There’s no better way for kids to get familiar with the world around them than to explore it. If you find it’s a hassle getting your child outside to enjoy the learning opportunities nature provides, try taking her on a nature scavenger hunt. Your child will have to to use all of her senses to find out more about the world around her.
Starting Your Backyard Scavenger Hunt
Before you even begin, make sure you and your child are both ready to partake in a scavenger hunt. That means finding a place to explore where your child can take samples of leaves, pine cones or sticks (you cannot do so in nature reserves, for example), making sure you are dressed correctly to avoid ticks and other insects and are prepared for all types of terrain and weather.
You may even want to make a Nature Journal to take with you to record all the observations and answers to scavenger hunt questions. There are actually some really great tools available to take with you on a Backyard Scavenger Hunt, including magnifying glasses, bug vacuums and small habitats. (For more information about this type of equipment, read my review of Backyard Safari Outfitters Field Gear.)
Scavenger Hunt Materials:
- Nature Scavenger Hunt List or a Nature Journal
- paper or canvas bag for item collection
- Backyard Safari Tools
The Scavenger Hunt List:
Once you have arrived at your location (or stepped outside into your backyard), it’s a good idea to get your child familiar with her surroundings before rushing off to find things. Begin slowly. Ask your child to:
- The sound of the wind. What’s it blowing through to make that sound?
- Insect sounds. Can you identify an insect by its sound?
- Birds. What noises are they making? Why do you think that they're making that noise?
- Animal tracks.
- A small lizard, frog or insect to examine more closely in an enclosed habitat.
- Signs of insect activity.
- The home of an animal. (Stay away from beehives and anthills, though!)
- Clouds in funny shapes.
- Something you’ve never seen before.
- Trail markers.
- Small streams.
- Signs that animals have been where you are. What are those signs?
- The different types of trees. Do they smell the same? Can you describe their smells?
- Flowers. What do they smell like? Do you like the smell?
- Green grass vs. muddy grass. How do they smell different? Why do you think that is?
- The grass and bushes. How do they feel on your hand? How do they feel different from each other?
- Mud or spongy areas of ground. Can you see a source of water that makes it wet?
- Tree bark. Describe the texture.
- Downed trees. Does the wood feel different than that of living trees?
- The wind blowing. What direction is it coming from? Is it warm or cold? Gentle or not?
- Something small and round. What is it?
- Something small and irregularly shaped. What is it?
There are other things you can incorporate into your scavenger hunt as well, things that don’t easily fit on a checklist. For example, you can ask your child to imitate the movements and sounds of the various animals you see or to point out the different colors she sees around her.
As long as you’re not on protected land, she can dig in the dirt, turn over big rocks and logs to see what’s underneath and just run around to feel the way the wind changes as she moves.
In the end, your child will have connected with nature in a way she may never have before and you will have found a way to have some outdoor fun after all!