Tag Archives | scavenger hunt

Superpowers In The Forest

Kids will listen and absorb information when it’s fun and cool!  We learned about the animal (invertebrates to be exact) with super powers many years ago on a nature walk. My oldest son has never forgotten it because relating nature with identifiable facts is what keeps learning interesting for kids!  Here is a picture of what reminded us of superpowers in the forest – the most beautiful banana slug I’ve ever seen. We watched it move for 10 minutes..I couldn’t get over it’s size and how it was moving along the forest floor using it’s tentacles. It’s included in this short video narrated by Francesco who is 10 years old. All these years later he remembers and shares why slugs have superpowers!

Video – discover a super power during your next nature walk!


Francesco makes reference to licking a slug. He did this years ago with a parks board guide because slugs can numb gums and tongues. The native culture used this for toothaches. I wouldn’t recommend trying this unless you are sure the species of slugs is safe because I do know certain slugs contain parasites (black slugs) and you wouldn’t want to be licking that!  Banana slugs are perfect for gently trying the super glue fun with a finger!  Rub gently twice, wave finger in the air to make it tacky, pick up an item from the forest floor.  Guaranteed your child will never forget who has superpowers!

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Scavenger Hunt In The Woods




Scavenger Hunt In The Woods

I’ve been wanting to plan a scavenger hunt for years!  It seems like the coolest way to keep kids entertained, spend time in nature, and host an outdoor themed party or activity. After hosting my son’s 10th birthday party and organizing a great scavenger hunt over the weekend, I realized that until you put your own special touch into the hunt, it becomes easier and fun to plan. I’m going to give you a cheat sheet so that you can organize a fun scavenger hunt quickly – even make it a fun weekend activity for the family. I discovered that scavenger hunts are a special way to unite older kids with nature and that is so important in this world where our kids seem too busy with sports and electronics to properly engage.

You first need to ask yourself, “what is your goal with the scavenger hunt?”  I wanted my son’s friends to be able to run free, climb, make noise, engage and learn during the scavenger hunt. When kids are enjoying themselves and have the opportunity to learn something, especially facts about nature, I think it’s magical. So my first task was to find a place that met the criteria for this scavenger hunt. My entire family went and walked through a park with old growth trees, lots of ponds and streams, an easy trail, and not super busy so that the hunt would be relatively un-interrupted. While we were walking through the trail where the hunt would be setup, I tried to find subtle things in nature that you would only notice if you were searching. .  . a field of baby ferns (snap – took a picture), a tree in the shape of a √ mark, a tree that looked like it had a face, a pipe sticking out of the earth, a distinctive toadstool, etc. Each mark along the forest I took pictures…more to remind myself of these clues once I got home.  Later these pictures would be printed and were the bonus items for the kids to ‘seek’ in the scavenger hunt.

So now I had a place where kids could explore water, climb, and run free. . . but I also know my audience and knew that might not be enough. If there’s one thing I’ve learned raising boys, a physical challenge or activity is always a great idea. I only did three of these activities, but wish I had done a couple more. They were by far the highlight for me to watch and the kids to complete.  I ripped up a sheet and a bolt of fabric and made fabric strips. These were used to mark the trees which look amazing in the forest! The fabric markers are great for the environment because they don’t cause damage to the trees and can easily be removed after the hunt is over. Each team was told to look for a different color of fabric so they didn’t mix-up their tasks. Here is how the fabric markers looked – I added a heart graphic because I love them.

When team 2 saw these green tree markers they knew a clue was nearby. At the base of three trees there were clues to:

1) Pickup a stack of burlap sacks under the clue, nominate 3 kids (there were 3 sacks) and these kids had to jump along the forest in the burlap sack until they reached the next clue. Watching the kids jump along the forest floor in their sacks was pretty awesome and a very popular activity!

2) At the next fabric marker, I left a tape measure under the clue card and the team had to measure the width of the tree and record the measurement in cm and inches.

3) The last marker was next to a creek with a fallen log. The team had to cross the log and if the person got even a drop of water on them…another team member had to complete the challenge. This was a big highlight too!

A few other ideas that would be great scavenger hunt activities are: have the team complete a leaf rubbing, measure an old growth tree with their bodies and count how many kids it takes to measure the tree, and/or remove the tree marker and select two kids to have a three-legged race to the next tree marker.  Here is a picture of some burlap sack racing along the forest from my son’s party:

 While each team was walking through the forest they had a book to record 4 sets of criteria: seek, find, listen, collect. It kept them busy and each team member kept passing around the check list of items to be searching for – great team work. Here are a few samples of my favorite from each category:

Seek!  It’s important to tell kids that items to seek should not be touched or removed from the forest.

