How to Have a Family Scavenger Hunt

A family of four having a scavenger hunt in their yard

Justin Horrocks / E+ / Getty Images

Some of our most memorable family activities have been associated with our weekly family nights. There have been literally hundreds of those over the years, and each one included a game or other engaging family activity. 

Among our family's favorite memories were a series of fun scavenger hunts at various locations as family member teams competed to see who could find the most items on our scavenger hunt lists. We have done scavenger hunts in campgrounds, grandparents' homes and at a vacation resort. 


A scavenger hunt starts with a concept and a location or series of locations. The idea is basically to create a list of things that family members need to find, ask for, or take pictures or videos of, a mode of transportation, a time limit and a prize for the winners. Most likely, the biggest challenge will be coming up with the concept and the list of things to find.

For example, one fun scavenger hunt I was involved with required team members (this time members of a church youth group) to collect photos of various people or things. For example, our list included (among other things) a jogger, a clown, a street musician and three people sliding down a slide together. We also needed to snap a photo of a headstone with a first name starting with a K, a reptile, and a hat with a Dallas Cowboys logo on it. 

We were put in teams of five people and sent out for two hours to get as many items on the list as possible. Each team then showed their digital pictures to a group leader and the winning team got a fun prize. That sort of event might be a little too difficult for a family with small children, but even in cases where little kids are involved, the event can be fun. 

4 Types of Scavenger Hunts

So, here are a few ideas for family scavenger hunts that work for all ages, and can be done in an hour or less.

Nature Scavenger Hunt

Try going to a large city park with your family, and create a list of things that each team should collect. Items could include things like a pine cone, a bird feather, a yellow flower, a discarded drink cup, an acorn, a red leaf, and so forth. Even your preschoolers can get into a scavenger hunt like this.

Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt

This can be a good way to get to know some neighbors, or, if your neighborhood is less than desirable, you can head to the neighborhood of a friend or family member. In this case, your teams go door to door, tell the people at home that they are on a scavenger hunt and then ask them for an item on their list. 

List items can include things like a rubber band, a toothpick, a canceled stamp, a cookie, a drinking straw or a paper cup. Just make sure that you don't have teams hitting the same homes repeatedly or they might wear out their welcome. 

Photo Scavenger Hunt

As suggested above, these kinds of hunts can be really fun. One family with teenagers started a photo scavenger hunt that required team members to be in the pictures. Their list included photos like all team members standing in a bathtub, a team member jumping off of a swing in mid-air, the team standing next to a Harley Davidson motorcycle, all the team members sharing a milkshake, each with his or her own straw and the whole team standing next to a yellow convertible. 

With so many parents and kids having access to smartphones today, there is a camera in almost every pocket or backpack.

Downtown Scavenger Hunt

A family in our area recently staged a scavenger hunt in our downtown (which is pretty safe) on a Saturday afternoon. They had to bring backlist items like a napkin with the logo of a local restaurant, chopsticks, a program from the local performing arts center, a business card from a downtown business and a receipt with the prior day's date on it. 

They said it was one of the favorite family activities and generated lots of stories to share about how they asked for and found the items on the list. This one required engaging others outside of the family - like local business employees - but the participants said that it was a good experience and taught them how to talk to people that they didn't already know. 

Family activities don't need to be expensive, and a scavenger hunt is one that you can do at almost no cost but one that builds amazing family memories.  

Was this page helpful?