I’m sure there are many sticklers who would argue that what I’m suggesting here is not a real scavenger hunt, but let’s skip past the dictionary definitions and focus on how you can incorporate the fun of a scavenger hunt into everyday activities.
You can search for anything
You could make a list of specific things to find, or try to see how many things you can find that fit a certain category. Personally, I’m a fan of categories and descriptions because they are great for developing vocabulary and they require a lot less preparation. Here are a few examples:
- words or letters (or things that start with a letter or sound)
- movements (things that roll, fly, bounce, walk, slide, never move…)
- sizes (what things are huge? what can you find with a magnifying glass?)
- groups of things (things found in pairs, 3s, 4s, 5s…)
- things that fit a theme (tools, animals, plants, wet things, things that rhyme…)
You can search anywhere
- outside (what do you notice: walking down the street, on the bus, in the park, around a pond, at the zoo…)
- at home (in a particular room or searching the whole house)
- in other buildings (the garage, the grocery store, a greenhouse, the library, the post office…)
- in books, magazines, and newspapers (newspapers are great for finding words and letters, and you might be amazed how many things they can remember seeing in the books you have shared together)
- in your imagination (very handy when you run out of things to spot on long car rides)
- in the garbage (maybe you’re learning about recycling or composting?)
You don’t need a “list”
While traditionally you start by handing out copies of a written list, a lot of young children will not find that very helpful. More often you will be reading the list to them. You can also use pictures with or instead of words, but that takes time, so you are probably only going to do that for special occasions or with things you use all the time (like turning your grocery list into a scavenger hunt).
Some people like checking things off in a list, but I never understood the appeal myself. Instead, if you want to keep track of what you find in your search, you could draw together, take pictures, use the voice recorder on your phone, collect the items themselves in a bag/box/backpack/basket (half the fun is remembering where the things you collected came from), or scribe for them (they will love seeing their words in print).
Or, you can skip the list altogether. Just pick a category or theme and go exploring together to see what you can find, or take turns deciding what you’re going to look for next.
Consider your audience
It’s easy to be overwhelmed if you think that a scavenger hunt needs to play out like the script to a blockbuster movie or an episode of a reality TV show. I’m not saying that wouldn’t add to the appeal, but young children are natural explorers. They will notice all kinds of things that you never thought to look for, and they bring a level of excitement to “let’s go find