My mom is the queen of scavenger hunts. Every Easter when we were kids, she would write short poems as clues, each one leading to the next until we finally found the loot. We had to figure out the reference before we figured out the location of the next clue, which made it extra fun. Instead of just “the bathroom,” for example, she described the old pull handle the bathroom in our house had, and rather than telling us to look at a shelf in the living room or a drawer in the kitchen, she would include something about what we kept there. The clues were mostly easy to follow, but I remember a couple of times she gave us real stumpers.
My brother and sisters and I did those hunts for years, well into our all-grown-up phase, and we never tired of them. Somewhere in a box I think I still have some of the clues from later years.
Over the years we’ve done a few variations of that type of scavenger hunt, and one of my favourites was one my husband put together several years ago. This was pre-kids – my parents and I did it and we had as much fun as if we’d been kids ourselves. It was a car-rally type of scavenger hunt – a take-off of something I had arranged for my graduating class when I was in Grade 12. My husband wrote clues (in the style of my mom’s poems) and hid them all over the city. We then hopped into the car and drove around to find them all.
It was pouring rain the afternoon we did it, but we got our rain gear on and went for it. It was a good thing we were dressed for the weather, too, because the clues were hidden everywhere – in parks, outside shops, under benches. Even under under the foot of the Terry Fox statue.
One of the best parts about that scavenger hunt – and one I think could work really well with kids – was that we had activities built into it. So it was more than just a series of clues leading to treasure; it was an afternoon of fun. The activities varied – everything from asking an in-on-the-game store clerk for a clue to hitting balls at the driving range. (I got the next clue even though I can’t hit a golf ball to save my life.)
Want to do one of your own? Here are some tips on how to create your own scavenger hunt:
- Figure out what you want to do. Do you want to do it as part of an Easter (or Christmas or other holiday) celebration? Do you want to incorporate it into a birthday party? The answer to this will help you figure out how best to set it up.
- Figure out where you want to do it. Do you want to stay inside? Go outdoors? Explore the city or a particular park? There are so many options, so use your imagination. You’re not limited to your backyard!
- Figure out how big you want to make it. There are so many options – one that you can do in your own house or neighbourhood or one that requires driving; one that is straight clues versus the kind that incorporates activities.
How to make a scavenger hunt list
Scavenger hunts can lead to some sort of treasure or gift, or they can be the more traditional nature hunts. My older son (now six) used to be a very reluctant participant when we went for a walk, but one day I printed off a list of nature stuff to find along the trail, handed him a Ziploc bag and a pen and off we went. He absolutely loved it.
If you’re looking for list ideas, the (US) National Wildlife Federation has a good backyard scavenger hunt list for kids, but if you do a search you’ll find tons. A good tip for non-readers is to include pictures of the items rather than just words.
The list I created had specific items (a rock, a pine cone) as well as things he got to choose (something you think is beautiful). I especially loved those more ambiguous items, because he really thought about what deserved to fill those categories and his care and awe were so fun to watch.
If you want to use the poem approach, set your imagination free! I always get a mental block when thinking about writing those sorts of things, but if you’re doing one for your kids, who cares how good your poetry is? Besides, it’s not supposed to be deep and meaningful; it’s meant to be fun. Pick interesting places to hide things and tell the stories that go along with them.
Regardless of what approach you take, have a blast! Everyone is bound to enjoy it, even (perhaps especially) grandmas.