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Scavenger Hunt, ages 8+

Age: 8 to 8+ Time: Under 1 hour
Materials: scavenger hunt clues; cardboard; pencil; string
Skills: Curiosity, Making Connections, Naturalist, Sensory
Even though a “scavenger hunt” is a pretty directed activity (at least 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. If you give kids ages 8 and up clues that not only challenge them to focus and make new discoveries but also challenge them to make connections and categorize objects, this activity becomes not only engaging but undoubtedly worthwhile. 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 lose your explorers for a bit to the thrill of 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.” For explorers ages 8+, we’ve found that focusing on abstract categories like “critters who build nests” or “evidence that an animal lives here” give kids a real chance to be challenged. Pictures are fun, but including them may actually limit the creativity and depth of connections that kids this age can make. So, we've left them out and encourage kids to draw or write about what they find. Download a sample of Tinkergarten® Scavenger Hunt Clues for kids ages 8 and up.
  2. Set them free to hunt: Kids should wander as independently and as far as safely as possible during the hunt. Before you set them on their way, though, set up boundaries and/or a rule to follow. Our stand-by rules for older kids are, "Travel with a buddy" and “If you explore on your own, you can wander as far as you like, as long as you can still one of us.”
  3. Keeping track: Given pencil (colored or grey), kids can check each category as they find it to keep track of their progress. They can also sketch what they see, using their drawings as "evidence" that they have found a given object.

  4. Add competition? It's up to you and your group of kids, but this age group can respond really well to a little competition. If you have more than one kid with you, include either a a time limit or team challenge. Make sure there is a clear way to record or "prove" that each player or team has found a given object or category. There's little more demoralizing to kids this age than a truly cheat-able system.
  5. End and chat: End when kids are 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 inspires engagement and development 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 close attention to their surroundings and hold that focus for longer than usual. Searching for particular treasures or categories of treasure will naturally lead kids to want to hunt for more, building genuine curiosity. Although the categories are still somewhat concrete, practice with grouping things helps kids learn to make connections between ideas, a most important 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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