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Backyard Scavenger Hunt – Fun for All Ages

OK, you home-bound humans! Time to challenge your skills paying attention and finding the myriad pieces and parts of nature all around you … and get out of the house in the process … all of you!!! Moms and Dads, you can mix this up any way you can and keep the challenge going as we wait for normal to return.

For toddlers, my good friend and former kindergarten teacher Debby Renfroe shared a great way to engage the small ones who just want to find and collect things. A bucket will do the trick, but how about a “nature bracelet”, made with a strip of masking or duct tape placed around your toddler’s wrist – sticky side out! A walk across the yard or down the street will result in a collection of treasures on their arms. Repeat as often as you like.

For older kids, a more traditional scavenger hunt can provide a challenge, especially if there is a sibling to show up! Have them collect as many of the following as possible in 30 minutes or less! Imagination is required. Find something in nature that is:

• Pointed
• White
• Blue
• Smooth
• Long
• Fluffy
• Dead
• Sticky
• Round
• Soft

Add as many more as you can come up with. The fun is having them explain each item to you after they have finished the search. Be a kind judge but do challenge them some – it is your right, after all. The winner gets an extra cookie. If you really want to mess with them, do it a second time, with new examples of each or do it elsewhere … on another day.

Another version – find examples of the following:

• A chewed leaf
• An un-chewed leaf
• A pine cone that has been chewed
• A stick with lichens on it
• A roly-poly
• An earthworm
• A rock
• Something in nature that reminds you of yourself 😊

Once collected, have them explain each item. What made that hole in the leaf? What does that earthworm do in life? What exactly is a lichen? For your part, you have some homework to do to know the answers, or better yet, you have a great opportunity to research the answers with your kids – bonding and learning time all in one.

I hope that for each of you, this becomes habit-forming – wandering around the yard, looking for and learning about the neat plants and critters that are always underfoot or hanging on a tree.

Repeat, adjust, create something new … but don’t forget to make it fun … especially the prizes … for everyone!


Written by Mark W. LaSalle, Ph.D.

Mark is a naturalist and wetland ecologist, providing expertise on wetlands, water quality and environmental impacts of humans. He has also developed and conducted a number of environmental education programs and workshops for youth, teachers, realtors, and the general public on a variety of subjects including wetlands, natural history, and environmental landscaping. Mark is a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana (B.S. and M.S. degrees) and Mississippi State University (Ph.D.). Mark is the recipient of the Chevron Conservation Award, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation Conservation Educator Award, the Gulf Guardian Award, and the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award.


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