Scavenger hunts bring back joyful childhood memories. The excitement of the game, the thrill of the hunt, and the joy of the find! It can be a solo activity or fun for an entire group! Everyone gets to play, and everyone feels like a winner.
So, how do you make a scavenger hunt in your own backyard? The options are truly limitless. Use this guide to spark some creativity and get inspired! Below, you’ll find 20 ideas for creating your own backyard scavenger hunt!
Favorite Book Themed
Does your child have a favorite nature-themed book? Use that as inspiration for creating your scavenger hunt cards. Just make sure you’ll actually be able to find the items you’re looking for. That is, maybe don’t choose “Baby Beluga” if you live in Idaho. Think, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, My Friends by Taro Gomi, or a Beatrix Potter book! Though, no matter where you live, you’re certain not to find a kitten in a petticoat.
Outdoor bingo cards are great to have on hand. You can keep them at the ready for some quick backyard hunting or grab them before heading out on a walk. Not only will kids be searching around for pieces of nature to find, but they’ll also be vying for the elusive bingo streak! Solo or as a group activity, bingo is an easy-to-learn game that just goes so well with scavenger hunting.
The Artistic Eye
This one is all about thinking abstractly. Instead of listing actual items to find around the yard, choose shapes to look for. Can your child find something in the shape of a triangle? Maybe a fence hole that is shaped like a square? Or a rock that looks like a heart? All you do is list the shape to find and let your kid’s brain do the rest! This scavenger hunt gets kids thinking outside the box, and you might be surprised what kind of shapes they find!
Easter Eggs Aren’t Just For Easter
Break out those Easter eggs! You kids will be surprised and extra excited to see something they aren’t expecting! Fill with fun treats like little nuts, raisins, stickers, or maybe a dollar for older kids. Even little bits of nature will do! You know what to do after that. After your hiding is done, hand each child and basket and set them loose in the yard!
Younger kids will love this backyard search game! Use a small puzzle with large pieces, like 12 pieces or less. You definitely don’t want to choose a 1000-piece micro-jigsaw for this one…Place the puzzle pieces around your yard in easy-to-spot areas. Have your child search for them all, then assemble their favorite puzzle!
Flip The Game
Here, the kids get to make the game for you! Switch up the expectations and let your kids create their own scavenger hunt for you to complete. They’ll have loads of fun coming up with the items to find and making lists and charts. This is an excellent option for older kids who love creating their own games and rules.
Neighborhood Walk Themed
Make your scavenger hunt list and start by adding a few things from your backyard, then list items you know you’ll see on a walk down your street. Start off on your lawn, then lead your child on a search-and-find walk through the neighborhood! Look for things like mailboxes, trucks, the local friendly cat, or bicycles.
Double the trouble with this pirate-themed scavenger hunt! First, draw or paint out a treasure map. Maybe it depicts your yard with a dotted line that leads to a hidden treasure chest? Next, cut or tear the map into large pieces that will be easy to put back together. To keep it simple, choose a singular type of item to hide your map pieces, like “next to every tree” or “on top of every fence post. When your child finds all the pieces to the map, they can puzzle them together and set off on another adventure to find the treasure!
Make that hunt after dark! This is especially fun for a sleepover party when you want to keep the kids outside as long as possible. You can use any scavenger hunt chart you would during the daytime. The added variable of the dark really makes this game a challenge! Or throw in some nighttime-only finds, like an owl, a bat, stars, the moon, and moths.
A Simple Printable
Don’t have the time or energy to create something totally unique? Your kids will still have plenty of fun with a premade backyard scavenger hunt printable! It takes seconds to print off, yet will lead to loads of outdoor playtime. Laminate your printed cards and use dry erase markers to keep them reusable.
Create a scavenger hunt for nature pieces you can use to build a stick person! The recipe for a stick person is entirely adaptable to your vision. Perhaps something like 5 sticks (to make the body), a pine cone (for the head), and 4 leaves (for hands and feet). Maybe some maple seeds for hair? Or pine needles for a skirt? Leave the creation up to the kids, but you can get them started by providing a list of things to look for!
Seeing With Your Ears
Not all scavenger hunts have to happen with your eyes! What noises can you hear from your backyard? Talk about a good opportunity to enjoy some quiet time! You can list both nature and human sounds for your kids to listen for. Think bird calls, squirrel chatter, car horns, kids laughing, a lawn mower, or anything else that’s a familiar sound in your neck of the woods.
All Things Tiny
Get the magnifying glasses out; time to search for tiny things! Look for interesting little bits about your yard, like a bumble bee, some small tree moss, a bitty mushroom, and a little leaf. You can give each child a nature observation box to collect the items they find…as long as they aren’t buzzing bumblebees, of course!
Another variation on letting kids get creative with their scavenger hunt is to provide the description of an item for them to find instead of telling them exactly what to look for. For example, you can write “something that crawls” or “something that starts with the letter M” or “something stinky” …hopefully they don’t list their sibling as the last one.
Make It Official
Give this game a bit of polish by providing little clipboards and special writing tools. If your scavenger hunt cards are laminated, use dry erase markers so you can wipe them clean and reuse them. If you’re working with paper, you can tape a piece of string or yarn to the base of a crayon/pen/pencil, then to the clipboard to avoid losing it.
For the budding photographers, provide each child with a Polaroid camera. Instead of checking a box of each item they find on the hunt, they get to take a picture of it! At the end of the game, they’ll have a nice collection of nature photos to display.
On your scavenger hunt sheet, list multiple sets of items for children to collect. 10 pine cones, 8 leaves, 4 rocks, 6 acorns, etc. When they’re all done finding, let them create their own nature mandala – a circular arranged art to engage mindfulness. It can be as simple or complicated as they like!
Using laminated pockets can be a great way to use the same, and different, scavenger hunt sheets again and again! No need to laminate every individual page you use; these pockets will let you print & go.
This is another description-based scavenger hunt, but using gratitude as your guide. Kids search for things that make them happy, they think are beautiful, or smell nice! A gratitude hunt is a lovely way to introduce optimism to your kids.
Scavenger Hunt Kits
Really fun for a party, these scavenger hunt kits are packed and ready to head outside! Provide each child with a paper bag, a little list to find, and a pencil. Out they go to collect and check off items! After the hunt, the kids can empty their loot bags and compare their findings.
Now that you have lots of ideas on how to get started creating a scavenger hunt in your own backyard, there’s no stopping your nature exploring! Check out our other ideas below for more backyard play inspiration.