When schools and daycares in my area shut down, I was naively hopeful about my ability to occupy my kids all day. Sure, we were practicing social distancing, but we have toys and books and plenty of art supplies, I reasoned. We have imaginations! We have Disney+!
Six thousand days later (i.e., one month in), my boys spend a lot of time looking up at me asking: Now what?! And increasingly, I’ve got nothing for them.
Thankfully, the genius readers of HuffPost Parents have creative scavenger hunt ideas to share. Many of these options don’t just work for people with yards or easy access to non-crowded outdoor spaces; they work equally well indoors, if you’re a city-dweller like yours truly.
Here’s what they had to offer.
Enlist outside help.
Do you have grandparents, aunts and uncles, or family friends who are really missing your kiddos and who are desperate to connect? HuffPost Parents reader Nancy said her kids’ grandparents have mailed them scavenger hunt items for their daily walks, which is a fun way for them all to connect — and seriously ups the novelty factor.
“They were just note cards with things they thought we’d see, but the kids loved it!” Nancy said. “Then they got really creative and sent a ‘listening’ scavenger hunt full of sounds we had to hear in our walk; airplane, motorcycle, dog, bird, people talking. That one was really creative!”
Another HuffPost Parents reader, Emily, said her mother has come up with this cute and creative way to stay involved from afar: “I’m hiding coins all over, and Grandma is calling my little one to say, ‘Oops! Last time I was there, I forgot I hid those for you!’”
Lean into learning.
Several parents suggested scavenger hunt ideas that are also sneaky ways to work a bit of learning into your kid’s day.
“My daughter likes the math scavenger hunts,” said Angela. “Go find five crayons, three lovies, and two babies. How many total items? How many if I take two crayons away?”
Mary Lisa suggested having your kids do a five-sense hunt — so, have your kids find something they can see, smell, hear, taste and touch — as well as an ABC scavenger hunt that helps them work on phonetics and letters. “Find something for each letter of the alphabet,” she said.
If your kid is more of an advanced reader, try a phonetics-based scavenger hunt, which is what reader Lynne did for her kiddos.
Get out for a drive.
If you all need a break from the house, turn a quick drive into a fun activity by writing out a list of things for your kiddo to spot as the world whizzes by.
“We’ve been doing car scavenger hunts!” said HuffPost Parents reader Sarah. “It gets them out of the house for a bit, and if they find all the items, they get a small treat. Each time we change what they have to find.” Some ideas: a stoplight, a car of a particular colour, a dog, a bird, etc.
Amy, another HuffPost Parents reader, turned it into a game of bingo focused on local monuments — with some fun activities peppered in.
Make use of Zoom/FaceTime/your preferred technology.
Reader Jen’s 14-year-old son recently had a blast doing a quick scavenger hunt as part of a Zoom birthday party. Put together a real mix of things you can find around the house (a hat, a highlighter, a vegetable, etc.) and give everyone on the call a short time to rush and grab the items.
“The boys were given five minutes to find everything and assemble it for viewing by the rest of the ‘party,’” Jen said. “He, surprisingly, quite enjoyed it.”
Head out at night.
Reader Brooke has kept things interesting by simply switching up the time of day when scavenger hunts happen: “[We put] tea lights inside Easter eggs hid at night for glow-in-the-dark hunt,” she suggested.
One (perhaps obvious) note: Make sure whatever light source you use is safe.
When in doubt ... keep it simple.
“Because we are lazy, and believe in bribery, we threw balls and shot off Nerf arrows outside,” said reader Jennifer. “The boys get an M&M or small something for every two balls or arrows retrieved — which they have to run to. It gets the energy out.”
And isn’t that what we all really need these days?