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Scavenger Hunts: Happy times, Treasured Memories

Updated on January 24, 2015
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You probably played a lot of different games as a kid. You might have played tag, hop-scotch, kick the can, or hide and go seek. And these are all still fine games to teach your kids so that they may entertain themselves outside. But there’s one classic that seems to be forgotten more often than not – one that you should most definitely introduce your children to – and that is the time honored tradition of the scavenger hunt.

Why is this important, you might wonder? Well, for starters, it helps instill in your children a desire to search for things. We are living in an age of instant gratification in which most of what you’ll ever want to know is available via a quick internet search. But no significant progress can be made if we’re all so used to getting what we want so quickly because the important things worth looking for in life are not going to appear instantly. Many will stop searching for something if they don’t find it after their first several tries because they are so used to having it right away. Hosting a scavenger hunt for kids will help them get used to putting actual effort into finding what they want and need.

Secondarily, it really is fun for them. And it can be fun for you too if you go about it in the right way. A scavenger hunt takes planning, preparation, and proper follow through to go well. This can be tedious to all or it can be enjoyable. If you take the advice below you might well find it to be the latter.


Base it on what Your Child Likes

Your child does not want to go on a hunt based around things they do not care about. Likewise, you probably do not want to spend a lot of time learning about things that they do not care about unless you are otherwise interested in the material. If you base your scavenger hunt for kids around the kids, however, you will find things go nicely.

Do you not find enjoyment out of seeing your child enjoy themselves? There is a certain appeal that comes with learning the ins and outs of what your child finds interesting. Do they like nature? Do they love art? Are they fascinated by birds or fish or superheroes? That’s great. Talk to them, find out why, and pick a good focus for the hunt based on what you learn. Your child will be glad that you’ve taken such an interest in them and the two of you can form a bond.

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Use it to Keep Them Busy

Look, we are going to be blunt here: sometimes you just need a minute or two to yourself. If you have a child that is old enough to be left to their own devices in the other room then you shouldn’t feel bad about wanting to sit down for a minute while they’re in their own space. But children do not often understand this. They will sometimes follow you around and endlessly tell you of their thoughts and feelings. You of course love your child, but some “me time” is always nice.

If you employ a scavenger hunt that takes place within your own home then your child will become distracted with the hunt. They’ll be more focused on the clues and the riddles than they will be on you. You do still need to supervise them, but you can do so more passively than you might normally have to. It might not be a complete break, but it’s better than nothing. It’s about the closest thing you can get to a day off without having someone else watch the kids while you go somewhere else.


Be Careful with the Clues

Clues for the hunt need to be age appropriate. This isn’t a warning as to the content of the clues so much as it is to the difficulty level. You don’t want to write some complex riddle that requires a knowledge of math or history for your young child to figure out. Likewise, you don’t want to write something simple and childish for your teenager.

Take the age of the child into careful consideration before you make any sort of riddle. Also try to think about relating things back to their hobbies and what they’re good at. Play into their strong suits. If there’s a subject they excel at in school then you could use the knowledge they’ve gained there in the riddles.

Alternatively, you can also use scavenger hunts as a sort of reinforcement for their less impressive scholarly subjects. Make each item on the list a prize they can find if they can remember something that they may need on an upcoming test. Trick them into learning valuable information this way. They may not thank you directly, but seeing them succeed in their academics will be all the thanks you need.


Pick the Right Prizes

We mentioned prizes a moment ago and they need to be expanded upon. You aren’t going to want to spoil your child at every turn. Do not simply buy them a bunch of expensive goodies. Make the prizes small. Think of things like their favorite candies and knick-knacks. Perhaps reward them for doing especially well with a bigger prize, but never go overboard. The point of the hunt was to teach them the value of putting in work to obtain something, not to show them that they can get a bunch of cool stuff from a relatively simple task.

That being said, the older the child is the better the incentive will need to be. A toddler would probably gladly go searching around the house for something in exchange for a piece of chocolate, but a teenager is going to need something more substantial because they can probably just buy their own chocolate if they really want it. Think small gift cards or pairs of reasonably priced earphones. You might end up spending a few more dollars, but if you want to coerce a teen into playing along it’s your best bet.

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