How to Plan a Nature Study Scavenger Hunt

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The Benefits of a Nature Study Scavenger Hunt

I'll start with a warning! Nature study scavenger hunts are addictive!

It's very likely that you'll get hassled frequently by kids and adults alike to produce many more once you've successfully arranged your first.

For those of you who are not yet familiar with this absorbing activity, a Nature Study Scavenger Hunt is basically a fun study day with a few tricks and treats thrown in - a form of hide and seek with zest!

Scavenger hunts can take place almost anywhere - the garden, meadow, woods, on a beach, in a park - you are only limited by your own imagination. There are also hundreds of websites that offer free printable information to help arrange your day. I've put a list of useful sites to check out at the end of this article.

So what are the main benefits of a Nature Study Scavenger Hunt?

  • Studies have shown that children who spend quality time out of doors benefit mentally, physically and socially - especially when there is interaction with nature.
  • These kinds of experience also get kids away from electronic screens, TVs and technology and into the fresh air. Computers and technology can have advantages for kids, but studies show that too much time is spent by children in front of a tv or computer screen.
  • It generates a healthy attitude towards nature and the environment that lasts into adulthood.
  • It allows quality time to be spent between parents and their children, siblings and friends.
  • It adds to a child's knowledge and learning.

A beach can be an exciting place for a nature study scavenger hunt

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looking for bugs and spider webs are often a favourite with kids on a nature study day

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A nature study scavenger hunt includes all kinds of objects to find such as pine cones, acorns, seeds and flowers

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Planning your Nature Study Scavenger Hunt

Don't be daunted by the idea of having to plan this awesome event. The steps are straightforward and as said previously, there are lots of ideas and printable material online to help you out.

To get started, begin with the following points:

  • Decide who your group will be - how many and what ages? This will have an impact on the location you choose. Depending on the size of your group and where you want to stage the scavenger hunt you may well need adult helpers. Decide who you want to include in this.
  • Select and visit your location - very young children might be safer in a garden or nearby park. The length of hunting time will also vary depending on the ages of the children. For example a five year old's scavenger hunt should last about 20-25 minutes maximum - adjust this timing to suit the ages of your own group. For older children the length of hunt should be longer and the location more challenging.
  • Decide on the activities to be included. For example - finding things, collecting things, drawing things, photographing things and so on. You can also decide on your prizes and how they should be awarded. Do you want every child to have a small prize just for completing the hunt? In addition do you want specific prizes for the children who - collect the most items, spot the most items, find the most unusual thing, creates the best drawing?
  • Make a list of items to find when you first visit your location - acorns, webs, leaves, flowers, seeds, stones, feathers, bark and so on are a common ideas. But these will obviously change depending on your location. If you are at the beach then a list of things might be - pebbles, shells, starfish, a feather, a piece of wood, unusual object on the beach. You can also vary this again by asking the children to collect for example - 3 different coloured rocks, 2 different kinds of feathers, 3 types of shell. Have a good look around your chosen location and see what items are available. Write them down with a description.


Finally make a list and gather the tools and articles you will need for the day such as:

  • Snacks and drinks - it's hard and thirsty work!
  • Suncream and insect repellant
  • Basic first aid kit and general wipes. You should also set down a list of safety rules that the children must follow - such as not putting plants or flowers into their mouths, stay away from water unless with an adult, don't pick up any wildlife found and so on.
  • Containers for transporting specimens - these could be plastic bags, jars, plastic boxes or anything else suitable for carrying items that have been collected.
  • Notebooks and coloured pencils and a camera if using one
  • Other useful items that you may want to have to hand are - insect nets, magnifying glass and binoculars. Many people also find an encyclopedia or field guide to nature very useful as well. You don't have to go to the expense of buying one - borrow one from the local library.

When you've organised yourself to this point, it will be time to think about the structure of your scavenger hunt.

A meadow in flower is a magical setting for a nature study scavenger hunt

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A nature study scavenger hunt can take place anywhere

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How to set up your clues and themes for a scavenger hunt

The main thing to remember when creating your clues and/or instructions is not to make them too hard or too easy. You will need to vary the level of difficulty depending on the ages of the children.

