Getting outside can be hard, and trying to figure out where and how can be even harder. Don’t despair parents! There is hope for those of us who don’t have a ton of time, but still have the desire to get our kids outdoors. Even a short walk can provide an interactive, tactile experience for your kiddos. Whether you have the entire day to spend in the mountains or ten minutes to chug tepid coffee and walk the kids (and dog) around the block, the beauty of a scavenger hunt is it can be tailored to fit any location, time, and season.
I am a firm believer that even a small interaction with nature can have large and lasting effects. Environmental stewardship starts at home and who better to teach them about all the amazing, little, natural things packed into their neighborhood than you?! Considering we are in the depths of Portland winter; I’ve decided to embrace the challenge of cultivating a scavenger hunt suited for our present situation. Now, there are a few things that are always available, no matter the season or weather to a Pacific Northwest kid: evergreens, moss, and wildlife just to name a few! We may have some of the dampest weather in the country, but all that moisture provides an awful lot of motivation for green things to grow, even in the dreariest of months.
Here are two guidelines to inspire your scavenger hunt:
- Let your kids know that if they don’t find everything on the list, it’s okay! The goal is not to cross off every item, it’s to get outside and let your kids take a closer look at the nature around them. In order to keep it fun, I want to stress that there should be no stress!
- There are obvious substitutes that can be enacted depending on the sort of day you’re heading out in. If it’s a beautiful sunny day, chances are, your scavenger hunt wont have a puddle, but it may have the shadow of a tall tree that your little one can stand in for five seconds.
So, for those of you brave enough to put on the galoshes, wind up the scarf, and outfit your kid against the late-winter weather, here are 17 things to look for on a Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt for your PNW kids:
- Find a puddle, and jump in it… twice.
- Find some moss anywhere, anyhow. It could be growing on a tree or in the crack of a sidewalk.
- Spot a dog. Extra points if the dog actually has spots. Petting is optional.
- Spot a cat. Petting optional unless it’s excessively fluffy. If so, petting is encouraged.
- Find a bird’s nest.
- Spot a squirrel.
- Can you find one growing thing? Something small and fragile, something that makes you think spring is on the way?
- Find a tree smaller than a house.
- Find an evergreen.
- Find a deciduous tree.
- Find a shiny rock of any size. It could even be a pebble!
- Spot a garden box.
- Can you find a leaf on the ground?
- How about a branch on the ground? Does it have any leaves on it? If it does, how many?
- Can you hear a bird song?
- Do you see a cloud?
- Can you spot a bug?
Helping children focus in on the minutia of the outdoors will allow them to see the wilderness in their everyday lives. If your kiddos find something they really treasure on your scavenger hunt, I strongly urge you allow them to bring it home. I know, just one more item to add to the clutter, but hear me out. There are lots of things you can do with all those nature treasures!
I would love to hear how this little scavenger hunts works out for you! How many layers of Gore-Tex did it take to actually get outside? Can you think of more things to add to the list? What made the experience fun for you and your kiddo? Please leave a note in the comments!