Nature scavenger hunts are an excellent way for children to learn and explore their natural surroundings. I’m sharing some of my favorite nature scavenger hunt ideas for kids and giving you some tools to create your own.
You can do scavenger hunts indoors or outdoors, but outdoor scavenger hunts have all the benefits of nature. You can make a scavenger hunt as simple (a checklist of items) or complex (riddles and clues) as you want to fit the children’s developmental level.
How Do You make a nature scavenger hunt?
- Print Nature Scavenger Hunt PDF
- Print Blank Nature Scavenger Hunt PDF
- Make you own list on a sheet of paper
- Create a digital nature scavenger hunt on a notes app or by taking a screenshot
- For paper copies, bring along a clipboard and a writing utensil
- Bring a phone or camera to take photos
Creative Nature Scavenger Hunt Ideas
- Water Splashing
- Rough Bark
- Smooth Rocks
- Gooey Mud
- Sticky Sap
- Dusty Dirt
- One Item for Each Color
- 5-10 Items of a Single Color
- Shapes & Sizes
- Something Tall
- Something Tiny
- Something Round
- Something Triangle
- Something Flat
- Something Heavy
- Stars or Constellations
- Barefoot Texture
- Cool Grass
- Pointy Rocks
- Soft Mud
- Rough Sidewalks
- Wet Puddles
- Warm Sand
- Bird flying
- Worm crawling
- Spider spinning a web
- Dog barking
- Leaves falling from trees
What do you put in a nature scavenger hunt?
- Anything from the list above.
- Think about what’s in your backyard, neighborhood, or park.
- Look up destinations like a nature preserve, hiking trails, local beach, or local park. Find out what types of plants and animals are there.
- Krissy Hadick, an archeologist and founder of The Hadicks, suggests:
- “Add animal tracks as a fun way to problem solve with your child by determining which animal the tracks belong to.”
- Check out your local environmental agency websites. Learn about common plants, animals, or natural features in your area.
Questions & Discussion Topics
- What do you think happened?
- Where should we go next?
- How can we do this differently?
Developmentally-Appropriate Discussion Topics
- Toddler Topics – What they experienced like weather/sensory experiences, staying safe, not hurting plants, bugs, or animals
- Preschooler Topics – Talk about plant cycles, animal behaviors, how to take care of nature
- Younger Elementary Topics – Talk about how humans impact the environment, talk about the relationships between different parts of nature, talk about the natural history of the location
Free, Printable Nature Scavenger Hunt Templates
Why should you do a nature scavenger hunt with kids?
Kids can explore all the wonderful features of nature while learning about science and developing cognitive skills.
There are many benefits of spending time in nature, and scavenger hunts are a great way to enjoy them. Some of the benefits include:
- Connection with nature
- Emergent science skills
- Physical activity
- Mental and emotional well-being
Extending Your Scavenger Hunt
- When appropriate, interact with your discoveries using multiple senses.
2. Fill an empty jar or bottle with your discoveries from the scavenger hunt.
“Step over ants, put worms back in the grass, rescue baby caterpillars, release spiders back into your garden, open windows for bees to fly home. They are little souls that deserve a life too.”Simple Organic Life
3. Create a photo album, scrapbook, or display of your photos.
4. Write or draw the story of your scavenger hunt.
Finishing Up on Scavenger Hunts for kids
Considering brain chemistry, we know that a scavenger hunt can be a mood booster. When you find something you are searching for, your brain gets a dose of dopamine. Dopamine gives a feeling of happiness and reward.
Outdoor scavenger hunts help children connect with nature. Through nature scavenger hunts, children develop emergent science skills like observation. Nature play benefits children’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.