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The ultimate puzzle

Over the past two months, parents have scrambled to work, teach and entertain children while spending more time in their homes than ever before. While virtual schools have provided ample online academic content, many restless parents and children have been looking for creative ways to learn and explore.  Scavenger hunts offer great learning experiences that tease the brain and get children and teens engaged and learning. The best part is there are many that can be done in your home or front yard.

Learning does not have to take place sitting down. In fact, children can develop all kinds of academic and social-emotional skills by exploring their environment and solving puzzles together. 

“Scavenger hunts are fun for the kids, and there is learning taking place,” Toerin Leppink Kintner, mother and teacher at Evergreen Community Charter School in Asheville, said. “Kids do better when they can be active in their learning. Being outside can help with emotions and well-being.” 

Natalie Dorsey mother, physician’s assistant and certified teacher in child development, said scavenger hunts can teach all sorts of developmental lessons. She said children can work on sounds (find things that start with the “c” sound) and counting (find 5 yellow flowers), following  steps to find the next clue (take 5 steps and then turn right), prepositions (look inside the box, look under the table), and following directions (walk down the road to the stop sign, turn right and look along the curb for your next clue). 

“Scavenger hunts allow kids to work on academic skills while also moving around so it is an easy way to make learning experiential,” Dorsey said.

Parents have endless options when deciding what scavenger hunts to do or create. 

“You can make clues that they have to figure out to get the next clue, nature scavenger hunts – where they have to find certain things such a fern, butterfly, spider web, brown leaf, green leaf, yellow flower, purple flower – and toy scavenger hunts inside – toy with wheels, a yellow toy, a toy that makes sounds, a toy for building,” Dorsey said. 

Try these ideas for creative scavenger hunts:

Have multiple children work together

Scavenger hunts offer the opportunity for multiple children to build team-building skills and solve problems together. “When there is more than one child, have them work together, not against each other,” Kintner said. “It is best not to set up too much competition, but rather, have them work together to get to the end. Then coach them on how to be a team.” 

Use All Your Senses

When creating or searching for a scavenger hunt, think about tapping into the many clues and activities you can include. 

“Consider a ‘sound’ scavenger hunt outside,” Dorsey said. “Listen for a bird, dog barking, truck, airplane, water moving. Sometimes we depend on our vision too much and forget about what you can do with all of the senses.”

Word and Picture Scramble

Consider using items or technology you have access to in your home when creating a scavenger hunt.

“In our family, I have college age kids and I wanted to do a scavenger hunt for them,” Kintner said. “I used hints with words that were scrambled, and I also took pictures where the next clue was hidden. With the photos, I took a closeup – a lamp shade, ceramic tile, vase. I printed the picture and cut it up. They had to work together to put the pieces together and then figure out what it was and then find where it was in the house. You can make this much easier. My kids had to work together. Each remembered something the other one did not. It took about an hour, so it was fun and a little different. You can modify any of these to make them fun for different ages.”