6 Reasons Scavenger Hunts Make Great Extension Activities

Scavenger hunts are an excellent learning activity for children because they provide children with a sense of adventure and challenge, and allow them to use their imagination and creativity to solve problems and complete tasks. Below are six reasons scavenger hunts make a great extension activity.

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Scavenger hunts are fun and engaging, which makes them a perfect way to get kids learning! They provide children with opportunities to explore the world around them and make their own discoveries as they explore.

They’re so easy to create and customize, which makes them a fantastic extension activity on any subject or theme you are currently exploring together. Scavenger hunts are also the perfect activity to keep kiddos preoccupied during car rides, while shopping, out at a park, or on a day hike.

You can even tie them to important language and listening skills, such as building letter-sound recognition and other phonological awareness skills. You might go to the grocery store and have your child mark off what food items they find starting with a particular sound. For example, you could have pictures of bananas, broccoli, bread, blackberries, bok choy, butter, and blueberry muffins. Your child can check off any of the pictures as he or she spots them while you grocery shop together. You might also point out other items you come across that start with the same /b/ sound.

Interested in learning more about how scavenger hunts can benefit your child’s learning? Read these six reasons why scavenger hunts make a great extension activity and help children develop important skills that can be applied in many areas of life.

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1. Scavenger Hunts Offer Great Experiential Learning Benefits

Scavenger hunts make excellent opportunities for experiential learning! Experiential learning is the process of learning through doing hands-on activities which not only help children to gain a deeper understanding of the content they are learning, but also teach children about their own learning processes, strengths, and weaknesses, as well as, how to problem-solve.

These types of activities help kids realize that there is more than one way to tackle a problem. Children need to apply critical and creative thinking to work out their own strategies (with some support) and to collaborate and communicate with others.

Scavenger hunts provide an engaging and interactive way for children to acquire new knowledge and skills through hands-on experiences and reflection on those experiences.


2. Scavenger Hunts Boost Retention of Learned Material

Scavenger hunts allow children to engage with what they are learning about in tangible ways. Through trial and error, children can apply their learned knowledge and correct any misconceptions they may have which helps to build more connections with what they are learning and further their understanding. 

Scavenger hunts provide ample opportunities to practice and apply the knowledge they have learned. The repetition of language, vocabulary terms, and concepts happens naturally when taking part in a scavenger hunt, which is great for retention and helps children make real-world applications. This is great for all children but is especially key for children with communication challenges and/or for second-language users.

3. Scavenger Hunts Foster Ownership of Learning

Scavenger hunts create internal motivation, guiding children into taking more ownership of their learning.  During a scavenger hunt, they get to lead and if their ideas or strategy doesn’t get them the results they were after, this forces them to reflect, reassess, and brainstorm ways to problem-solve how to find and/or apply a better strategy. These processes help children to become more reflective and self-directed learners.

4. Scavenger Hunts are Easy to Customize

Scavenger hunts are highly adaptable – they can be easily customized to your child’s learning needs, interests, and abilities.  Is your child wanting to learn about space? You can have them find space-themed items and apply their knowledge about space as they work through the scavenger hunt. They can be done for nearly every theme or subject, from learning shapes, numbers, math, animals, sounds, sports … really anything.  Does your child love trains? You can make up clues or provide a list that gets them hunting for different types of trains or related material to help them learn vocabulary, like what a train conductor is. You might consider going to a museum with trains where they can find and explore trains as they do the scavenger hunt, such as Calgary Heritage Park.

Scavenger hunts can look different depending on their location and purpose.  They can be done in a single room from anything like a book scavenger hunt to finding hidden objects or picture cards, to an ‘escape room’ like experience.  They can also take place in the backyard, parks, farms, campgrounds, in schools, grocery stores, around the neighborhood, at museums, art galleries, and shopping complexes…almost anywhere. Looking for ideas for different kinds of scavenger hunts? We’ve got a blog post with great ideas for different scavenger hunts to promote your child or student’s learning.

The best part about scavenger hunts is they can be as simple or complicated, as inexpensive or expensive, and as time-demanding as you want to make them. For instance, you could have a summer-long scavenger hunt for pictures of animals that slowly get checked off and pictures added together to create a little animal collection booklet.  The possibilities are endless! 

A final note on customizability, scavenger hunts are not age-bound, they can be fun for any age which makes them great for family nights, birthday parties, family reunions, friend get-togethers, office parties, and team-building or volunteer appreciation events.

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5. Scavenger Hunts Teach Collaboration and Teamwork

Scavenger hunts can be done individually or in groups. When children participate in small group scavenger hunts they engage in collaboration with others. They will need to plan their strategy, communicate and share ideas, knowledge, and skills, problem-solve, and make decisions together. 

The collaborative nature of a group scavenger hunt creates social interaction with others from different walks of life and helps to build an understanding of how others view the world and tackle problems.  Being able to appreciate differences and practice perspective-taking are important future skills to learn from a young age.   

In larger group scavenger hunts tasks often get divided up among individual or group members to accomplish the goal of getting the most items checked off the list in the quickest time possible.  This is when children learn how to be team players and work collaboratively with others as part of a team.

Scavenger hunts can be great for creating fun team interactions, and opportunities for individuals to get to know each other better, learn from the strengths of others, and bond while building fun memories.    

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6. Scavenger Hunts Build Observational Skills

Did you know that having good observational skills can enhance language and communication, further understanding and learning of concepts, and build social-emotional intelligence? In large part, this is because a scavenger hunt creates tons of opportunities for joint attention to occur, and encourages curiosity and exploration of the world around them. Observational learning helps children to be more attentive, take note of details, and be more self-motivated learners.

It is amazing what we don’t see or notice when we aren’t truly looking or observing what is around us.  Scavenger hunts are a great tool for building observational skills and getting us focused on our surroundings in a new way. A nature scavenger hunt in one own backyard can make us aware of things we never took note of before and get us to marvel again at nature’s wonder. 

Colour and shape hunts are good for helping us realize how intention influences what we perceive.  If we are on the lookout for the colour purple or the shape of a hexagon, suddenly we start seeing them in all kinds of places.  If you start doing regular scavenger hunts with your child, you’ll notice an increase in how often your child will point something out to you or tell you about a new discovery. These kinds of scavenger hunts are also great for children to practice observing patterns and making connections between objects.

They’re also a fun way to build print awareness with toddlers and preschoolers, by looking for letters, numbers, signs, and overall helping little ones make connections between spoken language and language in print, which can also enhance their print motivation. These are both important pre-literacy skills and carve the path for future experiences with reading, writing, and early literacy learning.

Key OOLiteracy Takeaways

  • Scavenger hunts offer experiential learning opportunities that provide numerous benefits, including enhancing their ability to remember what they have learned and providing children with important skills they can use across many areas of life.
  • Scavenger hunts help build children’s observational skills and teach collaboration and teamwork which enhance their language and communication skills, problem-solving skills, and social-emotional intelligence.
  • The ability to customize and adapt scavenger hunts to fit different needs, environments, learning goals, and situations makes them a perfect extension activity, alongside the high engagement and self-motivated learning experience they provide.
  • Scavenger hunts promote exploration, curiosity, and observational learning which are powerful tools for creating confident and courageous little learners.

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Hi, I’m Julie, the passionate creator of Ox & Owl Literacy. I enjoy empowering families and educators with wonderful resources to inspire fun, imaginative, and joyful learning opportunities for young kiddos.  You’ll find lots of recommended books, reading resources, and creative learning activities on this site aiming to help children fall in love with language, books, reading, and the transformational power of stories.

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