◊ animal tracks – what animal was it?  ________________

◊ something faster than a snail

◊ poo – doesn’t matter what kind.  (lots of laughter finding this one)

◊ item that begins with the first letter of the birthday child’s name

◊ a nurse log

◊ an old growth tree (takes at least three kids to wrap their arms around)

Find!  These items were placed in a cloth bag and they are okay to be removed from the forest because they are no longer alive:

◊ fern

◊ bark

◊ a heart shaped rock

◊ a rock the size of the birthday boy’s hand

◊ feather

◊ a river rock (smooth)

Listen! At different intervals while we would stop and listen. When all the group members stopped talking we’d hear lots of noises that otherwise would have missed:

◊ a bird song

◊ running water

◊ people talking

◊ leaves crunching

◊ cards driving

◊ frogs

◊ crickets

Collecting!  This was my favorite because each group was given a plastic bag and items that shouldn’t be in nature were to be placed inside. Basically these kids were cleaning up the litter from the forest during this portion of the hunt! Teams could list out each item they collected and then add why it didn’t belong in nature in their book, but we just discussed it every time something was found..rather than writing it down.

The last portion of the hunt I completed with my team at the 1/2 way mark. The planning of this Q&A portion of the scavenger hunt was so much fun for me because I called my local Parks Board and asked for their help. I wanted a ‘fun facts’ section of the scavenger hunt that would be interesting for the kids and also teach them awesome forest facts!  I thought it was important to call my local parks board rather than just using Google so that the information would be related to the forest they were searching.  Here are a sample of the questions and answers – aren’t they interesting?

1) What animal in the forest is known for their ‘super glue’? (Answer: if you run your finger along a slug, wave it in the air so the slime gets tacky, then put your finger against a rock, it will stick to the glue.  Try it but be gentle to the slug!)

2) Name three tree types in the park.

3) How many mosquitoes can a bat eat in 1 hour a) 30 b) 200 or c) 600.  The answer is 600.

4) Eagles use the same nest ever year – they just keep adding to it. At the end of their life, would the nest weight as much as a car? Circle Y or N.  (The answer is Yes)

5) True or False. A strand of spider web is stronger than an equal thickness strand of steel. (Answer is True).

I remembered the first fact about the slug after a forest tour we did years ago.  The rest came from a very stunned forest guide that had a crazed mother calling him on a Friday afternoon asking for help with her scavenger hunt. <grin>  You gotta use facts that are interesting for kids and I thought these were great!

At the end of the scavenger hunt we probably could have tallied up the sheets, plastic collected, and questions answered but I didn’t. The boys had a great time, I loved watching them, and since we were at a park, the boys ate sandwiches and then played outdoor hockey and soccer before going home. Lots of fresh air, teamwork, and fun.  The loot bags contained wooden decoders so the adventure inspired fun could continue after the party guests went home!  I hope these steps give you a general guide of how to create a really fun scavenger hunt, but the most important part is to personalize it yourself!




‘Greening’ The Easter Bunny

Looking for a last minute Easter activity that is a little ‘greener’ than traditional egg hunts?  If the idea of stuffing plastic eggs with tiny plastic trinkets or giving out massive boxes of chocolate wrapped in plastic has you cringing, you’ll enjoy this idea. 

Gather the left over plastic eggs from last year and create an easy egg hunt that will leave a large imprint in your child’s memory this Easter.  Within each plastic egg, leave a trail of clues leading to one sustainable special gift at the end.  We’ve done this for years and my boys LOVE it.  When they wake up in the morning, they find a plastic egg in their room.  Inside the first egg is a picture of the sofa, or fridge, or dishwasher, etc. that I’ve taken with our digital camera, downloaded, then printed a small picture of.  I put these pictures inside the eggs and once they proceed to the item in the picture they find another egg with again, a picture of something else in our house.  I take pictures of toys, furniture, any nook or cranny in house.  The older my kids get the more difficult you can angle the picture for them to guess where to go next.  At the very end of the hunt (I do maybe 12-15 eggs with clues) there is one special gift and it’s not chocolate.  Last year they got a DVD and this year it wil be headlamps so they can go exploring around the house in the dark to practice for camping or cave exploring this summer.  They’ll love this idea and they are a great price point for under $20.

