Looking back, we did a lot of hunting growing up—not the kind that involved animals, mind you, but the sleuthing kind. In our families, we cracked rhyming clues to find hidden birthday presents and followed green arrows in hot pursuit of St. Patty’s Day treats. Cousins even had a tradition of running “hash” races out in the woods (a super fun, laid back trail race full of markers and switchbacks). Rather often, “treasure” was hidden, trails were laid, and we kids were loving the hunt. And, it turns out, such shenanigans are no less engaging with our kids and their friends.
Such hunts are really easy to pull off outdoors, and they lead to all kinds of genuine, child-directed play. Once kids experience it, they nearly all become hunters and hunt-makers too. Plus, from an educational perspective, the hunt can help teach kids to focus, imagine, navigate and even prepare to read. All you need, really, is ample supply of sticks (thanks, mother nature) and a few minutes to lay stick arrows along a trail before your kids see. If you want to engage their imaginations further, you’ll need a few notecards and ideas about ways to get kids pretending (we’ve got you covered there). Then, let the hunting and playing begin.
Hunts are both pure thrills and a highly engaging way to build skills. By identifying and interpreting the arrow symbol, all kids strengthen navigation skills, while kids ages 3 to 5 develop also bolster the skills they’ll use to read language. Hunting for wooden arrows on a natural floor also requires even our speed demons to slow down and pay careful attention, building focus and self-control. Running, stopping, turning back and stooping to see arrows and pretend cards builds gross motor skills and the habits of an active lifestyle. Plus, if you include the pretend cards, your kids’ imagination also gets a workout!