Scavenger hunts are quick and easy to create for preschoolers. Since young children have no or few reading skills, you don’t have to worry about spending a lot of time makings lists of things to look for. And, unless you think it is absolutely necessary, you don’t even have to create a scavenger hunt sheet with pictures.
The following five scavenger hunts are completely spontaneous – perfect for a child who gets tired of walking or needs a distraction that doesn’t involve harassing a sibling. All of these nature scavenger hunts encourage kids to look around and notice more things about nature.
Can a rock be pink? Do pine needles feel smooth or rough? What is the first flower you’ll find in the spring?
Yes, you can also play these at the mall, but a forest or park is a much more pleasant place for a stroll.
Color Scavenger Hunt
Pick a color, any color, and encourage your preschooler to look for as many instances of this color as they can find during your walk. Don’t make things too easy, say, looking for green in a forest during the summer; this will be so boring your child will lose interest.
Even if you don’t think your child will find the color, it may surprise you what you can find when you focus on the hunt. Pink can show up in mushrooms, flowers, rocks, and even some soils.
Shape Scavenger Hunt
Although preschoolers are familiar with looking at shapes on flashcards and posters, it is much more challenging to try and find those shapes in nature. This isn’t impossible or frustrating; I’ve had lots of young students walk through the woods tell me that they see triangles in a pile or branches or rectangles in a stone wall, all without my prompting them to look for shapes.
Remember, a sphere doesn’t have to be perfectly round nor does a square need sharp corners for this observation activity. Think of this as an activity in creative thinking as well as a drawing skill.
If your child is learning her letters along with some words that start with those letters, give this walk a try. Chances are that your preschooler focuses on learning a different letter each week in school, so you could focus your walk on that letter or sound.
You can also prompt your child as you walk, saying the names of the different things you see and having your child notice which words start with the letter of the walk. At the end of the walk, play a memory game review and see if your child can name the things they saw that started with the letter “T.” This activity also teaches children the simple names of the things they see in nature.
Season Scavenger Hunt
While walking, look for signs of the season. Although the trees don’t disappear with the seasons, they do change in appearance. Encourage your child to make comparisons between how nature looked on their last walk and how it changed (or is changing) with the change of season.
Follow your nose, your fingertips, or your ears in this search. Listen for five different sounds. Find five different textures or focus on identifying a particular texture such as smooth or bumpy. Sniff a living tree, a downed log, a leaf crushed in your hand, a twig that you’ve scratched the bark from.
So often we focus on what we see and this walk will challenge the way both kids and adults notice things in nature.
Preschool Scavenger Hunts: Become Nature Observers
Planners can tweak each of these scavenger hunts so preschoolers look for different colors or use a different sense each time they go on a walk. Kids will become accustomed to being nature observers and may end up creating their own spontaneous scavenger hunts as they point out all the interesting things they see.