After the first egg hunt we had for the kids, we knew there was something special about this activity that could be expanded over any holiday, season, rainy day, or "just because" activity. Even more so now that they are a bit "older" as preschoolers, they absolutely love solving a clue and running to find the next. There doesn't need to be any extra special treats or presents at the end -- just the sheer challenge of finding a piece of paper taped in an awkward place, makes them feel like this note was especially meant for them to find.
While it requires some prep work on our end, scavenger hunts can be simple and confined in one section of your home or backyard, or complex and ranging across your city, focusing on familiar and memorable places you've visited together. Or better yet, how about clues to places they haven't been to yet but are charged to find, discovering new sites about their city?
If you have but an hour, think of places closer to home or in your neighborhood such as a fire station, grocery store, post office, or neighbor's tree blooming with pears? Since these are public spaces, place the clues (try rhyming words if you dare) hidden where only your little ones could find them (for example, taped to the bottom of a mailbox at the post office or underneath a slide). And if you have more time in advance, hand the clues to people in charge of these locations so that your little ones could make new friends while learning about occupations (like a firefighter, butcher, mail clerk, etc.)
If you have more time and can spend a day on a scavenger hunt, make a list of unique things about your city (3-5) and visit them after the kids have solved their riddles. Ask them to bring something they've discovered about this new place back with them as a memento about the day and hunt. If your kids are into cameras, a snapshot of their answer is just as fun and can easily be placed into a scrapbook.
Ideas may range from a unique art sculpture or statue erected in the middle of downtown, a fountain or clock tower in a shopping district, historic building or odd-shaped building, or finding their state flower alongside a highway.
And if you want to jump into the fun of a family scavenger hunt, turn to technology and check out geocaching (if available in your city) where your GPS tracker sends you on an outdoor treasure hunt placed by locals. We did this a few times, and the kids enjoyed opening up the geocaches to find a small trinket left behind. (Our last container we found was hidden for 3 years!) Before you leave home, gather some small treasures your kids don't mind parting with to place in the containers that are then put back for the next hunter to find.
Extend the Learning
Share facts about the new places and structures you and your littles ones have stumbled upon. (You can usually find these quickly online before you go.)
Use clues that encourage the children to use and practice cardinal directions.
Be respectful of others enjoying these public sites.
Have the kids bring along their journal to doodle or write about what they see.
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