Every kid child loves a treasure hunt. For kids, the thrill of finding stuff extends to even the most mundane stuff. (My kids will hide and re-hide empty, plastic Easter eggs until June!) Things that are right under a kid's nose take on a new luster when "found." Scavenger or treasure hunts are a great way to capitalize on this desire and keep kids busy while you work.
So what exactly is the difference between the two? A treasure hunt is when a series of clues leads kids to a "treasure." When my kids were little we called it the "Blue's Clues" game. A scavenger hunt, on the other hand, is a search for a list of items.
Either way, a parent will likely have to do some advance work the to set this up, but while the hunt is on, she can retire to her office. For kids who can't read yet, use pictures to illustrate what they are supposed to find or chalk point them in the right direction. These types of activities not only keep kids busy in the short term, but they teach kids the resourcefulness they need to play independently. So, mom, don't jump in with hints too soon!
One thing to keep in mind about scavenger or treasure hunts is that, without proper instruction in advance, kids may make a mess. In their zeal to find stuff, kids will ransack drawers, overturn baskets or even dig holes in the yard. So just be sure to set the ground rules in advance. You could even use a scavenger hunt, as a I have done, a clean-up game, i.e., find a pair of shoes that it not where is belongs and put it away. This is definitely not as popular (especially the older they get) as a true scavenger hunt, but it's more fun than just picking up!
Below are scavenger and treasure hunt ideas from across the About.com network:
- Backyard Scavenger Hunt - Kids can use all their senses exploring nature in this scavenger hunt from Guide to Kids' Learning Activities, Amanda Morin.
- Scavenger Hunt for City Kids Because not every kid has a backyard filled with nature to explore, Amanda created this list of items kids will love to find around their own cities.
- Four Pirate Treasure Hunts for Kids - These are more than just treasure hunts but are great learning activities young kids.
- Treasure Hunt Tips - About's Guide to Twins and Multiples has overseen a treasure hunt or two in her day, and she has some great tips for making it go smoothly.
- Product Review: Search for Longbeard's Treasure - Treasure hunt games do take a lot of time to set up. About's Guide to Grandparents reviews a game where the clues are all made for you.
- Backyard Nature Photo Scavenger Hunt - The beauty of this scavenger hunt is that, instead of kids hauling into the house stuff that is better left in nature, they are simply photographing. Nature stays where it belongs, and all have a good time!
- How to Set Up a Treasure Hunt Game - This treasure hunt for kids from About's Guide to Family Fitness encourages extra physical activity from participants. It might be a particularly good outdoor activity.
- How To Have a Photo Scavenger Hunt - Kids can get artistic with this hunt and come back with some great photos. The key is good clues that make them think!
- Chemistry Scavenger Hunt - Obviously this one is for big kids. With my chemistry knowledge, I'd have a lot of trouble with this. But you could modify it to make it easier for middle schoolers.
- Travel Scavenger Hunt - This scavenger hunt for kids is meant for riding in a car, so it's good for a long trip. I liked the suggested variation of drawing the items out of a hat to see who finds theirs first. This is a good idea if you have young children with short attention spans.