What child doesn’t love a treasure hunt? Armed with a list of items to find, summertime presents the perfect opportunity for children to discover the treasures, both large and small, that nature has to offer. Taking time to observe nature through an interactive lens teaches children about nature, but will also inspire them to develop an appreciation of the beauty that surrounds them.
While a nature themed treasure hunt can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish, to make your treasure hunt a success, take time to learn about the location where you’ll be holding your hunt. Research what types of trees, insects and flowers are naturally occurring in the area so the hunters can find what they’re looking for.
When planning your treasure hunt, you’ll also want to take the ages of the hunters into consideration. Toddlers may do better with pictures of items on index cards, rather than a written list of items to find. Older kids may enjoy the challenge of finding hidden treasures, like bugs on the undersides of leaves, while younger kids may be easily frustrated if they are unable to find items in plain view. If you have kids of all different ages participating in the hunt, pair younger kids up with older ones for a team event. You’ll also want to set a time limit for your treasure hunt based on the schedule of those participating.
To enhance the experience consider giving each child a backpack filled with a disposable camera, notebook and colored pencils to record their findings. Bug nets, magnifying glasses, glass jars, binoculars and small plastic bags can also enhance the treasure hunt for children so they can catch, store and transport their findings.
Once you’ve researched your area, considered your hunters and designated the hunting hours, make your list of items to find and things to do.
Here’s a starter list of items that are perfect for beginning treasure hunters.
Things to Find
· Spider web
· Birds nest
To create a simpler hunt for toddlers, ask them to find something of a certain color or shape, and then share with them what the item is. Something green could be a leaf, a piece of grass or the stem of a flower. Preschoolers can be asked to find items of a relative size, like a stick longer than their thumb or a rock bigger than a penny. Be sure to advise all children never to eat anything from nature without asking you and to keep their hands out of their mouths and away from their faces during the hunt.
Things to Do
· Keep a field journal and draw the items you find
· Take pictures of items you find
· Go for a hike
· Sing a bird song
· Catch a tadpole
· Climb a tree
· Wade in water
· Feed the ducks
· Sit on a rock
· Watch the sunset
Younger children can be asked to jump over a rock, to pick a flower or to make the noise of a specific animal. Older kids can be asked to indentify animal tracks or types of trees. The goal is for them to experience nature firsthand in a way they can best relate.
After the treasure hunt, encourage the kids to share their treasures by creating a collage of their drawings or a display of the items they found. Have everyone wash their hands and enjoy a nature themed snack of Goldfish, fresh fruit or animal crackers and a glass of cold water or fresh squeezed juice. Ask the children about their favorite findings and to share ways they can help keep their environment healthy.
You may also want to read a book about nature like the Picnic by Charles Baines or Maisy’s Nature Walk by Lucy Cousins for toddlers or Why?: The Best Ever Question and Answer Book About Nature, Science, and the World Around You by Catherine Ripley and Scot Ritchie for preschoolers and elementary school children.
Before wrapping up your treasure hunt experience take the opportunity to talk about being a responsible citizen and discuss ways you can help keep the environment healthy. Perhaps you can make a family agreement to never litter, to begin recycling or to pick up trash when you see it at the playground or on a walk.
There is no better way to teach kids about the beauty of nature than by having them experience it firsthand, and a summer nature themed treasure hunt will give them just that.
Dr. Caron Goode is an inspirational speaker, spiritual coach, and prolific author of fifteen books. Dr. Goode has become a well-respected leader in the parent coaching industry. She directs the Academy for Coaching Parents International that trains students in Heartwise™ parent coaching.(academyforcoachingparents.com)
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