Explore Nature With These 14 Easy Kids Outdoor Scavenger Hunt Ideas

Looking for a fresh way to entertain little explorers while soaking up a bit of vitamin D? Look no further! We have the ultimate list of easy DIY outdoor scavenger hunts to keep your kids engaged, learning, and having a blast outside throughout every season or all kinds of weather.

From backyard safaris to neighborhood landmark visits, there’s an adventure for everyone, regardless of age, interests, season, or locale.

So, gather up your budding naturalists, photographers, and history buffs, because it’s time to embark on an unforgettable journey through the great outdoors!

Low-Prep Outdoor Scavenger Hunts for Kids

Join us as we delve into 14 creative, low-prep scavenger hunt activities that will encourage your kids to connect with nature, sharpen their observational skills, ignite their imaginations, and create lasting memories.

Whether venturing into your backyard or exploring a nearby park, these outdoor hunts are the perfect recipe for fun, laughter, and maybe even a touch of friendly competition.

1. Scavenger Hunts With Cardboard Viewfinders

A simple DIY cardboard  viewfinder outdoor scavenger hunt for kids

Who needs a fancy-schmancy multi-step hunt, when you can grab your own cardboard viewfinder and head right outside? These eco-friendly, non-destructive peepholes make any outdoor scavenger hunt a simple “leave-no-trace” affair, teaching kids to respect nature while having a blast!

With this eco-friendly scavenger hunt, all you need are some cardboard squares with a “window” cut out in the center. Hand one to each kiddo and set them loose in the great outdoors.

You can invite them to look through their viewfinders to find something exciting or look for specific items. We used clothespins to attach scraps of paper with a color to look for, specific objects, shapes or patterns, or a place to search (“look high, low low, look under things, etc.”).

The best part? No one’s picking up or disturbing nature—just observing, and moving on (snapping a pic is optional, of course). It’s a win-win for the environment and entertainment (and a great way to keep younger children from touching items they may not be familiar with).

2. Collect-As-You-Go Outdoor Hunts

Easy origami box for nature collections via barley & birch

Treasures abound when you’re out in nature, and kids just have a knack for finding the coolest things, don’t they? Give each child a small, easy-to-carry container – egg cartons or origami boxes (even Altoid tins work wonderfully!) and challenge them to collect various natural objects.

An easy egg carton nature scavenger hunt for kids.

Leaves, rocks, twigs, and feathers are just a few examples. Get creative by assigning specific categories or colors for each compartment, or just let them pick a few nature favorites! We used office supply sticker dots in the bottom of our egg carton for a speedy, nearly zero-prep outdoor color search DIY. You could also color in the bottom of each cup with a different color crayon or marker.

The other nice thing about light, covered containers like these is that they offer an easy way to carry things home if your kiddos stumble upon a rare acorn or a one-of-a-kind pebble destined to become their new favorite keepsake.

3. Seasonal Color Outdoor Scavenger Hunts

Our printable seasonal color scavenger hunt bundle

No matter the season, a palette of colors is waiting to be discovered outside! Head out with your little ones on a mission to find items in nature that represent the colors of the current season. You can create a list of colors, gather up some seasonally-appropriate paint chips, or use our seasonal color gradient sheets to set up the hunt.

A printable spring color scavenger hunt for kids covered with spring nature finds and foliage

Need some seasonal color brainstorming to get you started? Try these ideas:

  • A spring color scavenger hunt: Search for budding flowers and pastel tree blossoms, fresh neon green leaves and new grass, spongey brown dirt, colorful migrating birds and butterflies, bright yellow-orange pollen
  • A summer color scavenger hunt: Summer brings vibrant blooms in all different hues, fluffy white clouds, light sandy beaches and soft pink seashells, fuzzy green mosses, deep blue skies, jewel-toned beetles, and colorful berries.
  • A fall color scavenger hunt: For fall, hunt for warm hues of leaves, the browns of pinecones, nuts, and other seeds, soft yellow hale bales and drying crops, pumpkins and gourds, shiny red apples, and maybe even the cozy sweater colors of neighbors walking by.
  • A winter color scavenger hunt: In winter, keep an eye out for soft white snowflakes, the wide variety of greens and blues of evergreen trees, the greys and browns of twigs and leaf decay, but ALSO the rare bright color outside (like a red cardinal, one of my favorites!) .

4. Simple Outdoor Scavenger Hunts Using Adjectives

It’s time to put those descriptive words to work! This scavenger hunt will challenge your kids to think creatively and explore their surroundings in a new way.

Give each child a list of adjectives and ask them to find items in nature that match each descriptor.

