Need a simple activity to get the kids some fresh air and get out of the screen time rut? We’ve got you covered!
Dads all know we have an influential role to play in our kids’ lives, but sometimes knowing what to do with them doesn’t come naturally.
Like, we want to spend time with our kids, but figuring out the what and how is tough. And let’s face it, kids don’t always make it easy. How many times do we have to lug their scooters a half-mile home until we realize it’s a bad idea, or tell our big kids that no, we aren’t going to go back inside to play on the iPad?
That’s why these outdoor nature scavenger hunts are brilliant. They get us out of the house for a good chunk of time, wear the kids out, and earn us bonus points with our spouses so they can get some much needed alone time.
Not to mention, they’re great for kids of all ages. The little kids can simply find stuff that might be readily available in the backyard or a park, and the big kids can run around and cover more territory. Even your sulkiest teenagers can participate (or be bribed/threatened/cajoled into participating) by snapping photos on their phones and seeing who can complete their list first.
The cool thing about nature scavenger hunts is that there are a few different ways you can do them so it never gets old. Here are a few different variations to get you started:
Alphabet Scavenger Hunt:
Have everyone write the letters A through Z vertically on a piece of paper. Go outside and set a timer for 30 minutes. See how many items each person can find that start with the corresponding letter (i.e. rock for R, feather for F, and so on.) Younger kids may want to collect the items in a box as they find them. Make older kids find them in alphabetical order. Whoever wins gets to pick the family movie that night, no complaints from everyone else! Find a list of our favorite 80s movies to watch with kids here.
Nature Scavenger Hunt
There are so many ways you can do a nature scavenger hunt. If your kids are on the younger side, keep it simple and pick the items you know they can find. Pine cones, leaves, rocks, etc. can make it challenging enough for your toddler and also bring out their inner hoarder, so make sure you’re wearing something with pockets. We included a printable list to make it easier on you.
The opportunities for your bigger kids are endless. You can have them find items based on color (i.e. find 10 items that are green) or season, or even by shape (i.e. find 15 round items in our backyard and write them down).
Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt
Want to win dad of the year? Get all the kids together in your neighborhood, put them on teams, and have them see who can find all the items on a list first. Include some easy items, like a flower or white house, but also make it challenging by adding a few things like a red mailbox or a cat in a window. Here’s a link to a printable list here.
This is a great activity to do with the kids when they get wired with the anticipatory lead-up to the holidays, and it can be done indoors or outdoors. Design scavenger hunt clues that lead to items specific to Christmas, like stockings, mistletoe, ornaments, and stars. You can also have them solve riddles in order to find a special present. Best of all? This can be easily adapted for any holiday.
Strapped for time? There’s an app for that.
Luckily for us dads, there are some great apps that can help make scavenger hunt planning easier—and maybe even a little more fun. These are great for dads who like to take it one step farther by planning large-scale scavenger hunts.
GooseChase is an app that lets you create a new scavenger hunt or pick a theme from the database. You’ll then get a route and clues to send to your participants. Awesome for older kids or if you’re looking to plan something for a special occasion.
Locandy offers pre-made scavenger hunts but includes more elaborate adventures where decisions made by the participants influence the flow of the story as well as the ending.
Emoji Scavenger Hunt by Google is a phone-based tool. Google will let you know which items to look for and the camera will identify if you’ve found the right item. It combines the best of tech while getting your body moving too.
Don’t forget to try Geocaching.
Geocaching is a more interactive scavenger hunt game that lets you hide items in real “caches” around the world for others to find. When you find an item, you can replace it with your own. This is a game you can play anywhere and can provide hours of fun.
Whatever you choose to do, go in with the right attitude.
We get it. After a long day’s work, it can be hard to want to spend an hour carrying around a rock or consoling a crying 8-year-old who didn’t win the hunt. But remember that you’re creating memories that will last a lifetime, and your kids will brag that they have the coolest, fun dad.
Even if they won’t admit it to your face.
You might also like: 20 Awesome Ways for Dads to Spend Time With Their Daughters