Engage Kids with Scavenger Hunts

There’s a certain age when many kids start to act “too cool” for family trips.  I’d say, it’s inevitable no matter how much you pride yourself on a strong, loving family dynamic.  These days, I see it happen when kids reach (approximately) eight years old (much younger than when I was a kid – I vividly remember enjoying family vacations until the early teen years).

In order to keep my 10 year old step-son captivated, I randomly discovered a really fun way to do it — scavenger hunts.  Last year, we went away for a few days and my infant son woke me up well before anyone else stirred.  To pass the time while everyone else slept, I took Jack for nature walks.  One day, after our early morning adventure, I came back, sat down and wrote out a list of things for our (then) nine-year-old to try and locate later in the day.  How easily it became a “thing.”


Every time we go away, he now asks if I have a scavenger hunt for him.  It’s adorable and I swell with pride that he actually enjoys them.  The lists are a fun way to stimulate active minds and get the whole family involved.

Tips on creating your own fun scavenger hunt for kids:

(1) Scout out the area when you first get there to assess what you’re working with.

(2) Choose some fairly easy objects to motivate your kids (red leaf from a tree, bird nest) and then get into more complicated items

(3) Engage their mathematical skills (how many basketball hoops on driveways can you count, how many stop signs between our hotel and the waterfront, how many grey front doors etc)

(4) Make them think and ask questions (find a robin’s egg, find a wishing bone shaped stick, locate a Ford vehicle etc)

(5) Don’t write the items in order of appearance along the route or it gets to easy. You want to keep them thinking and paying attention.

(6) Allow room for subjective judgement and encourage discussion about why they selected the answer they did (for example, locate a building that looks most like a castle).  Your children can then pick out what they think is the best answer and chat with you about why they picked it.

As in all activities, you’ll want to adjust the above based on the age(s) you’re working with.  For teens, make it more difficult or get them to write out a list for younger siblings, for example.  With the little ones, start simple and perhaps focus on colours and animals.



I now try to do one everywhere we go and I emailed myself a copy so I’ve got a great template.

I’d love to hear your fun ideas that you use to engage your kids.  Send me an email.


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