the opportunity for unstructured learning. They’re fun, and reward children with a sense of achievement.

To plan a successful hunt, the first step is to consider your audience: A good hunt should include some challenge, but the children should be able to succeed. Give verbal clues or a visual guide to nonreaders.

Click HERE to download a Neighborhood Hunt for non-readers.

Click HERE to download a Nature Hunt for non-readers.

Also, set some basic rules: Establish boundaries. Stay with a friend. Leave nature as you found it. Pick up trash as you search.

There are many ways to organize the search. Use these themes to spark your imagination:

* Common Sense. Create a checklist that asks children to explore nature with their senses. For example, can you HEAR a bird singing? Rain on your tent? Can you SMELL fresh air? Campfire smoke? Can you TASTE something sweet? Can you SEE an acorn? Can you FEEL wind blowing on your face?

Click HERE to download a hunt for the senses.

* Neighborhood Walk. Prepare a checklist of things you might see on a walk around the neighborhood and ask children to tally how many they see: fire hydrants, white houses, red cars, etc. It’s OK to look for just one item or several, depending on the child’s ability to concentrate on the task.

* Alphabet Hunt For older kids, try a hunt for items each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. For additional challenge, go in order from A to Z.

Click HERE to download an Alphabet Hunt.

    - Sara Bristol

Filed under Games, Outdoor Play, Projects and Crafts, Scavenger Hunts


2 Responses to “Give kids a mission”

  1. Rebecca on February 15th, 2008 11:33 am

    wow…i never would’ve thought of this. My fiance’ and i have 6 children between us from previous marriages, ranging from 3-14 years and when we have all of them at one time it can get chaotic when they become bored. I think this is a great idea for all of them to participate in together..cross you’re fingers! it’ll definately be put to the test! :-)

  2. Giovanna Sierra on April 3rd, 2011 2:19 pm

    We have a total of 8 preschoolers with in 3 families and we went to cowiche canyon and took the checklist for non readers and they had so much fun!! Not only did I get them to walk about 2 miles but they were excited to try to find the next thing. We found everything on the list. Next weekend were going on another trail here in Yakima and we will be doing the same thing just with out own checklist. They didn’t even fuzz about beeing tired. Thank you pladate.