Scavenger hunts are an excellent way to get kids of all ages interacting with nature. It gets them investigating not only the big things around them but also the smallest of details. With so many different ways to adjust and alter scavenger hunts they can never get old or boring.
Scavenger hunt ideas from the simplest to the most advanced:
3D Scavenger Hunt -
For the youngest of nature goers (my two year old can do this!). Simply pre-collect some items that your child is familiar with along with some that they might not already know. Place the items out on the ground in an area where they can found. Point to the items and then encourage your child to try and find an item that matches. Some examples of what to include - pine cones of varying size and shape, flowers (this could be a way to practice colors as well!), leaves of varying size and shape, rock, pine needles, feathers, etc. If you have an older child doing this as well you can challenge them to find the exact same kind of leaf, flower or pine cone not just generally the same thing.
Picture Scavenger Hunt -
I made this for my daughter this year as a way to do a scavenger hunt while we are on a walk or run in the stroller or at the park. You can download images from yahoo of things that can be found in your yard or neighborhood, print them and the put the images on a binder ring to make a little flip book. I choose very simple, clip art type images for our first version but as Sam and Avery get older I plan on making ones with more detailed/specific images. Feel free to use the images I have used by clicking on the link.
Take your child on a walk with a list of a wide range of items to look for. You can be as specific or as general as you feel comfortable (chickadee or bird, either will work!). Here are some great things to include; a place where an animal could hide, a natural animal home, a man-made animal home, a hole that is not in the ground, a path where animals walk, a thorn, animal scat (also known as poop!), a sign of the season, a leaf that has two colors, something that is red (or any color!) and whatever else your imagination can come up with!
Sensory Awareness Scavenger Hunt -
Make sure your child knows and understands what their senses are and how to use them. Review the senses before you start this scavenger hunt and be sure to pay close attention to exactly what your child is touching and smelling. Here are some ideas for what to include;
To touch - something soft, something sticky, something rough, something smooth, etc.
To smell -a flower, a green leaf, a brown (dead) leaf, the ground where a puddle use to be (in other words a place that might still be moist), a tree
To listen to - a bird call, the crunching of a leaf, the wind rustling the trees, a frog calling, etc.
To see - anything mentioned in the previous hunts!
To taste - this could be neat to do at the beginning or end of the hunt as a snack. Tell your child you are going to "find" an apple (or any other fruit or vegetable!). Then blindfold them or have them close their eyes and taste different fruits and vegetables until they "find" the apple.
Competitive Scavenger Hunt -
For older kids that like to compete! Give them a list and have them race to find as much as they can. Then challenge them to come up with their own lists of things to find to give to each other.
Storybook Scavenger Hunt -
Select a nature themed or nature related book. Read the book pointing out and paying close attention to what is in the text and pictures of the book. Once you finish, go back through the book with your child and ask them to point out things in the book that you might be able to find, then head outside with the book in hand! Again, this version can be as generic or specific as you are comfortable with.