Every couple of months we'll be doing a #SmallCityFamilies article all about the great outdoors, brought to you by Sarah Turner of the brilliant Wee Adventures. This month it's all about Scavenger Hunts!
As individuals and a family, we all love to get outdoors for some exercise and fresh air. It is food for the soul, an escape from the job list and exercise does good things to those endorphins which in turn do good things for us. We all thrive outdoors, but most especially children. They NEED to flip, roll, dangle, spin and climb for their neurological and physical development so the more we can encourage play in the outdoors the better. And if we release our own inner child in the process, everyone is a winner!
Scavenger hunts are brilliant for those times when a mission is required! Scavenger Hunts are a great way to get the family outdoors and with Easter just around the corner there is one annual hunt that most people will already be familiar with: the annual Easter Egg hunt! For me, it conjures up images of happy outdoor family times with everyone mucking in together, encouraging the hunters, exploring, looking around carefully, racing to the eggs and collapsing in a satisfied heap with a bucket full of treasure when everyone’s eggshausted. Of course there is room for dashed hopes but on the whole, scavenger hunts are brilliant for those times when a mission is required!
So here are some ideas to take the scavenger hunt theme and garner some of that enthusiasm seen at Easter into every day outings, all year round. If ‘let’s go for a walk’ is met with a resounding dragging of feet in your house, the scavenger hunt concept will make it interesting, provide a distraction and turn it into an adventure. If more impetus is required, add a friend or two into the mix and all of a sudden the kids are racing out the door and asking what’s taking you so long!
A scavenger hunt is where participants seek to gather all the items on a list. You can print/write our own list or download one from the internet which is a veritable treasure trove of ready made lists and ideas. Kids love to tick things off! Or you can just keep some of these ideas in your head for whenever you need it.
Know what items you are likely to find in your area at a given time of year and go from there. Take a bucket, egg box or a bag if you intend to collect things and set up a nature table or box at home to collect the treasures you find. You’ll be amazed at how children will treasure their findings, no matter how small.
Every season has something that makes it special like spring flowers, summer wildlife, autumn leaves, snowy footprints. The beauty of doing regular scavenger hunts is that everyone experiences and appreciates the differences in the seasons first hand which will have your children spotting the seasonal transitions before you know it.
Pitch your ideas according to your age group. For the younger kids, make the items easy to find to avoid frustration and loss of interest and motivation. Colours and shapes are good! Older kids love a bit of team competition with friends and also value the opportunity to lead so engage them by letting them set up a scavenger hunt for younger siblings.
Have fun with counting and elongate your hunt all at once! Collect 5 oak leaves, count 10 fenceposts as you walk past them, find 5 different coloured stones, spot 5 different animals.
Really useful when you’re struggling for ideas - find 5 things that start with a letter, or find something for each letter in your name or your town name.
The most obvious scavenger hunt is one that collects actual objects found. But you can take this further by incorporating your senses or by ‘doing’ different things. Ideas are endless but here are a few to get your imagination fired up:
1. Leaves - from different shapes and colours to different varieties ie oak, birch, sycamore
2. Sticks - find a stick and act out five different uses for it eg magic wand, walking stick, fishing rod, sword, stickman
3. Feathers - try and guess which birds they are from and which part of the body
4. Fruits and seeds - acorns, fir cones, pine cones, conkers
5. Flowers - identify different flowers but try not to pick them
6. Wildlife - deer, rabbit, squirrel, birds, butterflies, frogs, slugs,
7. Insects - ants, spiders, caterpillars, dragonflies, ladybirds, bumble bees
8. Colours - collect something that is red, brown, orange, yellow, white, grey
9. Stones - quartz looks like glitter and is a favourite in our house!
10. Litter - great opportunity to get into the habit of picking up litter when you’re out and about
1. See/watch: animal behaviour, reflections, rain drops, animal tracks, spot shapes in the clouds
2. Hear: birdsong, wind in the trees, animal calls, streams, people
3. Smell: flowers, bark, trees, grass, mud
4. Feel: rough v smooth bark, squishy mud v dry earth, still v moving water, grass v reeds
1. Rocks to hop between
2. A branch to dangle from
3. A stream to cross
4. A puddle to jump over
5. A hill to roll down
To really blow the parameters of a scavenger hunt, combine some of the different aspects together. Can you swing from a branch AND feel the air on your cheeks. Is the stone smooth or rough? What else is the colour of that flower? Do your actions as if you were a lion.
When you give yourself time to stop and think about it there are so many options! For me, the scavenger hunt needs to be short on preparation time and long on enjoyment. It can be a ready made piece of parenting armoury to pull out when you need it. Just for fun or as a great big shiny distraction from the main event of getting out for a walk. Happy hunting!
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