A scavenger hunt is an ideal group game; you can play it for any occasion in nearly any location -- although outdoor hunts have a special charm. From toddlers to grandparents, people of all ages love searching for things. And a scavenger hunt doesn't have to cost a cent -- all you need is a list of items to find, or if you're not the creative type, download a ready-made, free list from the Internet.
In the Community
Teenagers and adults can go on a scavenger hunt and explore their community at the same time. Pass out lists developed by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, and let the teams go to town. Items to collect include a bus schedule, usually available at bus stops; the address of the city's Chamber of Commerce; the front page of the community newspaper; and an item displaying the colors of the local college or university.
On the Playground
Send kids on an entertaining, educational scavenger hunt at a school or park playground. You can have kids search for and count concrete items such as slides and swings, as well as less tangible things including ways to go up and ways to go down. You can use the hunt to help young children learn about shapes; the Playground Geometry hunt directs kids to look for play equipment of certain shapes and sizes, such as large rectangles and small triangles.
In Your Backyard
Use a backyard scavenger hunt to fill a summer day or entertaining children at a birthday party. For a simple hunt, give players a list of things you've hidden around the yard such as a comb, a ball, a pen and a garden utensil. When they find the item, they can write down its color such as "blue pen" or "green ball," and leave it in place for others to locate. For young children, draw rather than write the word for each item to be found. If you can arrange it, give older kids cameras and let them photograph their finds as they go.
Out in Nature
From forests to fields, mountains to meadows, natural areas are prime spots for scavenger hunts. You can even have the kids record animals according to their attributes. For each creature found, note its name, color, size and sound and whether it's a bird, insect, mammal or reptile. Alternatively, instruct players to find something related to animals and plant life, such as something a rabbit would eat; a petal with pollen on it; things birds use to make nests; and an object that's usually underground.
Barbara Dunlap is a freelance writer in Oregon. She was a garden editor at "The San Francisco Chronicle" and she currently specializes in travel and active lifestyle topics like golf and fitness. She received a master's degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has been a Knight Foundation Fellow.