As an example, you can use descriptive words like:

  • Rough: Find something with a rough texture.
  • Smooth: Find something with a smooth surface.
  • Soft: Find something soft to the touch.
  • Hard: Find something hard or rigid.
  • Shiny: Find something that reflects light.
  • Dull: Find something with no shine or luster.
  • Bright: Find something with a bright color.
  • Dark: Find something with a dark color.
  • Tiny: Find something very small.
  • Huge: Find something very large.
  • Fragrant: Find something that has a strong or pleasant smell.
  • Odorless: Find something that has no smell.
  • Noisy: Find something that makes a loud sound.
  • Quiet: Find something that makes a very soft or no sound.
  • Wet: Find something that is damp or covered in water.
  • Dry: Find something that is completely dry.
  • Light: Find something that is not heavy.
  • Heavy: Find something that is not light.
  • Flat: Find something with a flat surface.
  • Curvy: Find something with a curved shape or surface.
  • Sharp: Find something with a sharp edge or point.
  • Blunt: Find something with a dull edge or point.
  • Cold: Find something cool to the touch.
  • Warm: Find something warm to the touch.

Smooth pebbles, a man-made path, a sticky sap-covered pinecone, shiny leaves, a soft feather, or a rustling tree all fit the bill.

As they search high and low, they’ll learn new words, sharpen their observational skills, and maybe even find a few surprises along the way.

5. Print an Instant Outdoor Scavenger Hunt

A free printable insect scavenger hunt list

If you’re short on time but still want an engaging outdoor scavenger hunt, look no further than our own free printable scavenger hunt sheets tailored to specific environments like the beach, forest, or even your own backyard.

Choose a theme that best suits your location, print out the sheets, and voila – you’re ready to roll! Kids will love hunting for seashells, different types of leaves, or various creepy crawlies. Just be prepared to answer the age-old question, “…so…what’s THIS…?”

6. Go on a Backyard Safari

A Mini Backyard Safari play setup

Channel your inner Jane Goodall or David Attenborough and embark on a backyard animal safari adventure. To prep, hide small plastic toy animals in the foliage, under rocks, or perched on branches in your backyard.

Before your little explorers embark on their mission, make sure to equip them with binoculars, hats, and maybe even a trusty field guide with facts about the animals they’ll be searching for. With their explorer gear in hand, they’ll be searching high and low for the elusive toy animals camouflaged in their “natural” habitats.

Keep a list of the hidden animals and encourage your mini-zoologists to document their finds. Once all the creatures have been discovered, gather around for a group discussion on each animal’s unique characteristics and natural habitats. Who knew the backyard could be such a wild place?

7. Make and Follow Your Own Maps

Our DIY fabric adventure map kids craft sitting on a table with fake gold coins

It’s time to set sail on a treasure-hunting adventure. First, gather your crew and create a DIY treasure map of your outdoor space. Use symbols, landmarks, and maybe even a little pirate lingo to make it extra fun. Be sure to mark an “X” where the treasure is hidden (snacks or small toys make for great loot).

Once the map is complete, your junior cartographers can take turns navigating the landscape, deciphering the clues, and searching for the hidden treasure. Just remember: “X” marks the spot!

8. Go on an Outdoor Sensory Scavenger Hunt

Create a list of items or experiences for your kids to find that appeal to each sense. For example, they might be asked to touch something rough, smell a fragrant flower, listen for a specific bird’s song, and spot a hidden object. taste an edible fruit or vegetable from the garden (with supervision, of course),

This sensory adventure will encourage your little ones to slow down and fully appreciate the wonders of the great outdoors. After all, there’s nothing quite like the sound of leaves crunching underfoot or the smell of fresh-cut grass.

9. Go on an Outdoor Alphabet Scavenger Hunt

A is for adventure, B is for backyard, and C is for… well, you get the idea…

The goal of this alphabet-themed scavenger hunt is to find an outdoor item that corresponds to each letter of the alphabet. You can provide idea prompts, a list, or just let kids come up with their own creative explanations for how their items represent the alphabet (always fun to hear what they’ve found for the elusive letters “X” or “Q”!).

From acorns to zebras (okay, depending on where you live, maybe not actual zebras, but you could settle for a zebra toy or zebra-striped rock…), there’s a whole alphabet of discoveries waiting to be made.

Need a bit of inspiration? Here are a few outdoor objects you could suggest as A-Z scavenger hunt finds:

  • A. Acorn
  • B. Butterfly
  • C. Clouds
  • D. Dandelion
  • E. Earthworm
  • F. Feathers
  • G. Grass
  • H. Holly Berries
  • I. Ivy
  • J. Juniper Berries
  • K. Kite (in the sky)
  • L. Leaves
  • M. Moss
  • N. Nest
  • O. Oak Tree
  • P. Pine Cone
  • Q. Quartz (stone)
  • R. Rocks
  • S. Snail
  • T. Twigs
  • U. Umbrella (leaf or plant shaped like an umbrella)
  • V. Violets
  • W. Woodpecker or Warbler
  • X. Xerophyte (a plant adapted to a dry environment, like a cactus)
  • Y. Yellow flower
  • Z. Zigzag pattern (in a leaf or on tree bark)

This activity not only helps kids practice their ABCs but also encourages them to think creatively and explore their environment.

