A scavenger hunt is one of my favourite activities to do with children (or young-at-heart adults)! The aim of the game is to find all of the items, landmarks or features on a list and then get to the defined finishing point. This makes it a really versatile activity that can be done in any setting. It can also be educational, helping to introduce children to new settings or concepts.

Setting the Scene

First, choose the items that will go on the list. Between 6 and 16 items is a good range, depending on your setting and the age of the children involved. Next, create a checklist that participants can use to track their progress. A smart written checklist will be fine for older children, but for my two-year-old daughter I opted for a set of 8 printed images. Make sure participants have some means of recording when they have found an item on the list – either a pencil or set of stickers to “check off” completed items.

The Task

As you can imagine, this activity can get quite competitive when multiple children are involved, so be sure to set clear rules! Is it a competition or should everyone try and help everyone else? Is there a time limit or other defined finishing point? Etc. In this example, my daughter and I were taking a nature walk through the Lickey Hills, which are near to where we live. My goal was to find all 8 of the printed images during the course of our circular walk, whilst learning about the natural environment at the same time.

My daughter loved exploring the area to search for these “eight special things” and had a clear sense of achievement when she found each item. She also learned some new vocabulary during the course of the walk (“buttercup” and “blackberries”) and witnessed these things in their natural habitat, which was a great learning experience.

Make sure you stop and “mark the occasion” whenever you locate an item, as this will keep children engaged. Look at the items located so far and identify what is yet to find. This can help focus attention on what to look out for next. Take the opportunity to deliver some learning, even if it’s only simple (e.g. “Did you know that ladybirds can have different numbers of spots?”).

Extending the Challenge

Scavenger hunts scale naturally with the number and complexity of the items included on the list, but there are other ways to extend the learning whilst still keeping it fun and adding variety.

When exploring a new town or heritage site, you might want to consider adding locations to the list and requiring that children include one fact about each of the buildings / locations they visit. You could print off a map of the area you are exploring and have participants mark the location on the map that they discovered each item. You could stipulate that all of the items have to be found in order – so that, if you locate an item further down the list, you’ll need to remember its location and return to it when the time comes.

However you choose to carry out this activity, just remember to celebrate the success of finding the items on the list, even if not all of them are found!