Last week, my sisters and I set out on a 500 mile road trip. My one year old could be distracted with toys, my three year old with coloring books, but what about my five year old niece? Toys and books only hold for a little while with a child that age. We didn’t want to spend extra money on a DVD player, just to have the kids staring zombie-like at the screen while we drove so we came up with something more creative, something that would engage her. We created a Scavenger Hunt.
A scavenger hunt is simply a hunt for random items. When the child sees the item, they can check it off their list. For my niece, since she is only five, we had simple items like a dog, a crooked tree, a mirror, etc., things she could find while either riding down the road or at stops.
There were the questionable items Annakay “found” like she saw gum on the ground, presumably while we were driving. She had also seen a weird sign at some point along the way that no one else had seen. It wasn’t a big deal, though, and we let a few slide on the premise that she was making an effort. She was very excited to find her items, more so when we were all involved in it. Imagine how suspicious we looked searching through a convenient store aisle by aisle to find a can of soup. Then imagine the dorkiness of me taking a picture of her holding up the can of soup! (You can see a slideshow of our adventure here.) Better yet was the last item on her hunt, a picture with a store clerk. The first clerk that I explained things to outright called us weird. We only laughed. Another clerk in the store was all too happy to pose with Annakay to complete her Scavenger Hunt.
So if you’re going on a day long drive to a destination hundreds of miles away or you are just going on an hour long drive, a Scavenger Hunt could be the perfect thing to set up to keep the hands and minds of the kiddies occupied.
-Make a List-
For younger children, simpler is better. For example, a piece of paper, a price sign, a flag. For older children, you can be more specific, like a green piece of paper, a price sign with a “1” on it, a state flag. List a variety of items that can be found while either riding down the road or while stopping for rest breaks or meals.
It is important to point out that in the event that more then one child is traveling with you, you should make different lists for each child. That way, they can communicate with each other, working together to find the items on their respective lists. This is teaching them the valuable lesson of working as a team… one which they don’t even realize!
Break down the lists into two parts: One for on the way there and another for on the way back.
You can just write it on paper and hand the list to them if you want, but it’s much more fun to make the list on your computer, using fun fonts and images to make it more interesting and “official” to them.
What’s a good Scavenger Hunt without a prize at the end? This doesn’t have to be anything expensive. You can simply give them “tickets” for their favorite meal, agree to take them out to eat at their favorite restaurant for some alone time, or a “ticket” for them to chose and rent any movie they want the next time you rent movies (within rating reason, of coarse). You can also roam your local Dollar General or the $1 toy aisle at Wal-Mart for a suitable yet cheap prize. For Annakay, we let her chose her own prizes ahead of time in the cheap toy aisle at Wal-Mart. She chose a Slinky for the completion of Part 1 of the Hunt and a girl’s beauty set with a brush, rings, bracelet and barrettes for completing Part 2. Not bad for two bucks.
To make the trip more memorable, consider taking pictures of them working on and looking for various things for their Hunt. You can buy a cheap photo album in many stores for no more then $1 and fix up an album for each child as a memoir of their trip.
So the next time you’re wracking your brain for an activity that will keep the kids occupied and out of your hair, consider setting up a Scavenger Hunt. You might even have fun with it, too!