Fun Friday: Winter Nature Scavenger Hunt

Fun Friday activities are quick-and-simple ways to explore nature in your own backyard

The idea
Shake up our usual neighborhood walk with a nature scavenger hunt.

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Thanks to Michele of Fun Orange County Parks for pointing me in the direction of this free, downloadable checklist of items. (You can find it and others like it at Hearts and Trees.)

Winter nature scavenger hunt

I’m a big fan of this list because it requires kids to use multiple senses – they must look, listen and touch things in nature. Better yet, this checklist doesn’t require kids to remove any of their found items from the natural environment.

Instead of using a pre-made list, you can also make up your own in just a few minutes. Keep it simple with things like “something red,” “something round,” “something old,” “something wet” and so on.

Our notes from the field
It was one of those afternoons when The Big Explorer was whining about going for a walk. When I asked him if he wanted to go on a treasure hunt (which are very big in his world at the moment), he perked up immediately. Suddenly he was tripping over himself to get his shoes on and grab a jacket so he could head outside.

As soon as we left the house, he grabbed the checklist out of my hand and took off looking for his first treasure. We found it right across the street: A tree that has lost all of its leaves.

Tree with no leaves

We also had to search for a tree with rough bark.

Touching tree bark

And something with thorns.

Something with thorns

Although I was certain we wouldn’t find animal tracks anywhere in our neighborhood, my son proved me wrong. He found these (of the canine variety in concrete, not mud or snow):

Animal tracks

With some help from my hubby and I, The Big Explorer was able to find many of the items on the checklist.

I consider it an added bonus that what was intended to be an activity for my son turned into something the whole family enjoyed. And what was normally a routine walk around the neighborhood was transformed into a nature adventure.

Take-home tips
It doesn’t take much to make this activity a hit. A couple of things to help ensure success:

  • Bring the list – and something to write with – on your walk. The Big Explorer was fanatical about crossing found items off the list, so I was glad I’d remembered to bring a pencil.

  • Get familiar with the items you need to find before heading outside. You don’t have to memorize the list, but the more familiar you are with it, the easier it will be to point little ones in the right direction.
How about you – have you been on a nature scavenger hunt with your little one? 

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  1. Anonymous says

    I think I might have to make one of these for my boyfriend – he gets very bored &amp; restless very easily, maybe it&#39;ll occupy him for an hour or two, and get us out the stuffy flat! Maybe as a little treat, the last &quot;treasure&quot; to find will be a pub 😉 <br /><br />Sarah –

  2. says

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I think I will leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

  3. says

    Dawn, I&#39;m glad you stopped by! Wow — what an experience to move from Cali to Canada! I hope you enjoy the nature hunt — if you adjust the items on the list a bit you can try this any time of the year. If your kids like treasure hunts, this will be a big hit. Have fun!

  4. says

    I was searching for nature ideas and found your blog… what great fun you have in nature AND in LA of all places! <br />We moved to Nova Scotia, Canada from Ventura almost two years ago… It is fun to see your nature fun in Cali! We do miss it!<br />This is such a great idea. I am going to make up a hunt for our forest. It will be great next winter too when it is a little more difficult to get

  5. says

    Looks like you guys had a wonderful walk, Michael! Thanks for sharing the photos. It&#39;s fun to see what items you found in your neck of the woods that we don&#39;t have here.