Scavenger Hunt Ideas to Keep Kids Busy

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 challenge kids’ critical thinking skills and help families build fun memories.

Scavenger hunts are adaptable—they can be done in the house, campgrounds, around the neighborhood, or anywhere else you happen to be. 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 hunt for hidden objects. The idea is to create a list of things that participants need to find, ask for, or photograph. 

Basic scavenger hunt rules:

  • Hide objects (optional) 
  • Make and distribute a list of items for participants to find
  • Define the search perimeter
  • Tell the players how much time they have to find the objects
  • Whoever finds the most items 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. If you’re planning a scavenger hunt, consider some of the following ideas. 

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.

Some ideas for a nature scavenger hunt:

  • Find a variety of sticks, pinecones, and leaves to use in a nature craft
  • Find specific nature items from a list
  • Find a variety of bugs, leaves, plants, or flowers

In addition to collecting objects in nature, 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.

Neighborhood Scavenger Hunts

A neighborhood scavenger hunt can be an excellent way to get to know some neighbors. There are a couple of variations of 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 can include 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 specific landmarks or locations
  • Find hidden items in the neighborhood
  • 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. Repeatedly hitting the same homes might quickly become irritating for your neighbors. 

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 that 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:

  • Photos of local landmarks
  • Photos of players doing certain activities (jumping on a trampoline, standing in front of a sign, making a silly face)
  • Photos of items that are a particular color or shape
  • Pictures of 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:

  • Find types of animals at the zoo
  • Find specific rides at a carnival or amusement park
  • Find vendors that sell specific food items (cotton candy, popcorn)
  • Find items in an exhibit at the museum
  • Find certain colors or shapes
  • Find items with a logo on them

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 run off. Have 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-home scavenger hunt ideas:

  • Find favorite things (favorite foods, favorite colors, favorite toy)
  • Find household items
  • Find 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. 

Some tips:

  • 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, plunger)
  • 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.

How can I plan a scavenger hunt? 

Planning a scavenger hunt is simple and fun. Decide on a location, day, and time, and invite your guests. Identify the objects you want participants to look for. Decide whether you will hide them or if they are objects that can easily be found. 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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