Looking for an activity that will keep your kiddos engaged in learning while enjoying being outside? How about taking them on a neighborhood scavenger hunt?

During this time in quarantine, my children are spending a large amount of time outside. With the weather warming up and the days getting longer, they are usually pretty happy to climb a tree, play hide and seek or make up a game to play for hours on end.

It wasn’t always this easy though. I used to have to bribe them to get outside.

We are all much happier outside. However, I have noticed that sometimes we all need a little push to get there. A simple trick that I used in the beginning of this quarantine was to give my kids a simple neighborhood scavenger hunt. You can make your own, based on things you’ll know your children will have an easy time finding, or you can search for a pre-made scavenger hunt online.

How to Make a Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt

You can make a neighborhood scavenger hunt as simple or as complicated as you would like.

  1. Start by thinking of objects from the natural world that they can collect. Talk about how you go out and “hunt” for these items and record your findings.
  2. Download and print these neighborhood walk scavenger hunts. For the youngest of children, try the grid-style hunts with pictures best (since they likely can’t read yet), and 12-20 items per hunt is about the right number for their attention span.
  3. Grab a clipboard and a pencil and head out.
  4. Search for the items on the list as a family, or send older kids out on their own if you’re comfortable with it.

Examples of How to Incorporate Hands On Learning

Once your kids have the general idea down, you can sneak in a little bit of learning as well!

You can make a color coordinated scavenger hunt and have your kids hunt down a yellow house, a pink flower, etc. How about a rainbow hunt, where children can go out and find something with each color of the rainbow?! Kids will love this — just the name “rainbow hunt” alone will probably be enough to entice your children.

You can also try a shape scavenger hunt where kids can find rectangle front doors, octagon stop signs, etc. Sounds pretty simple, but it requires some real cognitive thinking on their part. Kids have to look at the world around them and analyze what they are seeing. For example, kids have to find a front door, recognize that it’s a rectangle, and connect it to the blank rectangle on their list.

You can adjust the requirements based on your children’s ages, as well. Younger kids can just cross off each shape as they find something that matches it. For older kids, you can have your child fill in the shape by drawing the item they found.

Letters and number scavenger hunt is another way to incorporate learning. Have children hunt down the letter E, or a specific house address. You can also have them go find a certain number of items, i.e. 3 pinecones, in order to reinforce counting skills.

Finally, another fun idea is to get an old camera and give your children the opportunity to photograph their scavenger hunt findings. I tried this the other week and my kids went nuts for the idea. They were able to report back to me and prove that they found all of the items on the list.

It’s amazing what the fresh air and a little movement does for children’s imaginations, and moods.  When we are outside, our moods improve, the drama calms. It always works like magic. Neighborhood scavenger hunts are a fun and exciting way to accomplish this, while also sneaking in some learning, too!