Search Cool of the Wild Start typing...

Scavenger Hunt Ideas to Get Your Kids Outside

Kids scavenger hunt on the beach

Scavenger hunts are the perfect way to get your little monsters out into the fresh air and learning a thing or two at the same time. It’s the perfect camping activity and once they get into exploration mode they can be ferreting away in the dirt for hours. New-found discoveries will divert their attention to the finding of yet more curiosities. Making sure you have lots of cool scavenger hunt ideas at the ready will not only be great fun for all the family, but can also be useful to pull out of the bag at times when you simply need 20 minutes of quiet to yourself.

So take a look at our printable scavenger hunt ideas for some inspiration, to make sure your cheeky monkeys will never be short of fun things to do again.

What is a scavenger hunt?

If you ever see kids scampering around the place, collecting seemingly random objects with more excitement than is fitting, then they are probably doing a scavenger hunt. Unlike a treasure hunt — where clues or riddles are hidden, each clue leading to the next — a scavenger hunt is carried out by participants collecting items on a scavenger hunt list. Once each item has been found, it gets ticked off the list. Highly satisfying for all involved!

There is no set format for a hunt, so variations on the basic idea can add a bit more excitement or competition:

  • Add a time limit to collect as many items on the scavenger hunt list as possible.
  • Join with others to create a group and then compete with other teams for a prize.
  • Add a theme to the hunt such as pirates, Harry Potter or fairies and goblins, and set related challenges with mandatory dressing up.
  • Use different methods for completing the hunt including list ticking, object collection, photography or find it-make it hunts.

4 outdoor scavenger hunt ideas

Outdoor scavenger hunts are definitely a great way to get the kids interested in nature. Plus, they’re super fun for families to do together to explore new places. They can provide a focus for walks or outings or simply be a good reason to get out of the house. They are also a great option for kids to do while camping.

Here are a few outdoor scavenger hunt ideas that will be sure to bring out the inner Dora in your budding explorers:

01Beach scavenger hunt

Everyone loves a good old beach treasure hunt, and the beach is the perfect location for true scavengers to really make some unusual finds. The sea and rock pools offer an endless array of strange but beautiful things, and the tides throw up a whole load of interesting stuff on the shores, ready for the pickings of keen beach combers.

For more ideas of things to do at the beach, read our beach games article.

Type of hunt: collection of items
Things needed: bucket, pencil, clipboard, printable beach scavenger hunt list

Download printable version

scavenger hunt beach

02Woodland scavenger hunt ideas

Exploring in the woods or forests can be magical and mysterious. Hunting for tiny items, high and low, will uncover a whole new perspective on the wonders in nature. With something new under every leaf or upturned log, the hunt will take you deep into a discovery dreamland that may leave you wondering how to get back to the start!

Type of hunt: collection of items
Things needed: bag or bucket, pencil, clipboard, printable woodland scavenger hunt list

Download printable version

Printable scavenger hunt for woodlands

03Scavenger hunt ideas to do on walks and hikes

A great way to record a day out on the trail with the kids, is to do a photo scavenger hunt. It will also act as a good distraction technique when the miles start to get the better of them. Get them to take photos along the way and then create an album or collage of your day. Once they’ve done one photo scavenger hunt, you can get them to come up with lots of different photo scavenger hunt ideas, both indoors and outdoors.

For more ways to keep kids entertained on walks, read our trail games guide.

Type of hunt: photography
Things needed: camera, spare batteries, pencil, clipboard, printable hiking scavenger hunt list

Download printable version

Scavenger hunt for hiking

04Nighttime scavenger hunt ideas

A nighttime scavenger hunt is one of the most exciting nature scavenger hunt ideas out there. It should most certainly satisfy the adventurous spirit of the more intrepid hunters out there. So plan to get out to hills, beach or even your local park on a night that is forecast to be clear, and get exploring the sights and sounds that dare to come out in the dark hours.

Read our guide to night hiking for information on how to plan an after-dark walk.

Type of hunt: list ticking
Things needed: flashlight or headlamp, spare batteries, pencil, clipboard, printable night time scavenger hunt list

Download printable version

Scavenger hunt for nighttime

Different types of scavenger hunts

Scavenger hunts can be done in all sorts of places: in the house, at school, in the car, at the park or anywhere outside. They can also be done in different ways, depending on where you are or what’s on your scavenger hunt list. A few different ways to do a scavenger hunt include:

Collecting objects

This method is good for nature scavenger hunts, at the beach or in the woods, but can also be done in the house or park. Take a bag or bucket and collect each item on the list to take home. A neat way to make use of all the items is to create a collage or sculpture afterwards.

List ticking

Sometimes you just can’t take things away with you, like sounds and smells, or scenes and people(!). So list ticking is a good way to encourage the use of more of your senses, and to enjoy a non-competitive scavenger hunt.

Photo scavenger hunt

Use this method in a similar way to the ‘list ticking’ method, but when proof is needed for a competition or timed game. This is also a good way to encourage creativity by thinking up new photo scavenger hunt ideas.

Actions and challenges

Team scavenger hunts lend themselves well to the completion of challenges or actions. These might be something like getting your whole team in a phone box or asking questions of strangers. You can let you imagination run free when writing the scavenger hunt clues and challenges, the more obscure the better, so try to get some funny scavenger hunt ideas on your list.

Find-it-make-it scavenger hunt

This is a great way to make a hunt last a long time, and for more creative participants. Get the scavengers to find things on the list and then challenge them to make something out of the items. This can be anything from searching the cupboards for ingredients to make a recipe, to finding material in the woods and garage to make a bow and arrow. Here are some of our favourite ideas for things to make, all you need to do is write the list of objects:

  • Fairy house in the garden

  • A catapult
  • A mobile made from beach items
  • A tipi made from wood in the forest
  • A bow and arrow
Scavenger hunt on the beach

Why are scavenger hunts so much fun for everyone?

As with most kids games, when adapted well, there are loads of scavenger hunts ideas for adults that can be just as fun as for children. Team challenge style hunts are great for team building and can be a good giggle on a night out – add some forfeits to up the ante and keep the competition hot. Alternatively, release your inner Sherlock Holmes and explore a new area or town with some cryptic sleuthing and puzzle solving.

Our favourite scavenger hunt ideas for kids stimulate a sense of adventure and curiosity, and encourage them to properly look at their surroundings in detail and with interest. Scavenger hunts in the outdoors will leave them finding things and places they might never have known existed, discovering some weird and wonderful parts of nature in all its glory.

Hopefully these scavenger hunt ideas will have gotten you inspired to get out exploring and to come up with your own hunts for your kids, family or even your adult friends. You can download our blank template to make it nice and easy. Enjoy!

Joey Holmes

Joey Holmes
Joey is based in Cornwall, UK, and runs Cool of the Wild. She can’t get enough of being outdoors – whether that’s lounging around the campfire cooking up a feast, hitting the trail in her running shoes, or attempting to conquer the waves on her surfboard – she lives for it. Camping is what she loves to do the most, but has also spent many hours clinging to the side of a rock face, cycling about the place, cruising the ski-slopes on her snowboard, and hiking small mountains and big hills.

Open Menu