Create an epic scavenger hunt to kick off summer! Don’t just make it a race against the clock, but let it be an introduction to all your favorite summer activities to enjoy together. Enjoy it with just your family, or invite neighborhood friends to join in a caravan of cars with you. You can also use it to remind your family of the great activities they can enjoy for the next few months in your hometown—and maybe even to surprise them with a new item or two to enjoy this summer!
In this article, we’re sharing four tips for creating the perfect summer scavenger hunt, along with printables you can use and ideas for preparing for and carrying out the hunt. For more fun and easy family activities, follow us on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest.
4 Tips for the Perfect Epic Scavenger Hunt
1. Focus on the experiences, not the victory.
Many scavenger hunts can end up with arguments or hurt feelings because someone didn’t move fast enough or look hard enough—or maybe Mom or Dad didn’t speed through the red light—so they fell behind the other team. So, rather than being about the victory, this scavenger hunt is all about the journey and having fun together along the way.
Adaptation: If you do want a little competition that still allows everyone to do the activities together, you could have a race within each activity. Just hide the clues ahead of time at each location, and then have everyone leave their car(s) at the same time to find the clue. Once they find it, you can give them the bag with the supplies to play!
2. Create expectations for time.
A lot of children need structure, and knowing where in the journey they’re at is important. Let them know how many clues there will be, and keep the remaining clues or activity bags (see below) in sight so they can have a visual countdown.
Also decide up front how long you want the scavenger hunt to last. Will it be two hours? Three hours? The whole day? Find the right length for your family, and then assign a time length to each activity, such as taking 20 minutes to play baseball or 15 minutes to eat the treat. We found that 20 minutes for each activity seemed ideal.
Not only does a timeframe help everyone pace the day, but it’s also nice when someone wants to end a particular activity before someone else—or when nobody wants to stop doing the activity but you need to get to the next clue. If it’s helpful, bring a timer along that can go off so it—not Mom and Dad—are the ones saying it’s time to stop and move to the next activity.
To finish all 12 activities, it took us around four hours; you can always include fewer clues if you want the summer scavenger hunt to be shorter.
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3. Provide something to do in the car.
Spending most of the time outside the car is helpful, but you can also keep the momentum of fun going strong in the car with simple conversations or activities—and all of our clues provide some ideas. For instance, on the way to feed ducks, use the car ride to come up with jingles for duck food (it’s hilarious!).
4. Take notes.
Use this chance to notice which activities your family enjoys the most. Then on the car ride home at the end of the hunt, take a few minutes together to create a “summer bucket list” or even a “weekly activities” list of things you want to do again for a longer time or that you may want to do regularly as a family. Let the kids make the list so they feel ownership over it, which will make it easier for them to want to spend family time together and may even lead them to take charge or planning more summer activities!
Preparing for the Hunt
It took me only 35 minutes to prep for the hunt. Here’s how:
1. Print the clues, then fold and tape them closed. Punch out the matching image with the clue and glue it to the front of the folded clue. I used the 1.5" hole punch from this set. I found it easiest to then put each clue, along with the instructions for needed prep spread out on the floor so it would be easy to gather all the supplies at once.
2. Gather any supplies needed, like baseballs, baseball gloves (for kids or adults), Popsicle molds, or a Frisbee. Here’s where it can be fun to introduce your family to a new item or two that you may not have on hand but that will be so fun to have for more family play at home this summer. For tips on the clue for feeding ducks, check out this post—because white bread is not the best for our feathered friends.
3. Find gift bags or boxes large enough for the supplies for each activity. Punch the matching image from the sheet of images and add it to the front. For food activities, I put the punched image on a cooler.
4. Place all the clues into a small bucket or bag. Place them, along with your gift bags of supplies in the trunk of your vehicle when you’re ready to start.
Tip: I found it easiest to let everyone choose the clues at random. But if you need to do them in a specific order, I’ve also added number circles that you can add to the front of each folded clue.
Running the Hunt
1. Have someone draw a clue from the bucket. Let them figure out what the activity is and where they can do it. If you have multiple cars, caravan together to the location.
2. While you drive, enjoy the “driving challenge” on the clue. The driving challenge helps keep the momentum of fun going even in the car!
3. When you arrive at your location, enjoy the activity. We have ideas for three fun twists for each activity—play any or all of them.
4. After your designated amount of time on the activity, draw another clue and head to your next location!
That’s it! It’s so easy. In fact, it may be worth doing a few times throughout the summer.
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