Summer Scavenger Hunts

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on Wednesday, August 7, 2013.

If you need some more activities to do with your children on these long summer days, try a scavenger hunt. Earlier this summer I made one up for my six- and three-year-old, and they had a blast. Kids love to have a mission.

I gave my six-year-old a list of ten items, and little did he know that I hoped he’d put some effort into reading the list. I was right – the game motivated him to read, and the three-year-old was in charge of carrying the bag, which he was proud to do.

My list included things they would have to search for inside and outside the house. I tried to think of fun things that my son likes too: A little seed, flower from the woods, pinecone, big seed, red crayon, string, little ball, something purple, something blue, and a bug.

I was worried that they would find everything in ten minutes, but my list was just the right size – it gave me about 45 minutes to sit on the porch and read! They were very proud of themselves when they reported back to me with all the loot.

Another variation of this game is great for preschoolers learning their numbers. When the six-year-old was four, I used to write the numbers 1-10 in chalk on the sidewalk. Then I would put dots under the numbers, which represented the amount. One dot under the number one, two dots under the number two, and so forth.

Then we would find things around the yard to put on top of the dots: one toy car, two flowers, three leaves, four twigs, five acorns, and so on…  He always had fun doing that.

Last year my sister-in-law sent the boys a Venn diagram with lots of fun trinkets for Valentine’s Day, and my boys loved it. We sorted those trinkets a half a dozen times. The other day I thought I would put a summer twist on it.

A Venn diagram is a visual way of sorting and comparing a group of things. Draw two or more circles and overlap them. Each circle will be labeled with one characteristic. If an object has that characteristic, it will go into one circle. If it has two characteristics, it will go in the area where the circles overlap.  If it doesn’t have any of the characteristics, it will go outside the circles. Is that clear as mud?

Let me explain.  I drew three big, overlapping circles with chalk on the pavement, and I labeled one “brown,” one “hard,” and one “curved.” Then the boys and I looked around the yard for what we could find with those characteristics. The first thing the boys picked up was a twig. It was brown, hard and curved, so it went in the middle of the diagram where all the circles overlapped.

A rock wasn’t brown, but it was hard and curved, so it went in the space where the circles “hard” and “curved” overlapped. We decided that a flower and a green leaf were only “curved”, so they went in that circle.

My son thought we should add a circle labeled “green,” so we tried that. After awhile, it was hard to find different kinds of objects outside, so I think this activity might have been more fun using toys or a variety of indoor and outdoor objects. It kept my sons busy for a few minutes, but the best part is that it got them outside, and as they searched the yard, other things caught their attention. Before I knew it, they were off exploring and playing on their own.

Do you love scavenger hunts? What versions do you play?

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