Half term holidays are soon upon us and with it comes another endless discussion of ‘what are we doing today?’ As we scramble around, frantically searching the internet in another desperate attempt to avoid the inevitable ‘I’m bored’ chorus… Sounds familiar?
Well, Conker Crew have the answer for you! The humble scavenger hunt. And I’m not talking high-res pictures, laminated worksheets and generic ‘nature’ finds…Oh no. We are talking about simplifying our lives and our enjoyment of being outside with our crew and that doesn’t mean trying to find examples of leaves that don’t grow in our neighbourhood or trying to get our three year old to find a specific tree. Enjoying the Great Outdoors is not an elitist pastime– we don’t always need identification skills or to put the miles in. We just need to stop. Enjoy. And BE IN nature.
And a scavenger hunt is the ideal way to do just that. They can be done anywhere, at any time, in any locale…you don’t have to travel far or put in hours of planning. Sounds perfect, right? This is about giving meaning to your meanders, not just getting from A to B and ticking off ten things as quickly as possible but more about allowing ourselves to stop and notice where we are and what we can see. So, the things you will need are not the things you will try to spot; they are the things that will allow you to comfortably pause.
Begin with location. If you know the route you are taking, ask yourself if there are any natural sit spots, places to pause and take five. These might be a den, a tree stump, a small clearing in some woodland, some low-lying branches or even a bus stop, park bench or wall. Are there any places that are particularly woody or muddy, any rope swings or balancing logs or if you’re off around a more urban setting, skate ramps, walls, kerbs, steps all offer climbing, balancing, game-playing opportunities because a good scavenger hunt is an active activity…running and jumping alongside looking and searching will provide infinitely more engaged participants – and they’ll be burning off a load of energy to boot!
If you don’t know your route, keep it short and simple but be prepared to think on your feet – keep your eyes open for potential ‘sit spots’ and places to pause and physically play in between your ‘hunting’.
After location, our next consideration is clothing – thick or double-paired socks in wellies, waterproofs and layers for ALL. Yes for ALL, even you, the grown up, because if you can’t sit on that log or that wall they probably won’t either. And if you’re cold and wet (and we’ve all been there) then that is when we hurry things along and cut a walk short and ultimately end up taking home our small bundles of un-expelled energy. And that is no fun for anyone. So, if waterproof trousers aren’t your immediate go-to, a waterproof picnic blanket is a good alternative…something to allow you to pause and observe, to sit and to chill too.
And the third top tip is like with everything involving kids….Snacks. The obvious winter warmer is the flask of hot chocolate or warm juice or mini-marshmallow toasting kit and these can be great carrot-danglers for getting to the ‘next bit’. We’ve all used that method, right?! But stopping for a quick bite, a cheeky nibble, some light refreshment offers another reason to stop and pause and notice our environment. Another chance to be in nature.
But what are we scavenging for? Well, that’s the beauty of this – anything and everything…because like most of our parenting skills, we make it up as we go along. You keep it pertinent to your walk and your space and your interests. Environments are changing all the time; one walk on one day may provide frosty leaves, icy puddles and glistening spider webs which the following day are replaced with dew-covered bushes, muddy ditches and dripping branches. Colours and shades are good for scavenger hunts too – bright graffiti art, poster images and advertisement designs alongside moss and lichen, fungus and mushrooms. You can call out items to ‘hunt’ along the way, as and when you spot them – this way the scavenger hunt is tailored to your family and your child, your abilities and your interests.
Now if this is too simplistic (can it ever be?!?) or if you need something to engage older children too, then you can add some card, some stickers or a pencil to a bag so that their finds can be either drawn or written down along the way – more opportunity to take those moments to pause.
This can then be used at a later date as a more traditional scavenger hunt to give a different feel to the same route – a great idea for slightly older kids as they then feel some confidence in ‘leading’ the walk and sharing their knowledge of what can be seen, heard or found along the way. And a bag allows items and treasures to be collected and taken home, which in turn offers up some home-learning and craft activity opportunities (science and nature, English and writing skills, counting and maths skills, Geography, art and drama – the list is endless)…and who isn’t keen for an easy option with that right now?!
So, there it is…a different take on the old favourite, the scavenger hunt. Take it easy, keep it simple and go slow. Being outdoors provides us all with an opportunity to draw breath and feel alive. The scavenger hunt is not the purpose of the walk but the impetus to keep on moving and noticing, allowing us all to embrace some fresh air fun in our ‘hood.