Summer is the perfect time to enjoy some outside learning. Many studies have shown that it has numerous benefits for children: better health, decreased stress levels, enhanced communication skills and increased motivation, being just a few.
Treasure hunts and scavanger hunts are a great way to get children learning and exploring away from I pads and computers, either in your own garden or in a supervised outdoor space, such as woods or a park. They are also a means for children to practise reading, writing and communicating in a fun way. For all of the activities outlined below, there is the option of the adult writing and child reading or vice versa, one child writing for another child to read and with very young children, working together on both writing and reading,
Creating maps:This is perhaps the most obvious aspect of treasure hunts. Using a large piece of paper, create a map of the garden, encourage children to label important parts, e.g vegetable patch, chicken run, swings. Of course, you don't have to stick to reality; the sand pit can become quick sand and the pond a swamp filled with alligators! Your garden could be Narnia, or Arendelle, or anywhere that your child is interested in at the moment. X will mark the spot for the hidden treasure (the possibilities are endless). An alternative to using paper, is to use chalks to mark out a route and leave signs, such as “Danger”, “Go forward 10 steps”, “Proceed at your peril” or “Welcome to Narnia”. Maps are also an excellent way to introduce the idea of keys.
Clues and codes: Setting up a treasure hunt around the garden or any space you’re familiar and comfortable with, can again be done by you or your children. The hunters are looking to uncover a succession of clues leading them ultimately to the hidden treasure. The clues can be hidden in all sorts of places and is very exciting. Whether the children write the clues or decipher them, both activities entail using creative thinking and will certainly lead to lots of discussion!
Scavanger hunts: Slightly different to treasure hunts, scavenger hunts are a race to find as many items as possible on a list, so are great if you happen to have loads of children in the garden during the summer holidays.
The site below has 10 fantastic ideas for scavenger hunts, many of them outdoors.
Another fabulous resource is the Woodland Trust, which has free spotter sheets on everything from butterflies, creepy crawlies, tracks and leaves to poo! https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/naturedetectives/activities/search/?activityType=100016071
I have used the Woodland Trust spotter sheets with whole classes and individual children, with great success. The children are so excited to be finding leaves, birds, flowers etc, they hardly know they are reading. If you want to involve a bit of technology, help the children to take photographs of their finds, upload and label, describe and catalogue alphabetically.
Alternativley, children can easily create their own spotter sheets for each other. A great way of doing this is encourage them to select 10 toys (plastic dinosours, cars, teddies) write the names on a piece of paper and then place them around the garden for another child to find.
Finally, just in case we have some rainy days over the summer, treasure hunts and scavanger hunts are easily played indoors too. If you want to challenge older children, searching for adjectives, proper nouns, adverbs etc in books works well as a timed competition.
However you decide to organise your treasure or scavenger hunts, you and your children are sure to have lots of fun while reading and writing!
We would love to see your designs for your treasure maps. So why not send them to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
This blog post was written by Bernadette Whiteley, one of our English tutors at Blackhen Education.