Indoor and Outdoor Scavenger Hunt Ideas

A family of four having a scavenger hunt in their yard

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Scavenger hunts can be more than just a great way to keep kids busy. They also build critical thinking skills and help families build special memories. Depending on the type, scavenger hunts can also be a fun form of exercise.

Scavenger hunts are adaptable—they can be done in the house, campgrounds, around the neighborhood, or just about anywhere else. They are an easy, creative, and affordable activity that both kids and adults enjoy.  

What Is a Scavenger Hunt?

A scavenger hunt starts with a place or series of locations in which players search for hidden objects. When planning a scavenger hunt, the idea is to create a list of things that participants need to find, ask for, or photograph. 

Follow these basic steps for a successful scavenger hunt:

  1. Hide objects (optional).
  2. Make and distribute a list of items for participants to find; determine whether they need to bring the items back, or just photograph them.
  3. Define the search perimeter.
  4. Tell the players how much time they have to find the objects.
  5. Whoever finds the most items (or the team to find them all first) wins.

Scavenger hunts can be played both with individuals and with teams. The game is adaptable and a great activity for smaller and larger groups alike.

Nature Scavenger Hunts

A nature scavenger hunt takes place in your backyard, a park, or a nature preserve. This activity involves searching for items or following clues to find hidden items outdoors. Nature hunts are great for every age group, including very young kids. You can structure your nature scavenger hunt however you like, asking searchers to:

  • Collect sticks, pinecones, and leaves to use in a nature craft
  • Spot and photograph nature items from a list
  • Identify and photograph a variety of bugs, leaves, plants, or flowers

An outdoor scavenger hunt is a great way to engage the senses. Consider a search that asks players to identify things they can watch, smell, and hear. 

A nature hunt can also be a fun way to teach kids about environmental stewardship. Help beautify a trail by picking up trash you find on your walk. Collecting trash can feel like a menial task, but when it’s disguised as a game, it can be fun.

Pass out gloves and plastic bags. Offer prizes for whoever collects the most trash and whoever finds the strangest object. Make sure that each group of kids has adult supervision for safety if they are collecting trash.

Neighborhood Scavenger Hunts

A neighborhood scavenger hunt can be an excellent way to get to know some neighbors. There are a couple of variations on the neighborhood hunt.

One variation is to have teams go door-to-door. Players tell the neighbor who answers the door that they are on a scavenger hunt. They then ask them for an item on their list. List items should be common objects such as a rubber band, a toothpick, a canceled stamp, a cookie, a drinking straw, or a paper cup. 

Another variation is simply holding an outdoor scavenger hunt in the neighborhood—the same way you would have a nature hunt. This kind of hunt can be a fun ice-breaker activity for meeting neighbors. It’s also a great way to keep kids occupied during a neighborhood block party.

Neighborhood scavenger hunt ideas:

  • Find hidden items in the neighborhood.
  • Find specific landmarks or locations.
  • Follow hidden clues to find a prize.
  • Go door-to-door to request items from a list.

Use discretion with the door-to-door variation of this game. Knocking on someone's door more than once could quickly become irritating for your neighbors. 

If you have two teams, each team might only go to odd-numbered or even-numbered houses, or each team could take one side of the street.

Photo Scavenger Hunts

A photo scavenger hunt requires individuals or teams to have a camera or a smartphone to participate. You might pass out inexpensive, disposable cameras to participants. Instead of collecting objects, players take pictures of the things they find. 

At the end of the game, instead of looking through the things people found, you look through the photos that were taken. If you use smartphones, you can look through the objects on players’ screens. 

If you are using cameras, you’ll need to reconvene after the photos are developed to look through the results. Print photos can be novel for kids who have grown up with digital cameras and smartphones. It’s an excellent option for groups that meet regularly.

Photo scavenger hunt ideas:

  • Items that are a particular color or shape
  • Local landmarks
  • Players doing certain activities (jumping on a trampoline, standing in front of a sign, making a silly face)
  • Things that start with a specific letter 

Field Trip Scavenger Hunts

Field trip scavenger hunts can be a great way to keep kids engaged while at a museum, zoo, or amusement park. Scavenger hunts at public spaces involve giving players a list of items to hunt for while they are at an event or on a trip.

These activities may require a little bit of detective work ahead of time for the organizer, as you will need to be familiar with the items in the space to create the list.

Field trip scavenger hunt ideas:

  • Certain colors or shapes
  • Items in an exhibit at the museum
  • Items with a logo on them
  • Specific rides at a carnival or amusement park
  • Types of animals at the zoo
  • Vendors that sell specific food items (cotton candy, popcorn)

When having a scavenger hunt in public spaces, talk to kids about proper etiquette and safety. If your hunt is in a museum, for instance, be sure kids understand that they should talk quietly and walk.

If it’s at a noisy, outdoor venue, be sure kids know to stay in designated groups and not wander off on their own. For safety, have an adult or teenager stay with each group if younger children are participating, and make a plan for what you will do if anyone gets lost

Stay-at-Home Scavenger Hunts

Scavenger hunts can be great at-home activities, too. They are a fun way to break up a boring weekend. Sleepovers and birthday parties are also good opportunities for this inexpensive but creative form of entertainment.

Stay-at-home scavenger hunt ideas:

  • Favorite things (favorite foods, favorite colors, favorite toy)
  • Household items
  • Something that starts with A, B, C, etc.

FAQs

What are some good scavenger hunt ideas for older adults?

Scavenger hunts are a great intergenerational activity for kids of all ages and older adults. Remember any limitations grandparents or other older adults in your life may have, and build your scavenger hunt accordingly. 

  • Customize a hunt based on a grandparent’s interests (car theme, gardening theme).
  • Create a scavenger hunt of riddles (no physical hunting, just solve all of the puzzles to win).
  • Create a hunt based on things they might find in their home (a refrigerator magnet, tweezers, teaspoon).
  • Look for items they can find on their phones (selfie, photo of a pet, social media app, game app, etc.).

How can I do an online scavenger hunt?

A virtual scavenger hunt is a great way to connect with friends and family who live far away. Virtual scavenger hunts are played in the same way as an in-person scavenger hunt, except that you will connect with fellow players over video conferencing.

The hunt will occur in participants’ various locations, but the items you all search for will be the same. Whoever finds all of the items first is the winner!

How can I plan a scavenger hunt? 

Planning a scavenger hunt is simple and fun with the following steps.

  1. Decide on a location, day, and time, and invite your guests.
  2. Identify the objects you want participants to look for.
  3. Decide whether you will hide them or if they are objects that can easily be found.
  4. Type and print your list for as many players or teams as you will have.

You can have simple prizes on hand for the winners if you like, or guests can take home the treasures they found. 

A Word From Verywell

One of the best things about scavenger hunts is that they don’t require special skills, materials, or investment. They are an inexpensive and accessible game for people of all ages. 

If you are thinking about doing a scavenger hunt, you can make it as simple or elaborate as you want. Think of things you can find around the house or your yard and make a checklist of items to find. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, look online for free printable lists. 

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