By Kelly Gunzenhauser

I have one of THOSE kids…one who hates the great outdoors. I have begged, threatened, pushed, fussed, and forced, but he would rather stay inside than go out on even the most beautiful day. Very little can entice him to stick his nose out the door. It stinks, because as a kid the only things that could keep me inside were lunch and books. I was out, all day, in every kind of weather.

Unfortunately, I have found that many parents besides me have this problem. Lots of us have fenced yards in urban environments that cause us to limit boundless exploring. So, I have been searching on Pinterest for ideas to get my kids outside, and I realized just today that I should write about one really successful idea that I tried a while back: the Nature Scavenger Hunt. My kids love any kind of treasure hunt: Easter eggs, geocaching, inside scavenger hunts, and more.

Here’s the actual link. In a nutshell, what you do is copy the items for this page, and draw a box next to each for kids to check off. Then you give each kid a list and send them both off to find the items.

I did mine a little differently. In addition to the lists I gave them, I got out the colored chalk and drew circles on the sidewalk. I wrote the items in the circles, so the kids could bring back the items and put them in the circles, too. (This was fine for my yard, but I don’t recommend it for a park since picking berries and  flowers and digging out rocks are frowned upon.)

Also, I personalized some of the items on the list to my area. I included more specific things like a magnolia pod, a red berry, and a big stick. I like the nonspecificity of their lists, though. It inspires a lot of creativity.

After making the lists and the chalk circles, I sat down on the steps in front of our house and sent the kids off to find everything. They really got into it. It quickly became a competition, with both of them running around and grabbing the items. Older kids could do this with a digital camera, or you could just use the honor system and the checklists, if you didn’t want them to collect the items.

After a good thirty minutes of dashing around and debating whether certain items fit the bill, the hunt was over, and both kids got a reward for participating. We hung their lists on the kitchen bulletin board for a few days. They were soon begging me to do it again. I have since done it inside the house, which worked equally well.

One other idea that also works well is to make a type of clue hunt using sticky notes. I start by sticking a note on the back of the front door that gives them a clue about where to go next. For example, I might write, “Your little friends need a treat!” When they go up to feed their gerbils, they find their next clue. At the end, I hide a small treat, like packs of gum, a few Hershey’s Kisses, or new toothbrushes.

The point is that either of these activities get the kids running around. It also makes them think both logically and creatively. And if the weather is nice, a little scavenger hunting gets both of my boys outside painlessly. I hope it works for you!