It's a good idea when you are visiting the location you have chosen, to make a list of the landmarks, trees, plants, stones and anything else you feel would be an interesting item to collect or spot by children. You decide though how easy or difficult, how creative or straightforward you want the scavenger hunt to be - there are no strict rules that say how you should go about defining your day. If it's your first time planning and you're unsure about clues - then you can write basic, straightforward ones such as - find two things that are green in the woods? Find two brown pebbles on the beach and so on. But you can widen this up to make it more interesting by having a kind of quiz such as :

  • Have words with some letters missing and put in dashes - for example if you want the children to find a 'red flower' you could have something like R - D F - - W - - R Your whole sentence might look like this - 'Go to the woods and find a R - D F - - W - - R. This is a simple demonstration and would be suitable for young children.
  • Another form of clue is to write the clue backwards and show the children how to hold it up to a mirror so that they can read it.
  • If you feel you can, then devise a word search, riddle or some other inventive way you can think of to write your clues down. Again, don't be daunted by this, there are hundreds of web sites that already have free and printable scavenger hunts already made up.

In addition to having clues to find specific items many scavenger hunts also have other activities for children to do such as - 'A things to see list' - such as a bird, a bug etc. 'A things to draw list - a flower, a bug, a tree and so on. For older children you could also include items to be photographed.

One of the main things that a Nature Study Scavenger Hunt should include is a display. This can be anything from a simple notebook, elaborate scarpbook, cardboard box or even a small table showing off nature collections. Within the display can be anything at all such as pressed flowers, drawings, paintings, photographs, designs and objects made with items collected - just let your imagination run riot!

All that remains now is for you to set the day, gather your group together and have a fun day!

A Nature study scavenger day will add much to a child's s knowledge and life experience

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Comments 30 comments

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

I love scavenger hunts. Last year, while visiting a farm,we had a farm scavenger hunt for a child's birthday. A nature scavenger hunt is a great idea!


summerberrie 4 years ago

I have always wanted to do a scavenger hunt on our farm which has a creek, pond, Carolina Bay as well as swamp. I never really knew how to go about it. Well, my goal is to plan one for a Thanksgiving day activity. Thanks for the know-how and inspiration! Voted across the board and shared.


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

This awesome stuff for a nature study scavenger hunt Helen. So very good of you to think of this. I'm a firm believer in getting children out in nature and hopefully instilling a lifelong enthusiasm for the outdoors and also to show them right from wrong concerning it. Going to share this on HP and FB my friend.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

Seeker7 you must be a fun person and children must love you.. brilliant idea!


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 4 years ago from sunny Florida

These are so much fun. One summer I worked for the Y and one of my duties was to plan outside activities. This was always, always the favorite thing we did. You are correct. The kids wanted us to have one each week of camp.

It is such a fun way to learn about and experience nature. Thank you for sharing this.


yoginijoy profile image

yoginijoy 4 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

What a fabulous idea! I love it. It is so important to teach our youth about taking care of Nature. Beautiful!


kissayer profile image

kissayer 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

I have a little girl who I nanny who loves the outdoors and I'm going to use your hub to plan a scavenger hunt for us! She'll love it!

Voted up! :)


Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 4 years ago from United Kingdom

What a wonderful idea with lots of useful tips and ideas.

Our grandchildren are staying with us in August and they always ask to go on a nature trail - this year we'll make it more interesting with a scavenger hunt, I am quite excited about it!

Many thanks for the inspiration, voting up and shared.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

What fabulous ideas you share here for a nature study scavenger hunt. This should be a required activity for all parents and teachers!


Cousin Fudd profile image

Cousin Fudd 4 years ago from From the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina

Great hub and ideas.


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 4 years ago from the Ether

Wow great ideas! Seriously awesome. Love it Seeker7...when my daughter gets a little bit older and has a larger attention span I'm going to give this a go!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi rebeccalmealey, many thanks for stopping by. I did my first NSSH last year as well and it was at our local country park - it was for the kids but I really enjoyed the experience and jump at the chance to do them when I can. A farm sounds like a very interesting place to do a scavenger hunt, I'll need to keep that in mind.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi summerberrie (I love that name!!), I've attended two now and organised one and it's great fun! Your farm sounds absolutely ideal for a scavenger hunt - you won't be lost for ideas and the kids will love it - it sounds very beautiful as well. I'm really glad that you found the hub useful! Many thanks for stopping by.


