February Outdoor Tradition: Nature Scavenger Hunt
All kids—from toddlers to teens—can become nature detectives
A scavenger hunt is a great way to explore your backyard, neighborhood, or any green space. It's fun for the whole family and a surefire activity for a play date. Here are some ways to adapt this game for every age:
TODDLERS AND PRESCHOOLERS
Teach little children just learning about the world around them to use their five senses to “hunt” for natural treasure:
Sight: Have them find different colors in nature, or ask them if certain “outside” things remind them of “inside” things. (i.e. clouds look like marshmallows)
Hearing: With closed eyes, ask the child to tell you what they hear. Birds? Wind in the trees? Water gurgling in a stream?
Touch: Find a few natural objects with different textures—the bark of a tree, a pebble, grass. What does it feel like?
Taste: Here’s an opportunity to teach safety—eating things in nature is usually not a good idea! But some things they can taste, like berries or honeysuckle nectar—if they check with a knowledgeable grown-up first.
Smell: Again, have them close their eyes and smell the cool winter air, a flower, freshly cut grass.
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL KIDS
As kids get older, adding a little competition can help get them engaged in the outdoors. Here’s how Molly Balint, author of the Mommy Coddle blog, gets her kids outside on a nature hunt:
“My kids don't always wake up each morning and race out the door to play in the fresh air and tall, green grass… Some days, I have to give them a little push. A little direction on my part can drum up excitement for what lies just outside our door.
One of my favorite ways to get my children busy exploring their backyard habitat is to send them on a scavenger hunt. By giving them just a few items to search for around our yard, I find that they will quickly discover much more than what is on ‘the list.’ It is a great way to start an outdoor adventure.
Send your children out with any "tools" you think they might need — a clipboard, pencils, a basket or bucket for collecting, a magnifying glass. Before you know it they'll be discovering all kinds of natural treasures in their own back yard.”
Be Out There’s got the tools you need:
And Molly Balint has her own nature scavenger hunt, too. Share with us your own list on Twitter or Facebook!
Let’s face it: at a certain point, your kids will roll their eyes when you suggest a nature scavenger hunt. TV, video games, texting—technology is often tough competition for your kid’s attention. NWF believes that technology can be used as a tool to connect kids with nature.
- Geocaching might be the ticket to getting your family off the couch and outside! You use a satellite-linked location finder (a GPS unit) to track down boxes filled with "treasures" of all kinds hidden outside. Visit www.geocaching.com.
- Try to capture the wildlife in your neighborhood – with your camera, of course! Have your 13-18 year olds enter the youth competition in the National Wildlife Photo Contest.