Everyday, Simple Idea #15: Scavenger hunts

color and shape huntI am sharing some of the simple, daily things I do at home as a Mom that come from my occupational therapy background.

#15 Scavenger hunts

What? The basic idea is to give kids something to look for- either verbally or visually written down.  They can be a fancy as nicely laminated road trip scavenger hunts to use with a white board marker, or as simple a scrap piece of paper with simple pictures drawn on it.

When? I use scavenger hunts when I need to get my kids engaged in an outing or to pass the time on a day stuck at home.  I’ve used them to help get through a long grocery store trip, long-distance car rides, and rainy fall weather.  I also build them into family activities, such as a walk to the park, eating dinner out, and playing at grandmas as a chance to teach new skills.

Why? I use them to help build observation skills, visual processing, and executive function skills such as attention, task persistence, and task completion.  The key is to find the level of scavenger hunt that is just the right challenge to keep a child interested, but not too hard that they give up.

Beginner level:color hunt

  • Colors, such as an outdoor walk looking for flowers of each color
  • Familiar items, such as looking for familiar food during a grocery store trip
  • Recognize child’s own name, such as a label on a gift or on their seat at the table

Intermediate level:

  • Shapesshape hunt
  • Patterns, such as dots, stripes, zig-zag, etc.
  • Letter Recognition- find words that start with each letter on street signs, license plates, or in books
  • Phonics- find items around the house the begin with each letter of the alphabet
  • Opposites- big/little, dirty/clean, etc
  • Themes for each holiday- look for certain Halloween or Christmas decorations

Advanced level:

  • Find something that fits a 2-4 part description (something with yellow, black, and round edges)
  • Adjectives that are not as easy to see, such as rough, smelly, smooth
  • Object functions- find something that you use to clean, something you eat, etc

Don’t have paper and pencil?

  • Play the game verbally, as in the traditional “I spy” game

Ways to make it more fun?

  • Let your child use an old digital camera and take photos of each thing they find
  • Make it a treasure hunt, hiding clues at each step along the way to find a bigger prize
  • Give them a time limit and race to find the items on the list
  • Work cooperatively as a team, if you find everything, everyone gets a prize
  • Play a “people-watching” version- find someone wearing a hat, glasses, red hair, etc.

A quick Google or Pinterest search for “scavenger hunt ideas” will give you lots of results to print off and use with older children, but I encourage parents to get creative and think about how to make it into a fun family and learning activity.  These blogs have some great ideas:

My Kids Adventures

Scavenger Hunt Fun

Hands on as We Grow

Paige Hays is an occupational therapist who provides in-home, pediatric occupational therapy services in the south metro area of the Twin Cities, MN. She is a mother of 2 girls, avid DIYer, and a highly skilled and experienced OT. She specializes in working in pediatrics, with diverse expertise ranging from cognition and sensory issues to working with children with neuromuscular disabilities or complex medical needs.