Scavenger hunts offer playful blueprints that encourage children to invest more energy in fully experiencing the details of the places, people, and things that they encounter. Our family uses scavenger hunts to engage our toddler in family activities and outings such as trips to the zoo, nature walks, and visiting the art museum. Scavenger hunts are fabulous tools for helping toddlers to understand goal setting and achievement. Simple and concrete, easy to find items that the toddler can readily identify can also keep little hands busy and out of trouble; the grocery store and doctor’s office are excellent places to implement an impromptu scavenger hunt as a distraction. If the toddler must remain seated a “visual scavenger hunt,” known by many as the game “I Spy” works well.
Scavenger hunts can be as simple or as involved as you wish. Toddlers often do best with scavenger hunts that identify the items they are looking for via picture/drawing or photograph. We also include the word with the drawing since she is beginning to enjoy learning and recognizing letters. Toddlers often relish collecting items to bring home so some scavenger hunts may involve the accumulation of physical items such as rocks, leaves, feathers, or flowers. Collecting physical objects isn’t always practical, i.e. we aren’t bringing home the lion from the zoo. In such cases, taking pictures can be a viable method for allowing children to collect scavenger items. Traditionally those completing a scavenger hunt will mark items off this list. Toddler versions of completing a list may be making an X through a picture, using a stamp, placing a picture card of the found item into a bag, or ripping a card with the found item off of a ring.
Themes for scavenger hunts are varied and potentially limitless. Topics appropriate for toddlers include familiar items in the home, church, grocery store, or neighborhood. Letters are often a topic of the scavenger hunt and can be found almost anywhere; signs, books, or labels. Numbers, colors, shapes, and other attributes such as textures can also serve as toddler scavenger hunt motifs. Scavenger hunts aren’t limited to visual identification. Incorporating elements such as sounds; birds singing, traffic, or doorbells offer auditory stimulation. Collecting soft and hard textured items, such as flowers and rocks, aids with tactile exploration.
The quickest and easiest scavenger hunt we use is for neighborhood walks. We have her find one rock, one stick, grass, dirt, a bird, a small mammal, a sign, a certain color, a pet, a car, etc. At the art museum, we use color swatches to help her find colors in the paintings. We also utilize gift shop postcards and/or online pictures, so that she can find images she recognizes such as dogs, flowers, and fruit in the artwork. The backyard and park are fabulous places to incorporate auditory and tactile items, such as dogs barking, the ice cream truck music, and warm/hot playground equipment.
Several bloggers and curriculum creators utilize scavenger hunts in their educational materials. Some of our favorites include:
- Tiny Tot Scavenger Hunt by Raising Arrows
- Outdoor Walk and Scavenger Hunt by Toddler Toddler
- Bug Scavenger Hunt by Toddler Approved
- Nature Walk Scavenger Hunt by Jenni Mullinix
- Children’s Scavenger Hunt by Smashed Peas and Carrots
- Fall Scavenger Hunt by Craft Interrupted
- Scavenger Hunt Cards by Let’s Explore
I’m finding new, fun, toddler appropriate scavenger hunts all the time. If this is an interest of yours, feel free to follow my Scavenger Hunt Board on Pinterest! If you are a blogger and have one available that I could use or have one to suggest, please comment and let me know.
Do you and your family use scavenger hunts? Do you have a favorite scavenger hunt or scavenger hunt resource?