Riddles in English date from Anglo-Saxon times. To solve one, you often need to name an everyday object or a specific piece of equipment. In scavenger hunts, players solve riddles to identify items associated with places on a map. A player must visit these locations and collect the items, or list them if they are not portable. A rewarding school scavenger hunt might feature riddles about objects you typically find in the classroom, gym or playground.
A successful riddle often fancifully describes an inanimate object as if it were a living thing. For example, "I have three hands, but just one face. I'll link arms with you as I run my race," describes a wristwatch. Riddles are frequently written in the first person, and typically take the form of short, rhyming phrases.
To get riddle ideas for a school scavenger hunt, sketch a rough map of the school on a sheet of paper. List as many objects as possible that you might find in different places on the map. For example, in a classroom you might find a globe, a chalkboard, and a book. In a gym, you might find a vaulting horse and in a playground you might find a distinct tree, skipping rope, or basketball hoop.
Take an item from your list of objects and imagine how it might describe itself if it could speak. Write this description down as a set of phrases, the shorter the better. For example, these phrases can describe a baseball: "I have no arms, legs or wings," "I don't yell when you hit me," and "I fly through the air."
Your basic riddle will be more attractive and satisfying if you put it into rhyme. Many riddles are doggerel, so there's no need to produce a poetic work of art. Our baseball riddle, for example, might end up as: "Without arms or legs or wings am I. Hit me hard and I will fly, but I will never yell or cry." It's easier to find rhymes for short words so try to end each phrase with one. A rhyming dictionary can help too, if you're stuck for a rhyme.
Writing your own riddles makes a school scavenger hunt special and allows you to fit the clues to your exact location. However, if you're short of time or inspiration, ready-made riddles can fill the gap. Some examples follow, and you can find more on the webpages shown in the Resources section of this article (see Resources).
I wear my jacket all the time. I stand with my back to you, showing my spine. (A hard-backed book.) I'm all over the place, but I know where I'm at. My life goes in circles, but I never feel flat. (A globe.) I stand dark and silent, never speaking a word. But my message out of dust will be seen not heard. (A chalk board.)
I've never cantered through a meadow and I don't have a mane. I don't eat oats or wear a saddle, but I'll do the high jump all the same. (A vaulting horse.) I have no voice at all and I'm stupid as well. I never ring or tinkle but what am I, can you tell? (A dumb-bell.) I'll take you to the top, I'll wear my hair in plaits. But if you can't stop I will burn you, and after leave you flat. (A climbing rope.)
I have the voice of a dog and the pages of a book. I have the chest of an elephant and you will find me if you look. (A tree.) I'm over your head and I'm under your feet. And I'll tie you in knots if you don't jump to my beat. (A skipping rope.) My mouth's always open though my bottom's dropped out. But feed me from afar and you'll hear the kids shout. (A basketball hoop.)
British writer Martin Malcolm specializes in children's nonfiction. His books include "A Giant in Ancient Egypt" and "Poetry By Numbers." His schoolkids' campaign for the Red Cross won the 2008 Charity Award. A qualified teacher, he has written for the BBC and MTV. He holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of London.