Summer with kids is wonderful.
It can also be really, really hard.
If you’re looking for new activities to sneak in exercise and promote some late summer learning, have I got a good one for you! Pokemon Go and Geocaching have been all the rage lately, but what if you could weave reading, writing and critical thinking skills into a similar but screen-free activity? Get the kids together and craft your own home-made scavenger hunt, then head out for a morning (or evening) of adventure.
Plan out the rules and format of your hunt so that everyone has a good time:
- Will there be a prize for each participant?
- Will there be a reward for the first to finish or the most detailed response?
- Will answers be written down or recorded on film?
- Will you work as individuals or teams?
- If you choose teams, how will you divide them?work in teams, how will those teams be divided?
Choose and research your location:
- Find a location you know well or select one that is less familiar – either way, you and your family will hone your research skills while discovering new and hidden treasures. Parks, zoos, downtown city centers or your own neighborhood are among the possible venues for exploration.
- Gather as much information as you can about your location and take plenty of notes. What are its physical features? Are there any unique attractions? You can do this through a preliminary visit, or through researching secondary sources (like the library, a location’s website, or local government offices).
Develop and write your clues:
- Once the research is complete, review it as a family and decide what pieces of information will be helpful for your scavenger hunt.
- Select information that will aid in crafting a good hunt, being sure to include both easy-to-find and obscure items.
- Simple directional statements (such as “Count the number of boats tied at the dock”) mixed with questions or tricky riddles give clue writers the chance to experiment with different writing styles.
- Be sure to revise your clues for exactness – try writing them separately and sharing in a group response format.
Craft a follow-up activity:
- Ask your family to write about the experience of developing and participating in a scavenger hunt. What were the challenges? The intrinsic rewards?
- You can also choose to write creatively about the hunt. Use the location and your discoveries as inspiration for a short story, a piece of poetry or a personal or descriptive essay.
I love scavenger hunts, and I have to agree with Mark Twain when he wrote, “There comes a time in every rightly-constructed [child’s] life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.” For us, that time is summer – and I hope it is for you, too.
Ginny Kochis is a former English teacher and adjunct professor turned homeschooling mom and writing tutor. She writes about faith, family literacy, motherhood and homeschooling at Not So Formulaic. Want to stay in touch? Sign up for her monthly newsletter or come hang out on Facebook.
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