Helena Ricketts profile image

Helena Ricketts 4 years ago from Indiana

What a great way to get kids in touch with nature. I did scavenger hunts for the kids years ago but never considered a nature hunt. I'll have to share this with my brother for an activity with the kids!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Alastar lovey to hear from you as always! Quite a change of topic for me this time - I'm doing the Hub Pages Apprenticeship at the moment so have had titles to write about chosen for me - I was pleasantly surprised at the title choices and gives a good breathing space from spooks etc. Writing about nature is never dull and I love scavenger hunts with kids! So this hub was full of memories and good ones at that. Any children who are out of doors for good periods of time do benefit over the ones who sit in front of a TV or computer screen day after day, not only healthwise but it's a great way as you have said, to 'instill life long enthusiasm for the outdoors'. I think once the kids get hooked onto nature it does last a lifetime and this love does go with them into adulthood.

Alastar, as always thank you for your insights and knowledge - it's always appreciated!!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Frank! LOL! I think I actually get on with dogs better than kids if I'm being honest. But I do enjoy scavenger hunts with kids out in nature. Children always bring something new and unexpected to the day that's always a bonus! I think it's there enthusiasm more than anything that makes it so enjoyable for me.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi pastraubie48 - I agree about the fun involved - it allows us adults to be kids again without feeling dumb about it! Planning the outside activities is one of my favourites as well, I think because there is so much scope for your imagination and you never get stuck for ideas. The kids do make the day a memorable one more than anything due to their enthusiasm - and yes, once they're hooked, that's it, they just have to have more! LOL!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi yoginijoy,

Many thanks for stopping by and glad that you enjoyed the hub! It really is a great fun day for everyone and being out in nature with such enthusiastic students just makes it perfect. Even if the weather is not that great, it doesn't matter, the funs still goes on.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

hi kissayer, lovely to hear from you and glad that the hub will be useful for the you and the little girl you look after. I haven't met a kid yet who didn't enjoy a scavenger hunt - they do get very hooked and what a healthy way to have fun!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Lesley! As always lovely to hear from you.

That's interesting about doing one for your grandchildren. The first time I organised a nature study+scavenger hunt was for my nieces and nephews who visit from Edinburgh. They do have a lovely park near to where they live, but as they will tell you "it's not the proper countryside, there's no coos or sheep"! I was so relieved when I found so many websites online to give me ideas and I never looked back. Even the planning and organising is great fun and in particular I love thinking up clues and prizes for them.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi RTalloni - many thanks for stopping by and glad that you enjoy the hub. I will say that if Nature Study + Scavenger Hunting became compulsory the stress levels for parents and teachers would go down and they would feel great afterwards. It is fun but it's also a great de-stressor!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Thank you Cousin Fudd - glad that you enjoyed the hub!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Kitty - as always it's a pleasure to hear from you and get your take on things! I'm sure your daughter will love to take part in one of these when she's old enough and I think you will also find it great fun!! Wiccans always enjoy nature and with your intuition and insights I would love to see what you organise for your wee one in the future!!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Helena Ricketts, many thanks for stopping by and glad that you enjoyed the hub.

I came across this idea a few years ago when I was racking my brains how to entertain my nieces and nephews while their Mum and Dad went away all day to a wedding! I was so relieved to find this activity. The kids loved it and always ask for another one when they come and visit. I hope you do go ahead with your own one, you'll really enjoy yourself as much as the kids!


toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 4 years ago

Hi Helen, This is a really great idea. I never thought of a nature scavenger hunt. Beautiful hub, done with creativity, imagination, and intelligence. Thanks for sharing this info. Voted up, beautiful, awesome, useful, and interesting.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

I love to do scavenger hunts. They are so fun and provide hours of entertainment. I may try this for my granddaughter's next birthday party.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi toknowinfo, many thanks for stopping by and glad that you enjoyed the hub.

The first time I organised a NSSH I wasn't sure how the kids would take to it - I needn't have worried and if anything they added their own unique perspecitive on the hunt as well, so I couldn't have asked for more. The only thing I have to deal with now is the numerous requests to make up another one!! LOL!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi teaches12345, lovely to hear from you,

I'm with you, I love scavenger hunts and to see kids so enthusiastic and enjoying themselves is an absolure delight! I hope you do one for your granddaughters birthday, I'm sure all the children will love it.


VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States

Such an interesting idea. I think this would be a great thing to do at a zoo. I'd love it if you could include an example of a quick and easy one that I could do with my kids--maybe in a table capsule?


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi VirginiaLynne, many thanks for stopping by I always like to hear your interesting input! A zoo sounds like a terrific idea and you would never be short of any ideas for the kids!

A short NSSH specimen laid out in a table is a very good idea. I'll see what I can come up with - many thanks!

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