Outdoor scavenger hunts are a fun and exciting way for kids to explore nature. They can be enjoyed by kids of all ages, and there are different types of hunts that can accommodate any skill level. Scavenger hunts can help teach kids about nature while also teaching them important skills like teamwork and problem-solving.
I have three kids of my own, and I have LOVED designing nature scavenger hunts for their various ages and capabilities.
How to Plan an Outdoor Scavenger Hunt for Kids
When planning a scavenger hunt, it’s important to choose a location that is appropriate for the skill level of the participants. If you’re planning a hunt for young children, for example, choose a location that is relatively easy with plenty of instant gratification items that they will be able to find – this will motivate them to find more and not get discouraged!
If you’re planning a hunt for older children or adults, choose a more challenging location with more difficult items to find. You can also do modifications such as a selfie style scavenger hunt (I have an example of this with my selfie camping scavenger hunt for teens!)
No matter what type of scavenger hunt you choose to do, make sure to have plenty of supplies on hand to ensure a positive experience. This includes things like water bottles, snacks, sunscreen and bug spray. It’s also important to dress appropriately for the weather and wear sturdy shoes (for example, flip flops are a nogo!)
Leaving no trace is important when exploring in nature, and it’s crucial to follow the seven principles of Leave No Trace when participating in a scavenger hunt. These principles include planning ahead, packing out what you pack in, respecting wildlife, being considerate of other visitors, disposing of waste properly, minimizing campfire impacts, and traveling on durable surfaces.
Interested in a nature scavenger hunt for kinder kids and under? Try this educational set of 4 nature scavenger hunts!
General Nature Scavenger Hunt Ideas
I will have premade nature scavenger hunts later on in the article, but I will also include them in a format that you can simple copy and paste if you wish to create your own custom/specific one!
All of these items can be found at most parks/backyards. There’s definitely going to be more options if you have access to nature trails or to a forest/nature park, but that’s why it’s handy to customize! I have bolded the items that kids could actually “collect” that are unlikely to leave a big impact in the area
- ☐ Ant
- ☐ Animal Tracks
- ☐ Beetle
- ☐ Caterpillar
- ☐ Bird feather
- ☐ Flower
- ☐ Ladybug
- ☐ Pinecone
- ☐ Green/Yellow/Orange Leaf
- ☐ Acorn
- ☐ Dead Leaf
- ☐ Stones (specify certain types for added challenge – round, flat, shiny, rough etc)
- ☐ Sticks (specify different shapes such as L, Y, etc)
- ☐ Shells (from various types of animals. We love snail shells!)
- ☐ Moss
- ☐ Bird Nest
- ☐ Grass
- ☐ Clover
- ☐ Pine Needle
- ☐ Mud puddle
- ☐ Tree bark
- ☐ Stump
- ☐ Spider Web
- ☐ Fallen log
- ☐ Dew
Extra items to add when in a neighborhood based outdoor walk (be mindful of private property, of course!)
- ☐ Flower pot
- ☐ Bird house
- ☐ Street Sign
- ☐ Recycle Container
- ☐ Biker
- ☐ Jogger
- ☐ Mailbox
- ☐ Fire hydrant
- ☐ Water hose
- ☐ Reg wagon
- ☐ Ball toy
- ☐ Bird bath
- ☐ Grill
- ☐ Playground
- ☐ Sprinkler
- ☐ Skateboard
Outdoor Nature Photography Scavenger Hunt Ideas
Outdoor photography scavenger hunts are a fun way to get some exercise and practice your photography skills. They can also be a great educational tool for teaching children about nature (plant and bug identification, structures in nature etc).
One of the great things about outdoor scavenger hunts is that they can be tailored to fit any skill level. If you/your kids are at a beginner photographer level, then you can choose simpler items to find, such as a leaf or a flower. For the more experienced, choose items that are more challenging, such as a bird in flight or a micro ecosystem such as ones around dead logs and steams.
Related – Try another fun way to include phones/technology in your outdoor time with this selfie camp scavenger hunt (it’s PERFECT for tweens!)
No matter what level you are at, here are some tips for having a successful photography outdoor scavenger hunt:
- Choose a location. It’s best to choose a location that has a lot of natural beauty and interesting objects to photograph. Parks, forests, and other natural areas are perfect for this type of activity.
- Make a list of items to find or photograph BEFOREHAND that are local This can include things like animals, plants, rocks, and waterfalls. You can also include more challenging items like abstract shapes or patterns.
- Set a time limit. typically, outdoor photography scavenger hunts last for around two hours. This gives you enough time to find all of the items on the list, but keeps things from getting too boring or tedious.
