Parents are constantly looking for ways to get their kids outdoors and off their smartphones and tablets. An overnight or multi-night camping trip with the kids is one of the best ways to encourage the entire family to disconnect from their devices and reconnect with each other.
Camping as a family requires preparation. You plan your camping meals, prepare sleeping bags, pack the tent, and arrange outdoor activities to enjoy while you're in the wilderness.
Many families choose family-friendly campgrounds to keep their kids entertained while camping. However, you don't have to be staying at a KOA or Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park to crush boredom while camping in the great outdoors.
A camping scavenger hunt (or several) can entertain the entire family while introducing your little ones to different elements of the wild.
What Is a Camping Scavenger Hunt?
A camping scavenger hunt sends your kids searching for certain objects in the wild. It may include searching for items you've placed throughout your surroundings or items that naturally occur in the wilderness.
Nature scavenger hunts are fun and entertaining ways to entertain younger and older children. Free printable scavenger hunts can also be used to keep your kids busy while you assemble the tent or enjoy a little alone time.
You may choose to have several scavenger hunts throughout your camping trip or one that lasts the entire time. Including nocturnal animals or constellations in your hunt can extend it into nighttime and offer even more learning opportunities.
A camping scavenger hunt can be solely for fun, or it can become a friendly competition among individuals and teams. Don't forget to bring prizes for the winners.
Outdoor Scavenger Hunt Ideas
Preparing for a family camping trip is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. There are countless items to pack, meals to plan, and other preparations to make.
Making a scavenger hunt doesn't need to add stress to your planning. A fun scavenger hunt can be created in a matter of minutes, especially when using the following scavenger hunt ideas or even a camping scavenger hunt printable.
Create an Alphabetized List
One of the easiest ways to make a fun scavenger hunt is to create an alphabetized list of items for your kids to locate while camping or exploring their surroundings.
Examples of items to put on your alphabetized scavenger hunt list are the following:
- Rocks, minerals, or sand
- Pods, acorns, or seeds
- Snails, slugs, or worms
- Moths, cocoons, caterpillars, butterflies
- Moss, lichen, certain street species
- Ants, ladybugs, and other insects
The list of items to find can be changed based on the ages of the kids involved in the hunt. They can be simpler for younger children, such as locating acorns, squirrels, or butterflies, while older kids can identify specific trees, minerals, and fungi.
Hide Your Own Scavenger Hunt Items
Families that camp often may need to vary the scavenger hunts to prevent boredom with locating the same items. This can be done by hiding specific items you bring with you throughout the area surrounding your campsite.
Examples of items to hide may include:
- painted rocks
- plastic toys
Make a list of the items you hide and be sure all of them are found and return home with you. It's important not to leave anything in the woods that wasn't there when you arrived.
Experiential Campground Scavenger Hunt
Another way to vary your scavenger hunts is to make them experiential as opposed to based on locating items. This type of scavenger hunt can also be more educational for younger and older kids.
The following are several experiences to include in your experiential scavenger hunt:
- watching a sunset
- seeing a fish in a river or lake
- catching and releasing bugs
- touching moss on a tree
- skipping a stone
- catching a fish
- identifying a specific leaf
- identifying animal tracks
- building a campfire (safely with adults)
Some of these experiences may require more patience than others. Plan accordingly if you'll be heading out on a hike or fishing expedition. Bring plenty of water or snacks.
Camping Scavenger Hunt Printable
Short on time? You don't even have to create your own camping scavenger hunt.
A quick Google or Pinterest search will result in a variety of printable camping scavenger hunts. You'll find different free camping printables geared toward varying ages and grade levels.
Print these free camping scavenger hunts as they are or use the fun ideas to create your own.
Planning Camping Scavenger Hunts
Your camping scavenger hunt can be as laid-back or competitive as desired. Either way, you'll need to print off a list of the items each participant needs to find.
It's also important to set rules for how far the kids can travel from the starting point and how much time they have to seek the items. You may set a one-hour timer, or allow the kids to search for items in a leisurely way throughout the weekend.
You'll also want to determine if you'll be offering prizes. If so, the winner should be determined as the individual or team who finds the most items on the list, or the one who finds all the items on the list first.
Things to Remember
Perform all camping scavenger hunts with respect for the animals and wildlife who call the area home. Kids who are instructed to spot certain items in the wilderness should identify them, take a photo, and check them off the list.
A campground scavenger hunt is an excellent way to teach older and younger kids about environmental stewardship, and that natural items found in nature are best left as they are. Offer extra rewards to the scavenger hunters who pick up trash while locating items on the list.
Remember to find and remove any items you've hidden before you leave the campground.
Safety is always the No. 1 priority when camping, so be sure to set boundaries for your scavenger hunt. Require kids to check back into the campsite at certain times throughout the hunt. This keeps them from wandering too far and becoming lost in the woods.
Here's a recap of important things to keep in mind when planning your camping scavenger hunt for kids:
- use a camera to take photos instead of removing items from their natural habitats
- don't leave any foreign items hidden in the woods
- set boundaries for scavenger hunters
- add rewards for trash pick-up in the wild
Let's Go Camping
Family camping trips are all about enjoying the beauty and excitement of the wilderness as a family unit. Outdoor scavenger hunts can add to the excitement while offering a variety of educational experiences, whether learning to build a bonfire or identifying animal tracks.
Create your own fun camping scavenger hunt or choose from the many printable camping scavenger hunts online to add even more fun to your next family camping experience.