1. The Look-and-Learn Backyard Scavenger Hunt
Number of players: One to three peewee hunters (kids up to age 3 or 4 and their parent coach)
Coordinates: Your own backyard, or any safe, level, grassy enclosure
You need: One small pail or bucket for toting items back to base camp, and pictures of items readily found in nature so kids know what to seek
Search for: A stone, a flower, a worm, grass, soil, a weed, a branch, a leaf, an evergreen—even an herb or veggie growing in a pot or garden
Make it easier: Mount pictures onto a cardboard sheet—five to ten items maximum. Cover the pix with a page protector.
Boost the challenge: Help kids find one or two unfamiliar items—say, a mossy patch, an ant colony, or anything else they’ll find thrilling. Eyeball these items ahead of time, though, to avoid disappointment.
The hunt ends when: All kids gather their items. Everyone’s a winner. Display their finds on a large blanket or picnic table. Celebrate with an outdoor lunch.
2. The Guess-What-I-Am Nature Home-style Scavenger Hunt
Level: One up from rank beginner
Number of players: One to four school-age kids, searching individually or part of a team
Coordinates: Your yard, your block, or a small park
You need: A bucket for each hunter, parent supervisor, a list of clues (no specifics; see the list below)
Search for: Any or all of the following items: something round, flat, smooth, lumpy, pointy, slimy, fuzzy, fluttery, sticky, or squishy. Find opposites (big, small; wet, dry) or three sizes of a single item.
Make it easier: Let the coach assist searchers.
Boost the challenge: Players bring back a “surprise” item they think no one else noticed.
The hunt ends when: Searchers return with their bounty for a picnic and selfie celebration.
3. The I-Never-Noticed-This-Before Neighborhood Challenge
Level: Not hard—super fun and full of surprises for savvy searchers
Players: All ages welcome
Coordinates: Up one neighborhood block and down another; or a ball field, a park, or another safe and familiar environment
You need: Parents and/or older kid to serve as team photographer/team leader, and a list of things that are always there but rarely noticed
Search for: Some examples: a street address with the number 7; an intersection with 4 stop signs; houses with 3 stories; a deer crossing; a house with a gate; property with no houses; windows without panes; doors without windows; an asphalt driveway; a red car; a blue truck; a chain-link fence; a bug; a bee; a bird; a dog on a leash; and a stray cat
Make it easier: Give searchers extra time at the end if they need it.
Boost the challenge: Not necessary for this one
The hunt ends when: Searchers return. Evaluate the pix, and award points based on the most items found within the preset time limit. No winners. No losers. Everyone celebrates with ice cream.