In basic terms, a scavenger hunt is a list of items to find in some way. You might have to collect them, take a photo, see them and check them off a list (honor system), listen for them, and so on. Teams can compete for the quickest time or the most items found. Have little prizes ready or just play for fun.
For most Scavenger adventures there are a few basic rules to keep in mind:
- Always set a time limit. Thirty minutes to an hour or so is plenty for most hunts. Or use it as an activity while you are hiking. For most hunts, eventually the fun will fade and your searchers will lose interest if it seems to go on forever.
- Divide into teams if you have enough people. It will promote camaraderie and competitiveness. Boys vs Girls is an age-old favorite, or draw straws.
- Turn any scavenger hunt into a one-team event by setting a short time and challenging them to work together to find everything on the list before the time is up. Especially great for younger children.
- The best scavenger hunts include collecting items, not only checking off a list as the items are found. Showing off the found treasures after the hunt is as much fun as looking for items for the little ones.
- Have some kind of bag or basket ready to collect items for each person/team.
- Respect nature. If you collect a flower, try not to disturb the roots. Don't take a flower if it is the only one you can see. Always leave behind specimens to pollinate and seed and grow again next year.
Here are a number of scavenger hunts to try.
Traditional Scavenger Hunt
For this hunt, everyone gets a list of items to collect and a bag. Points are assigned to each item on the list and a time limit is set. Whoever has the most points when the time is up, wins. The list should include general items (something that is round, or green or smaller than your toe) and specific items (an acorn, a chewed oak leaf, a dandelion). Specific items on the list should give more points that general items.
For younger children, declare everyone who completes the list a winner. Allow everyone the time to do so. Include some specific items but don't insist all the items be found. Instead have them find 15 items out of 20 listed (for example).
Use one of the scavenger hunt lists available here or make your own.
Scavenger Hunt Ideas
Visual Scavenger Hunt
This hunt is for your eyes only. There is no collecting for this treasure hunt. Although this doesn't have the fun of showing off your treasures, you are able to add wildlife and other options that won't fit in a bag. Check the items off the list as they are spotted.
Camera Option: If the participants (or teams) all have a digital camera or a phone with this feature, get them to take pictures of their finds. At the end of the hunt, get everyone to share their pictures. This gives you a great collection of photos to assemble into a collage, scrapbook or multi-frame later.
Use the Visual Scavenger Hunt list, or create your own.
Alphabet Scavenger Hunt
The rules for this scavenger hunt are simple. Find an item in camp or nature for every letter of the alphabet. As an item for each letter is found, it is written down on a piece of paper or use this Scavenger Alphabet List.
Set a time limit and the first camper to fill their list, wins. If no one completes the list before the time is up, the one with the most recorded finds, wins. Or make it a team project and have everyone race to fill in the blanks before the time is up, working together. This is great for little ones.
The easiest way to play is open rules. Anything in camp or nature is fair game.
To make it a little tougher, add some restrictions like Nature Only, no man-made items. Or only items that will fit in a bag (supply the bag), or only items smaller than their head. Or only items that grow (or don't).
Category Scavenger Hunt
This Hunt is played with categories and the participants find items that fit the category. For example, the category might be Campfire. They could find (and record) firepit, firewood, coals, newspaper, twigs, etc. Points are awarded for each item found before the time is up. The team option can be used with this one too.
Give everyone (team) a piece of paper and write in the categories. No collection is needed for this hunt.
Category Scavenger Hunt 1
Category Scavenger Hunt 2
Category Scavenger Hunt 2
Next to Nature Scavenger Hunt
This hunt is designed to make you to take notice of nature. To hear it and smell it and touch it. It is probably best played over the course of a day. Challenge the campers to find everything on the list together as a team and to point out items to everyone as they find them. Great for kids and youth groups.
This is not so much a hunt for ideas as it is for information. Keep a species table on the go. It should have a camera, a journal, sketching and drawing supplies (clipboard, paper, pencil crayons, pencils, eraser and a pencil sharpener), a book on birds and a book on flowers and plants. When a bird flies into camp, get the campers to take a picture or draw it, look it up in the book and make a note about it in the journal. When a nice flower or plant is found, do the same. If you pick a plant or flower to bring back to camp, make sure there are more left behind to reseed the area.
Again, not so much a scavenger hunt but fun all the same. Before leaving home you will need to gather some type of item to hide. It could be marbles or brightly colored craft/decorative stones. Try little plastic toys like army men, dinosaurs or forest animals. Money (change) is of course, always a hit (maybe followed by a trip to the ice cream counter?). Maybe you will pick an afternoon treat (place it in a baggie to keep out bugs and moisture) or those cardboard, elastic-propelled airplanes (which can then be played with). Think Easter egg hunt without the eggs or pastels or bunny.
Scavenger Hunts are always fun on a camping trip or even for a summer afternoon activity or birthday party.
It's a great way to pass some time, and get close to nature.
Have you ever been on a Scavenger Hunt?
This is the seventh post in my Camping Series. For the previous posts, see these links.