- Category: Local Adventures Activities
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- Written by Bryan
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A scavenger hunt has all the makings of an excellent family activity. Everyone gets to participate whether it is an individual activity or it is done with teams. There are also elements of competition and suspense. These activities can even be mixed with other Events and activities. For example, the Nature Scavenger Hunt can be done while on a family hike or the Tapehead Scavenger Hunt can be done as an icebreaker for a birthday or Christmas party. Most of all these are typically a real blast that create stories that will never be forgotten. You will find several different kinds of scavenger hunts listed in this article.
This scavenger hunt can be for any group and any set of ages. Have everyone gather at an entrance to your local indoor mall. Instruct everyone to come completely empty handed and with empty pockets. Divide everyone into teams of 2 people. Give each team a printed list with items like the sample below (assign point values to each item) along with a toy set of handcuffs. Each team of two must immediately use the handcuffs to attach themselves together. Then give the pairs an exact time that they are to meet back at this location and inform everyone that they will get 5 points deducted for every minute they are late and they forfeit if they remove the handcuffs. Let everyone know that they should never break any laws and to always show respect to others. If they obtain any items from a store they must obtain permission first.
Sample List Items
- Ketchup Packet
- Blue Hanger
- Price Tag that reads $4.79
- Single Square of Toilet Paper
- Movie ticket stub
- Perfume or Lotion Sample
- Sugar Packet
- Paper with the word "sale" on it in all caps
- Pin or Needle
- Napkin with a lip print on it
- Paper bag (not plastic) large enough to hold all your items
- Any piece of paper with a professional sports team logo on it
- A business card from someone you do not know
- An empty cup
- A receipt with yesterday's date on it
There are several variations on this scavenger hunt. All require some prep work so be prepared. The basic idea for all the variations is that you use photos as clues that people will follow.
My favorite version involves selecting several locations around town and using photo clues to have teams navigate from one site to another. It takes a serious amount of preparation so start planning a couple weeks in advance.
Start by taking a photo of a small piece of an identifying landmark at the locations. The key to each photo clue is to only include enough of the landmark in the photo to give a hint but still make the participant think about it. As an example you can take a picture of a restaurant sign but only the bottom right that shows only the last two letters of the name.
Next have all the pictures printed and seal them in envelopes.
At some point devise an order of the locations to develop a route that each team will travel. If there is more than one team, have them take different routes through the same locations. Simply label the envelopes so each team knows which one they can open at each location. The trick is to have all the teams end up back at the same location for their last clue.
Finally place the sealed pictures at the various landmarks. Be very careful to place the envelopes where they can be found by the contestants but not by a passer-by who might wreck the game. Even give the envelopes to cashiers to hold to be certain.
Divide into teams of 4 or 5 people with a vehicle and a driver for each team. Give each team their first photo and send them on their way.
The kids should be a little older for this one. You will need a digital camera for each person or team if you are using teams. Each person or team is given a list of situations, people, places or things that they need to take a photo of with the entire team in the picture. It is best to make this a timed contest and assign point values to each of the photo list items. However, this scavenger hunt can be set up in many different ways with great success.
Sample List Items
- Clown or Rock Band
- In a Gym on a Bench press
- Airplane or Helicopter
- On a Stage Holding Microphones
- Fruit Stand or behind the Meat Counter at grocery store
- A Reptile
- In a Fitting Room Trying on Hats
- Hugging a Nun
- Christmas Tree (in summertime is best)
- Behind Prison Bars or in the Back of a Police Cruiser
- On a Playground Slide
This scavenger hunt makes a great ice breaker for parties or gatherings where people may not know each other very well. My wife and I first did this at a large youth workers' conference and it instantly became one of our faves. First divide the entire gathering into 2 - 4 groups. We have usually done just 2 groups but if they are too large people will not interact as much. Once you have the groups divided, you will need a single volunteer from each group to be the tapehead. You then gear up the tapeheads as described later. Once the tapeheads are ready, pass out the sheet to each team with a list of items they must acquire and then attach to the tapehead. The first team to get all items or the most in a time period wins.
Tapehead Set Up
You will need a clean pantyhose leg for each team and a large roll of duct tape that can be used for all groups. Have each tapehead pull the pantyhose over their heads. Then tear 4 strips of duct tape about 12 inches long for each tapehead. With a new strip go around each head like a sweatband with the sticky side against the pantyhose but be sure to attach the 4 strips spaced evenly and hanging down from the sweatband with their sticky sides facing out. It will look like duct tape dreadlocks that can now be used to attach items.
Sample List Items
- Any coin from the 1980s
- Sock with yellow in it
- A paperclip
- Video rental membership card
- Receipt for dry cleaning
- Black shoelace
- Something musical
- A leaf
- Gum wrapper
This can be done with any size group and any age range. It involves very little set up and can be done on the floor in the living room. Place a very large stack of old newspapers and magazines in the middle of the floor. Give each person a piece of construction paper, a glue stick and a pair of scissors. Then have each person draw slips of paper from a bowl. On each slip is a topic that they must write a story about using only words that they can cut out of the newspapers and magazines on the floor. Stop after a certain time and have each person read their story. Judge on several areas and award certificates like "Most Words Used", "Most Creative", "Best Plot", etc.
Sample Story Topics
- Knight in Shining Armor
- Best Vacation Ever
- My Weird Uncle
- How a Pet Saved My Life
This scavenger hunt can be done for any age and with any sized group including individuals. It is perfect when combined with a hike or other outdoor activity. Before going outside, give each person a quart or gallon sized zip-top bag with a printed list inside it. The hunt starts as soon as you are outside. The person who collects the most items or the first person to collect all the items on the list wins. The list will vary by season and your region. The only issue that might come up is some outdoor areas have rules against taking natural items. Also, Leave No Trace principles frown upon taking any nature items from the outdoors. As an alternative to this, simply use the list and sign off items as they are seen - only the first person who sees an item gets it signed off.
Sample List Items
- Acorn Top
- Red Leaf
- Yellow Flower
- Water bug
- Piece of trash (this you can pack out as a clean up project)
- Smooth round pebble
Here is a simple scavenger hunt from the Smithsonian Institute that can be done outdoors.
We first did this one on a beautiful sunny Mother's Day. We broke into four teams, pairing the older kids together and my wife and I each taking one of the younger ones. It was such a blast. We started at the library then agreed to meet back there in 1.5 hours at which time we would tally our points to see who won.
It can work pretty much the same as a mall scavenger hunt but you get the enjoyment of working around in the open air. The list is geared more for downtown stores and restaurants.
Sample List Items
- Bag with no logo or specific company markings on the side
- Chop sticks
- Anything with the University or Town seal on it
- A piece of newspaper with yesterday's date typed on it
- Packet of sugar
- White napkin
- Flower petal
- Picture of your entire team standing next to a statue
- Church bulletin from this week
- Smooth stone
- Coffee bean
- Book published before 1970
- Piece of broken glass (be careful)