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Get Kids Moving with a Fall Scavenger Hunt
Get your kiddos outside for some fresh air and fun with a scavenger hunt. A scavenger hunt can be an entertaining, educational activity for any age. For smaller kids who are not yet reading, make your scavenger list using photos next to the words. For older kids who are learning to read, include the words only so the scavenger hunt is an exercise in sounding out words as well as an outdoor adventure.
Autumn Outdoor Scavenger Hunt
Ages: 2 and up
Number of kids: 1 or more
Supplies: One pail or bag for collecting the scavenger items, printout of the scavenger hunt checklist, and nice warm clothing for the kiddos. Optional: Plastic magnifying glass for each child so they can get a closer look at their findings. Remember the tissues if cold weather makes their little noses dribble.
Activity Type: Outdoor/active
Ready, Set, Hunt!
I love scavenger hunts for my four-year-old daughter and her friends because of the enthusiasm it stirs up. First they work together to sound out a word on the list, and the teamwork is adorable. “Is that a d or a b?” they ask each other, and together they figure it out. It’s important to use words they could conceivably read. You know your child and what they can do and what they’re still learning. I like to make my scavenger words readable but challenging.
Type out your scavenger list using any word processing program, or clearly hand write the items on white paper with a fat pen.
After the kids sound out the word, they literally run off looking for the scavenger item. Sometimes they coordinate as they race off, discussing where they might find the item.
For my two-year-old, I make scavenger hunts using pictures along with the words. He loves searching for the items along with the older kids, and the project strengthens his recognition of letters and colors. It is easy to find free clip art on the web. Create your word/photo list using a word processing program or a program like Publisher. If you want to keep it low tech and even engage the kiddos in list creation, gather some fall magazines and cut out images to paste on a list next to hand-written words.
Team Time or Solo Mission?
You can give each child a pail or bag in which to collect their items, or if you’re fostering teamwork you can give them just one receptacle. I prefer to encourage teamwork. I typically provide just one list and one receptacle so they all work together, rather than competing. Make the first item on the scavenger list a “bag,” “backpack,” or “pail” in which to collect the other items.
Where to Hunt?
Your back yard is a wonderful place for a scavenger hunt. Just survey the area from the comfort of your kitchen window and compile a list of things your child can find. If your yard is fenced you can send your kiddos out with their scavenger list and you may have a few quiet moments to yourself.
Scavenger hunts are also great for the local park or a nature walk. There’s a wonderful, wooded walking trail near my in-laws’ house where we can find all kinds of items while getting in some good exercise.
Autumn Scavenger Hunt Items
Here are some scavenger hunt items to include for a fun autumn scavenger hunt in your back yard, at a nearby park, or on a nature walk: pail/bag/backpack, red leaf, green leaf, orange leaf, brown leaf, twig, tree bark, rock, acorn, pinecone, grass, pine needle.
Display the Findings
After the items have been found, bring the kiddos inside to tape their findings to a display board. First, paste the scavenger list in the center of the board. Then tape the items around the scavenger list and draw a line between each word and its item. My kids love to show off what they have found, and their Scavenger Hunt displays stay up in our house for about a week post-hunt. They relish showing every visitor the words they read, and the items they discovered.
If your child has their own pint-sized, durable digital camera, you can have her take a picture of each scavenger list item, rather than collecting them. In that case you can include more things on your scavenger hunt that are not collectible, like a fence, bush or tree. This broadens the number and variety of words you can use on the scavenger list.
If your little one wants to keep going after all the scavenger list items have been photographed, have them look for letters amongst the foliage. My daughter has a real knack for finding letters in the branches of trees and bushes. She’ll call out, “Mommy! There’s an A in that tree!” Two neighborly leaves on a branch may look like a B, and a fallen twig in the yard may look like a C, and so on. Have your little photographer click a pic of every letter they find, and try to find every letter of the alphabet in your back yard or a local park.
Despite the cooler temperatures outside, there are still plenty of fun things to do. It’s important to keep our kiddos active, and slip in a little reading practice wherever we can. In my household we have just one tv and I try diligently to limit tv time, but the kids still clamor for it. Every minute my kids are running and playing is a victory, and scavenger hunts are an educational and fun way to get them moving.