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Scavenger Hunt, ages 3 to 4

Age: 3 to 5 Time: <30 min
Materials: scavenger hunt clues; cardboard; pencil; string
Skills: Curiosity, Making Connections, Naturalist, Sensory, Focus & Self Control
Even though a “scavenger hunt” is a pretty directed activity (at least pretty directed for Tinkergarten), there is power anytime you add the word “hunt” to a walk in the woods. So, the key is to add only a “pinch” of structure so kids can play the game in their own way. Even young explorers who are easily distracted can focus and make new discoveries when doing this simple twist on a hike. And, it really doesn’t have to take too much prep if you use one of our Tinkergarten scavenger hunt sheets. If you feel creative, though, make up your own using words and pictures. Just be ready to get off the trail and keep up with your explorer when he or she is on the hunt!

The Guide

  1. Get or make a set of clues: For younger explorers, you want to pick relatively concrete clues like “butterfly” or “creepy crawly creature” or “something soft.” Use as many senses as you can. Use picture clues, since this age group cannot yet read words. Download a sample of a Tinkergarten® scavenger hunt for kids ages 3-4. Tape the scavenger hunt clues to cardboard to make it easier for kids and more sturdy. Poke holes and tie string, and they can wear the around their necks...even easier (We've included hole guides on our sheets so you know where to poke).
  2. Set them free to hunt: Even wee kids should wander as freely as possible during the hunt, always staying within sight of you or an adult in your troop. Before you set them on their way, set up boundaries and/or a rule to follow. Our stand-by rule is, “You can wander as far as you like, as long as you can still one of us.”
  3. Keeping track: Given crayon or pencil, kids can check each category as they find it to keep track of their progress. Some kids will love this. Other kids will want no part of writing or recording, but will prefer the thrill of the hunt. Follow each kid’s lead and let him or her record as little or as much as he or she likes. The important thing is that he is engaged in hunting and discovering.
  4. End and chat: Kids this age will nearly always let you know when they have had enough by dropping their cards on the ground, turning them into wings or swords, etc. Welcome the shift in activity as it comes, and later, ask kids about the experience, ideally over a well-earned snack.

Why is this activity great for kids?

Nothing piques curiosity and inspires even wee kids to focus like a “hunt!” Kids will need to use several senses to find the variety of items and categories on a well-rounded scavenger hunt. It’s amazing how having a challenge like a scavenger hunt inspires kids to pay closer attention to their surroundings. Searching for particular treasures will naturally build genuine curiosity about nature. Although the categories should remain rather concrete for kids ages 3 to 4, practice with grouping things helps them form the basis upon which they will learn to make connections between ideas, a most critical higher level thinking skill. Finally, the variety of categories in a hunt can really help kids realize the wide range of amazing creatures, plants and elements in the great outdoors.

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Do It Yourself

We think all families should be learning outside. Try this activity with your child and begin to see the power in outdoor, play-based learning. Have fun!

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