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Scavenger Hunts: Finding Fun on Trail

Posted by abredl at Jul 18, 2018 12:30 PM |
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When you go hiking with your kids, add a scavenger hunt for a new level of fun. | By Wendy Gorton

By Wendy Gorton

If you're looking for some outdoor fun for your kids, WTA is bursting with possible adventures for you and your family. Getting your kids involved in the planning can help build excitement. WTA’s hike finder map is a great place to start and it can help you find a trail close to your home.

A small notebook is a great tool for a young hiker. It can be the home for planning, questions, identification and memories before, during and after a trip. It also can house a fun way to keep engaged on the trail — scavenger hunts. 

  Xavier (left) documents his observations on the trail. Kids may enjoy setting up their own pages before they hike (above). Photos by Wendy Gorton.

Creating the scavenger hunts with your kids makes it more fun for everyone. Once you’ve chosen a trail, spend some time reading WTA’s Hiking Guide and trip reports with your kids, using the information for inspiration in creating their own scavenger hunt list.

Ask your kids: What might they find? If it is something that is abundant, like stairs or a certain wildflower, they can challenge themselves to find multiples of the item.

Once they know what they’d like to look for, make a list with little checkboxes in their nature journal (or on any sheet of paper around the house). They can be general — a bird — or specific — a Steller’s jay. Or go super specific— a juvenile Steller’s jay!

If the scavenger hunt items are unfamiliar, do a Google image search or check a guidebook so your kids know what they’re looking for. They could even doodle the hunt items in their journal. (Drawing the items obeys Leave No Trace principles by not taking things from the trail.)

Once on the trail, how you use the scavenger hunt is wide open. Perhaps you want to take a peek at the trailhead and then take it out again at the turnaround point to mark off finds all at once. Or your kids can keep the journal in their pocket or hand (or, likely, your hand). In that case, they can scratch items off as they find them. Or maybe they will drop everything and sketch a pinecone, take a moment to trace a needle or write a question for follow-up later.

lola and bingo_ryan ojerio.jpegEncouraging kids to make their own scavenger hunt lists keeps them engaged on trail all day. Photo by Ryan Ojerio.

Once they’re back home and reflecting on their trek (What did they enjoy? What’s a word of advice? How would they rate this hike?) you can see if they’re interested in sharing their knowledge and experience by writing (or co-writing with you) their own trip report.

They could even post their scavenger hunt for others to use, whether that means taking a picture of it or typing the items into their trip report. Revel in your adventure and start shopping for the next one! Creating and implementing a scavenger hunt inevitably has some failure built in, and that’s good, too.

For example, in the dry summer, the question of “Why didn’t we find any water?” is as important as any. This brand of failure is good for kids to experience and recover from. You can also encourage your kids to see unfound items as a bonus — it gives them a chance to amend their hunt and an excuse to return again.

This article originally appeared in the Jul+Aug 2018 issue of Washington Trails Magazine. Support trails as a member of WTA to get your one-year subscription to the magazine.