When I was little I remember having egg hunts similar to what I described above, but the pictures were hand drawn.  If you are short on time (Easter is tomorrow) just sketch out some objects in your house and send your children on a scavenger hunt.  With or without a present at the end ~ they’ll love it.  Another idea I’ve read about is filling up plastic eggs with individual puzzle pieces so at the end of the egg hunt the child has a new puzzle to complete.  There are so many great ideas and this one I’ll be doing my children’s entire lives because they talk about it all year in anticipation.  This is a great way to ‘recycle’ your plastic eggs each year and show your kids even the Easter Bunny got a little greener this year.

Happy Easter everyone.



Resources to Get Parents and Children Outside Enjoying Nature

After a few days of enjoying bird watching, making home-made bird feeders, forest walks, and basically falling in love with trees and nature again, I want to share a few sites that continue to re-inspire me.  It is so important for children and parents to get outside and enjoy at least an hour of outdoor time each day.  I feel like a new person when I get out and explore tree stumps or explain to my children how wonderful it is to see and touch an enormous tree because it means they’ve been on earth for many years.  The process of getting all my kids dressed for cold weather and listen to the complaining about gloves or boots not fitting properly is almost enough to just abandon the whole idea, but once we are finally outside, the kids have the best time and I feel like a new mother ~ ready to teach, inspire, and I regain lots of patience.  Nature really is magical and has a healing effect on myself and the kids.

Don’t know where to start with encouraging family enjoyment and the outdoors?  Purchase a Nature Bag.  This gift will far out-last its value because the ideas it inspires in a forest, backyard, or adventure walk are precious.  I always try to remember my child won’t tell me how much they appreciated a treasure hunt, eye-spy or scavenger hunt….until they have children of their own and remember it fondly as a grown-up.  Adults always come back to concepts and activities they enjoyed as children once they become a parent, so help create memories that imprint your child’s memory over a life time.  It is parents finding the time, energy and enthusiasm to setup such a special activity.  The two moms that created the Nature Bag make it easy including leaf viewers, a magnifying glass, a blindfold, and their eco-activities included in a booklet that are truly amazing.  Really, re-introduce your child to nature this Valentines Day and enjoy the rewards this gift will bring your entire family. Click here to find locations that sell this product.

I have deep respect for the two website that inspire me constantly with new ideas about how to get my children to enjoy nature and fun activities.  The BEST activity all four of my kids enjoyed this winter season I learned from the mom writing for Nature For Kids.  You really get the sense that she knows what works for children and nature, she reminded me of the craft of making peanut butter bird feeders.  Pine cones you collect, cover with peanut butter, and then roll in birdseed.  Hang up high and away from your house, so only birds are encouraged to feed ~ this had been such a blast for even my two year olds to participate with.  The amount of birds we’ve watched come to our backyard with these feeders is simply amazing!  This leads me onto a connected eco-activity…

Green Hour – I’ve mentioned them before and I’m a huge fan.  This site simply exists to help re-connect your children with nature for one hour each day. The amount of nature-based activities they’ve listed are simply amazing, but their ‘bird journal’ stuck in my brain because this activity combined with the bird feeder, has simply been the best kid’s activity ever in this household. I purchased my boys a bird sight-seeing book, and then gave them a journal and pen.  They write down the page number from the book and species of bird and record a mark for each of these birds that come to investigate the bird feeder.  I had no idea that our backyard was filled with Black Eyed Junco birds….I would have just assumed they were Chickadees.  A great help for kids that can’t read is to print off pictures of the bird species for their journals so it’s easy to cross match with their book!  It’s hilarious and wonderful that my kids act like a rock star entered my backyard when a ‘Winter Wren’ or ‘Bewick’s Wren’ makes an appearance.

Kids are just naturally drawn to nature.  That must be why a tip for colicky babies is to take them for a walk or when children are just miserable, you put them in boots and give them freedom to ‘go nuts’ in a puddle…suddenly, these ailments are gone.  It is parents finding the energy to make the outdoors exciting and fun.  I hope some of the resources I’ve mentioned help your family discover how refreshing and fun nature can be ~ just go outside.



Fun Activities To Do With Kids This Summer

This summer with my clan is really flying by.  We are having a blast staying local and just trying to spend as much time in nature, with friends, and staying cool. I’m actually looking forward to some lazy days to try some awesome crafts I’ve seen in an old OWL book. I also came across these great activities from a Canadian Living article with their top 30 summer activities ideas. The following really appealed to me and I’m adding them to my to-do list when things hit a lull at home. To check out all 30 ideas, visit the article: 30 fun things to do with your kids this summer. Here are my favorite picks – activities I want to try and others I’ve done with my kids that have been a success!

Activities To-Do:

♥  With an insect book in hand, discover the creatures living in your garden, and learn about their benefits together. Continue Reading →



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