It does not matter if you live in a small rural town or in New York City, it is important for your family to be familiar with the area in which you have decided to call home. When your child is older they are going to have to navigate the town or city (as well as its surrounding areas) alone. It is best for everyone involved if they start to learn the layout and landmarks at a young age. It will save time later to familiarize them this way and they will be grateful for it. All of this is especially true when you move into a new area. In that situation, you yourself will need to learn the area too.
Scavenger hunts that are organized within your town are a great way to simultaneously teach your kids the lay of the land and have a fun family outing. And, best of all, the clues for a scavenger hunt in such environments are easy to make.
As far as scavenger hunt ideas go, you have a lot of options here. You’re going to want to start by picking out the important land marks in your area. Say, for example, there is a market or corner store down the street from your home. This is likely a place where your child will be shopping on a regular basis due to the proximity to your living space. So you could create a clue that reflects that. Perhaps an item on the list could be something sold at that market, or perhaps a riddle referencing shopping could do the trick.
Focus on things like that. You’ll want to make clues that lead to shopping centers, statues, schools, physical land marks (such as creeks or forests). Anything that you want your child to know about the area should be incorporated. Activities that can be done at a certain area, such as swinging at a playground, could serve as the clue itself. Get creative here. Try and let them make connections themselves.
Selecting Items for Your List
You have two viable methods when selecting the items to go on a list for town or city based scavenger hunts. The first option requires less time for planning and preparation, and that option is to base the list around things that are already there. So, to go back to our hypothetical about the market near your house, you could make one of the items a bottle of milk, or a pack of chewing gum (You might even be able to get some grocery shopping done if you plan it right!). These are items that you do not have to place yourself that you know will be there when you come around.
The other option is to leave items scattered around. This presents a few added difficulties when attempting to come up with a coherent theme and set of clues. Each item would have to be something logically associated with the location at which it is left. So if you want to make your children think of a certain place and you want to place an item there yourself, you may have trouble coming up with something that isn’t already there.
In addition to this issue, there is also a chance that someone might take whatever you leave. The longer the time interval between when you hide the scavenger hunt items and when the actual scavenger hunt takes place, the more likely it is that someone could happen upon your hard work and ruin it. Because of this risk, anything that you place yourself should be something that you are willing to lose. It is vitally important that you never use anything expensive or irreplaceable.
Conducting the Scavenger Hunt
You’re going to want to try to be as passive as possible when the actual scavenger hunt happens. Take it easy and try to let the kids decide where they think the objects will be. Drop hints if they need them, but give them a little while to think first. Then, if they’re having trouble, try to gently suggest some places that might fit the object or clue they are working with. If you have multiple children you should encourage them to cooperate and brainstorm with each other.
To get from place to place, you should either plan the scavenger hunt so that it everything is within reasonable walking distance from your home, or so that you can easily access each place with a very short drive. Of course, if you have a really young child you are going to want to make sure that they can handle the length of the walk. And if your child has medical issues – such as asthma – then you are going to want to take that into consideration during your planning phase.
That being said, use the scavenger hunt as an opportunity for your children to get out and exercise some. You can always park a block or two from your destination so that you get a nice relaxing walk to the next item on your list. This also allows everyone to get to know the area more intimately if necessary. You are more likely to remember an area if you walk through it rather than if you drive by it.
If it is hot outside, or if there is going to be a lot of walking, be sure to bring plenty of bottled water with you. Keeping your children hydrated during exercise is important for their health! Extended exposure to heat can do serious damage to a young child. No one wants to deal with any nasty sunburn on their five year old, so sunscreen might also be a good idea. Just make sure you take the weather into consideration whilst making your plans, and don’t be afraid to delay the activity if the weather is not permitting. No one wants to go through miserable weather to complete a scavenger hunt!
At the end of the day, you may want to reward your kids for their hard work. Make them feel like they have accomplished something. Praise them for their riddle solving skills. You might even want to buy them an ice cream cone. It is all up to you when it comes to specifics, but positive reinforcement can be a powerful thing.