- Take photos as you go along. Once you find an object on the list, take a picture of it! This will help keep you focused and motivated as you hunt for all of the items on the list.
- Have fun showing your pictures and seeing everyone elses. I LOVE sharing pictures from a trip/seeing what pictures the kids took by streaming them to my TV so everyone can see and enjoy them as well!
Here are some ideas to create your own outdoor nature photography hunt – make it as hard or easy as you like (this is also a fun challenge to give kids to complete over a break/week time period)
- ☐ A bird in flight
- ☐ A close-up of a flowering plant at multiple different stages
- ☐ A tree with an interesting feature
- ☐ The inside of a cave or hollow of a tree
- ☐ The outline of a mountain against the sky
- ☐ A sunbeam shining through the trees
- ☐ Waves crashing on the shore
- ☐ A butterfly on a flower
- ☐ The moon
- ☐ A running stream with rocks
- ☐ Dew drops on spider webs or grass in the morning
- ☐ An animal eating something
- ☐ A bird perched on a branch of a tree
- ☐ Fungi growing on damp logs
- ☐ Clouds moving across the sky
- ☐ Dew drops on a leaf after a rainfall
- ☐ An interesting dead tree
- ☐ A shot framed by trees
- ☐ Rock that looks like something easily recognizable
- ☐ A Rainbow
- ☐ An interesting shadow created in nature
- ☐ Reflection in a puddle, lake or river
- ☐ Sunlight filtered through fog or tree limbs
An Easy, All Ages and Locations Outdoor Scavenger Hunt
An outdoor nature scavenger hunt can be a fun way for young kids to explore their surroundings and not miss out on all the outdoor fun! The scavenger hunt can be more open ended, with a focus on using sensory skills rather than reading to complete the task.
Another option is to opt for a picture based outdoor scavenger hunt so they won’t need any assistance at all! I love handing these out when we’re camping and I need my young kids to keep busy while we get thing set up.
I also love that it’s not item specific, so kids can get really creative with how they fulfill each item needed!
Some suggested items for the open ended outdoor scavenger hunt include (as always, not all of these are actually physically “collectable”:
- ☐ Rock that is bumpy/smooth
- ☐ Rock that is shaped like a heart/ball/square etc
- ☐ Leaf that is crunchy
- ☐ Leaf that is a certain color such as yellow/brown/red etc
- ☐ Something fluffy or soft
- ☐ Something sticky (pine sap and berry juice are common “finds” for this)
- ☐ Something sharp
- ☐ Something that smells good/bad
- ☐ An object that makes a sound (IE a crunch, scrape, leaf whistle)
- ☐ Something black
- ☐ Something shiny
- ☐ Something with a natural hole in it
- ☐ Something big enough to balance on
- ☐ Something that can roll
- ☐ Something with an interesting pattern
- ☐ A stick shaped like a letter (such as X or Y)
Outdoor Colors Scavenger Hunt
Lots of people tend to think of this during fall when the leaves have all their color, but it’s really fun all year round! This is great for younger kids exploring outdoors as it needs no help from an adult to understand what they’re being asked to do!
Mindful Moments Outdoors Scavenger Hunt
This style focuses on the calming, satisfying aspects of the outdoors that we enjoy. These prompts are great to encourage kids to have a love for the outdoors as they learn to appreciate all the little things in nature even more!
Here are some examples of a mindfulness focus outdoor scavenger hunt
- ☐ A place to hear the leaves rustle in the wind
- ☐ A pretty smelling flower
- ☐ A sunny spot to lay
- ☐ Soft grass that feels good on my feet
- ☐ A beautiful sight such as a rainbow or sunrise/sunset
- ☐ Remain quiet while watching a bird/squirrel from afar
- ☐ Find a small bug such as an ant to observe
- ☐ A warm rock to lay on
- ☐ A flower of your favorite color
- ☐ Makes you smile when you see it
- ☐ A sandy/muddy spot that feels good on my toes
- ☐ A soft/fuzzy plant that is nice to touch
- ☐ A nature smell that makes me smile (fresh rain, fresh cut grass, pine, salty ocean etc)
Ready to get exploring outside with kids – download your 5 free outdoor scavenger hunts here!
I hope you have gotten some ideas that will work for your outdoor scavenger hunt! If you prefer something premade, I created a ready to use pack of five that’s perfect for kids of all ages. It is black and white so there can be some coloring fun too! =D
These are for personal use only – please do not attempt to resell or redistribute them as your own. Thank you!