You'll find lots of free scavenger hunt ideas right here on this page!
First off, don't get confused between Treasure Hunts and Scavenger Hunts. Treasure hunts involve following a set of clues that lead you to a treasure. Scavenger hunts involve two or more teams, each with a list of tasks the team members need to accomplish during a predetermined time.
You'll first have to divide the large group into small teams. Each team should have at least two kids on it (can have a lot more, but the minimum is two).
If you are planning that each team ride around in a vehicle, it's best to have no more than four kids on each team (plus an adult that can drive) - that way everyone (five people total) can fit in one car (unless you have a big car that holds more people). If the hunt is by foot, you don't need to worry about the number of kids on a team.
Each team gets a list of things to find in or around the party area or an assigned location, and the first team to find everything on the list (in a designated amount of time) wins! If none of the teams finish finding everything on their list once the game is over, then the team that finds the most is the winning team.
There are lots of possibilities for a scavenger hunt theme: The scavenger hunt can take place outside or inside, have a particular theme like at the beach or an 'around the neighborhood' or mall scavenger hunt, and can take place using pictures, clues, a camera, and loads of variations (more on this below in our scavenger hunt theme section).
At the end of each scavenger hunt there will be a winning team. The winning team is the one to bring all of the items on the list; or maybe each item on the list has a certain amount of points, so the team with the most points wins. You can also add or deduct points for teams that are early or late arriving to the last and final location (a location and final time that is known from the beginning of the hunt). For example: "You earn ten points if you are early", "You lose a point for each minute you are late", etc.
It's best to think of prizes for all of the teams, so that everyone feels that they are awarded something. The winning team can get a bigger prize.
It might also be a good idea to make some items harder to find by using secret codes, riddles or clues (you'll find more about this below in the scavenger hunt clues section of this page).
Remember to set a time limit (this depends on your scavenger hunt list and the age of the kids and how much patience they have). A scavenger hunt can range anywhere from 30 minutes to an all day activity.
Here's a cool homemade magnifying glass cake that can be cool to make if it's a birthday Scavenger hunt you're celebrating.
Don't forget to feed everyone before or after the scavenger hunt (or even hand out goodie bags that the kids can munch on during the scavenger hunt).
You might want to give each group leader a whistle and/or flag so that all the team members can see him/her clearly. Each team can also wear the same colored tee-shirt, bracelet, bandana (or anything of the sort), which will make it easier for everyone to see each other and stick to their teams.
Scavenger Hunt Rules
When holding a scavenger hunt for kids, it's really important to start off with a set of rules, so that the kids know what they can and can't do. For example, if there is an adult with each group, make it clear that they must stay with that adult at all times.
Before going on any scavenger hunt, create a set of rules. We've created a whole page full of sample scavenger hunt rules.
Scavenger Hunt Themes
Here are printable scavenger hunt invitations and thank-you notes that can fit any scavenger hunt theme, they are shaped like a magnifying glass and you can print out the worded or blank version:
Worded Magnifying Glass Invitations
Blank Magnifying Glass Invitations
Worded Magnifying Glass Thank-You's
Blank Magnifying Glass Thank-You's
As mentioned above, there are unlimited variations for scavenger hunt themes. It really matters what your child loves most. For example, if your child loves horses you can have a scavenger hunt at a horse stable. Or if you want the scavenger hunt to be educational, you can have a hunt at the museum.
If you want your kids to have a good time and help the environment as well, why not plan a 'save the environment' scavenger hunt (where the kids can not only learn about keeping the environment clean, but really go out and recycle!).
You can also create a scavenger hunt for any classic or character party theme (pirate, princess, dinosaur, etc.). With just a bit of creativity you can fit the free scavenger hunt ideas you'll find here to to almost any theme in the world.
Below we've created the most popular scavenger hunt themes (each comes complete with free scavenger hunt ideas, cool printable invitations and scavenger hunt lists!):
- Neighborhood & Park Scavenger Hunt
A fun scavenger hunt taking place outside around the neighborhood/park (Ages 5-7, 8-12)
- Beach Scavenger Hunt
Free scavenger hunt ideas & printables for an awesome activity at the beach! (Ages 5-7, 8-12)
- Mall Scavenger Hunt
For those shopping lovers a scavenger hunt at the mall can be a whole lot of fun! (Ages 8-12)
- Nature Scavenger Hunt
There's nothing like fresh air out in nature! This hunt can be very educational as well (Ages 8-12)
- Photo Scavenger Hunt
Click, click, click... If you love that camera clicking sound, hold a photo scavenger hunt (Ages 8-12)
- Video Scavenger Hunt
Free scavenger hunt ideas using a video camera, super fun and can be very hilarious! (Ages 8-12)
- Visitor Free Scavenger Hunt Ideas
If you want your scavenger hunt to have a "Top Secret" twist to it, you can check out our Spy Detective party theme for more free scavenger hunt ideas.
Scavenger Hunt Clues
Unlike a Treasure hunt where clues are a must, for a scavenger hunt clues are not a necessity. You can just have a list of things the kids need to find. But if you want the scavenger hunt to be more challenging, you might want to have a list of clues and/or riddles.
Each clue hints something the team needs to go look for. This is geared more for older kids who are old enough to make calculations, are able to decipher codes and solve brain-teasers. For younger kids who might not know how to read yet, you can create picture clues.
Your Scavenger Hunt Ideas
Lots of visitors from around the world have contributed to this site their ideas for planning a scavenger hunt! Click here to see another page full with lots more visitor-submitted free Scavenger Hunt ideas.