Don’t forget to snap pictures of each find—those memories will be as colorful as the seasons themselves!

10. Try a Twilight Scavenger Hunt

our DIY lantern kids craft lit up and sitting outside on a table

Who says the fun has to stop when the sun goes down? Grab your flashlights or DIY kids lanterns and embark on a twilight scavenger hunt adventure (with adult accompaniment)! Create a list of objects to find or clues to solve that will lead your young adventurers through the dark.

They might be tasked with spotting constellations, finding glowing insects, or identifying mysterious night-time noises.

Just be sure to remind them that even though it’s dark, they still need to be careful and respect nature. And it never hurts to finish a successful search with some good ol’ ghost stories and S’mores or a post-hunt fireside chat!

11. A Time-Traveling Scavenger Hunt

Time to dust off those local history books because this scavenger hunt is all about exploring the past! Research the history of your local area and create a list of historic landmarks, significant events, or interesting facts for your young time travelers to uncover.

With their lists in hand, they’ll embark on a journey through time, learning about the people, places, and events that shaped their community. They might visit the site of an old mill, locate a historical marker, or even interview a long-time resident for a first-hand account.

After this scavenger hunt, they’ll see their town in a whole new light—plus, they’ll have some seriously cool stories to share at school!

12. Try a Weather Scavenger Hunt

On a weather scavenger hunt, kids embark on a thrilling adventure exploring the various elements and phenomena that make up our ever-changing atmosphere.

Equip your little meteorologists with a list of weather-related clues to find, such as cloud formations (cumulus, cirrus, or stratus), wind direction (use a homemade windsock or observe swaying tree branches), and temperature (provide a thermometer to measure the heat).

Encourage them to pay attention to the scent of the air before and after rain, feel the sun’s warmth on different surfaces, and even collect rainwater in a jar to observe.

To make the experience even more engaging, add some fun challenges like estimating rainfall with a homemade rain gauge, identifying the different types of precipitation (rain, snow, sleet, or hail), or capturing the beauty of a sunrise or sunset on camera.

You could even incorporate a lesson on weather safety and preparedness, such as seeking shelter during a storm or dressing appropriately for various weather conditions.

This immersive weather scavenger hunt not only sparks curiosity about the world around them but also teaches valuable life skills and fosters a deeper appreciation for the environment.

13. A Neighborhood Landmark Scavenger Hunt

These interactive kid-made collages are a fun art exercise and mental scavenger hunt that will help your kiddos find some calming inner peace! | via barley & birch

Grab your walking shoes and hit the pavement for this backyard or neighborhood scavenger hunt. Create a list of little landmarks, such as a unique mailbox, the tallest tree on the block, or maybe that one house with the funky lawn ornaments.

With lists in hand, your little explorers can set out on a quest to find and document each landmark. Along the way, they’ll learn more about their block, neighborhood, or city, make new friends, and maybe even discover hidden gems.

Just remember to stay safe, follow the rules of the road, and always be respectful of your neighbors’ property.

14. A Backyard Winter Scavenger Hunt

A handmade flag sitting in the snow being used as a marker for our kids winter discovery trail.

A backyard winter scavenger hunt is a fantastic way to make the most of the chilly season while keeping kids entertained and engaged in nature. Start by creating backyard discovery trails using shovels to carve winding paths through the snow.

You can also have the kids stomp down the snow in a single-file line to create the trails. These paths can then serve as the foundation for a variety of themed discovery trails, such as art walks, STEM activity trails, outdoor winter nature observation stations, winter obstacle courses, or creative winter scavenger hunts.

For the winter scavenger hunt, provide the kids with a list of seasonal items to find, like icicles, snowflakes, animal tracks, or frozen leaves. They can also look for unique ice formations or try to identify various types of winter birds.

Encourage the little ones to use their five senses during the scavenger hunt—listen to the crunch of snow underfoot, touch the different textures of snow and ice, or inhale the crisp, cold air.

As the kids make their way through the discovery trails, they can engage in various activities such as snow painting, snow and ice sculptures, stick drawings in the snow, and animal observations.

This backyard winter scavenger hunt will not only keep the kids active but also help them connect with and appreciate the wonders of the winter season.

Amanda Eldridge
Amanda Eldridge

With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.

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