Monday, August 15, 2011

Scavenger Hunt

The last few days of summer break are upon us.  The boys know it and have been restless all week.  Literally, my house was shaking from the second floor down to the basement as the boys rumbled and romped around.  In an act of desperation, I devised a nature scavenger hunt that kept the boys busy during part of nap time. 

I managed to get a few minutes of quiet-  just enough to get the babies down for their beauty sleep.

I concocted a list of items that are located in our yard.  I had simple requests ranging from clover and walnuts to specific plant leaves like maple trees and basil.  I included different names for weeds and rocks to encourage a wider vocabulary.  I did throw in a few "hard" items like bird feathers, snake skins, and ripe blackberries.  They were there, they just had to look.

I paired the older readers with the younger crowd and let them run the yard.  They scoured the sand box and garden.  They foraged in the grassy yard and picked the trees.  It was entertaining and kept the boys focused on a goal.  The team with the most objects won the privilege of choosing the movie or show during nap time. 

This is an activity that can be held any season of the year and offers a wide variety for adaptation.  You can discover the beach or a forest floor.  We focused on the backyard this round.

Here are a few guidelines to hold a successful nature scavenger hunt:
  • Keep it simple, but specific.  I like to include measurements or specific colors.  Examples are "5 inches of Maple tree bark" or "a brown pebble".
  • Include a variety of objects that are common.  Rocks to leaves are plentiful in most areas.
  • Vary the height for found objects.  It's okay to have children look for objects a little above their eye level and on the ground.  Encourage them to explore the outdoors.
  • Include a few hard scavenges.  This evens out the playing field and makes the game a lot more fun.  Snake skins and bird nests are wonderful discoveries for children.  Provide them with gloves and let them go!
  • Allow a few creative opportunities.  I include open descriptions like "something that bounces" or "something that flies".
  • Set a time limit.  Give the children an appropriate time frame, but don't give them too much.  You want to challenge them without allowing discouragement or downtime.
  • Provide bags, rulers, gloves, magnifying glasses, and any item the child might need to collect their items.  It sounds simple, but you need a way to haul all those treasures.
  • Ask and answer questions about the items they are finding.  Use this game as a teaching moment.  If you don't know the correct answer admit it and look it up together.

What unique finds do you have hiding in your backyard?