Nice Idea: Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt

Dear Readers: One of you dreamed this up and I lost your name!. Claim it if it’s yours! Meantime, maybe everyone can enjoy — or even organize — something like this for the local kids to get to know the nabe and each other!

Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt

  1. A tree with pink flowers
  2. A black car
  3. A squirrel (don’t get too close!)
  4. A pink house
  5. A cat
  6. A robin
  7. A scooter
  8. Tulips
  9. Forsythia!
  10.  A bicycle
  11.  A bug
  12. A big dog
  13. A small dog
  14.   A friend
  15.  A fire hydrant
  16.  A person walking a dog
  17.  A truck
  18.  A green house
  19.  A lawn ornament
  20.  A dogwood tree


  1. Stay together
  2. Ask before taking a picture of a person (or their house, dog, etc., if the owner is outside)
  3. Watch for cars
  4. No fighting
  5. Stay in the neighborhood
  6. Have fun!

39 Responses

  1. Stealing this for my Beavers group. Love the idea.

  2. Wonderful! My neighborhood has a yearly street party, and this would be a great early-evening event for the neighborhood kids.

  3. LOL! we did this as a kid! different items though. We actually had to take a photo of everything!

  4. I did this as a kid over 30 years ago, except we had to physically get the item.
    I can remember asking a neighbor for a potato and a paperclip.

  5. What a great idea! I like the rules, too.

  6. Much as I don’t always like how restrictive many of the parents are in my neighborhood, I have had kids come to my door for a scavenger hunt. They needed a paperclip and a cotton ball.

    That list looks tough, though. Do you have any idea how far kids would have to go here to find a pink house? Dratted HOA!

  7. One of those activities that’s a lot easier in our 21st Century world of digital photography. (comment from someone who took his first photos with a folding Kodak loaded with 620 black & white film)

  8. I’ve thought about doing this with the kids in the neighborhood. Mostly just to give them something to do so their not hanging around my driveway making a ton of noise and throwing stuff all over (I have 4 kids so everyone seems to migrate here to play).

    It’s not a free-range thing for us because all the kids are allowed to roam around. I just thought the kids would think it was fun. But since none of them have cameras I figured I’d think of things they could find and bring back.

    If I was more creative I’d come up with cute clues and leave cards all over the place for them to find. My 11yo and her friends would probably enjoy that.

  9. Stephanie, I had the same thought–I’m pretty sure most Home-Owners Associations would go absolutely ape if anyone suggested that they wanted to paint their house pink.

    And I’m not all that sure about the “lawn ornaments” either.

  10. I love the idea, but the list would have to change a little. We live in the sticks. Three houses around us and none of them pink or green. It would also just be my five kids. No others around here.
    I love the quiet, the beauty, and the space out here, but I sure do miss neighborhood children (even the “bad” ones) and the games they play.
    Why does everything in life have to be a trade-off?

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  13. I did scavenger hunts when I was in the Girl Scouts. We had teams of two girls who had to find all of the items. Like newbuffalomom above, we had to physically collect the items. There was no digital photography back then and not everyone had a Polaroid camera.

    My Girl Scout scavenger hunts were a lot of fun because the items we had to find were a mix of the general and specific. The more general items let us get creative. For example, one item on the list might be a white envelope, while the next would be something made before 1960 (I was in the Girl Scouts in the late ’60s and early ’70s, so something made before 1960 wasn’t so ancient.) or something made in Japan. The only requirement was that the items fit into the bags we were given.

  14. When I was growing up we had neighborhood scavenger hunts ALL THE TIME. When my kiddos are old enough, I’m SO going to introduce them to this game. It was tons of fun and it kept us busy for hours if not DAYS.

  15. I love Scavenger Hunts! I was on one yesterday in DC (The Washington Post Hunt). There were thousands of people solving puzzles. It was brutal. So maybe you can add solving tricky puzzles to the hunt, in addition to getting/photographing things. I have to plan our neighborhood’s July 4th gathering, so we might just be having a scavenger hunt now!

  16. Oh I love scavenger hunts. There was only one that I participated in as a kid, but it was so much fun. The hunt was organized for a birthday party and we actually went door to door asking for things and actually collecting them within the neighborhood. One of the things on the list was a button, which I still have. 🙂

  17. Fantastic!!!
    Such a simple idea – why are the best ideas always the easiest?

  18. Here’s a list I put together for a scavenger hunt for ages 3-10 in our local park (the 560-acre Frick Park in Pittsburgh). I pick about a dozen items from this list each time – pick items based on the season.

    red leaf
    yellow leaf
    brown leaf
    green leaf
    straight stick
    Y-shaped stick
    L-shaped stick
    big rock
    small stone
    bark from a tree
    pine needle
    tree stump
    black dog
    yellow dog
    white dog
    brown dog

  19. Only thing nonfreerange there is “don’t get too close” to the squirrel. (wth??) G’head — try it. Get as close to the squirrel as you want. Try it. Try to grab it by the tail. Good luck. (Squirrels are fast.)

  20. it is a good idea.

    Uchicago scavenger hunt also involves building things or getting others to do things. So, find a funny hat and convince an adult to wear it for a photo or have a shop keeper let you stand behind the counter to take a picture, or take your picture with a police man. You could also add, make lunch for 4 people without using a stove, take a picture of one of you in a costume, make a costume out of toilet paper, make a fort out of anything you want, build house of cards, do a puzzle, etc.

  21. Love this idea!! Definitely going to use it this summer!

  22. Stephanie, Peter — You clearly don’t ilve in Florida! Every other house here is pink, and there are plenty of lawn ornaments around.

    Great idea, can’t wait until my kids are big enough to try this!

  23. @Stephanie: The pink house could be a doll house or a play house. It could also be a white house tinted pink by the sunset. Creatively interpreting scavenger hunt items is a lot of fun and I love a list that encourages it!

    The idea of doing a scavenger hunt with a digital camera is great. When my daughter’s a bit older I’m going to hunt down an inexpensive waterproof (hopefully) digital camera, I think.

  24. My five year old loved this! Great idea.

  25. I did a scavenger hunt for my daughter’s birthday party three years ago — but out in a public park downtown, it’s a sightseeing attraction in our town. The morning of the party, I walked around to hide the cards with the questions and assignments on them. And since I wasn’t sure if it would rain, I wrapped them in … aluminium foil. People kept looking at me funny, so I told them, no, I wasn’t a drug dealer, just a mom hiding hints for a scavenger hunt, ;-).

    So long,

  26. @John Deever
    There are places around here (Southwest) where squirrels are fed by people, so it’s possible to get very close to them. Also, there’s a lot of rabies in the local wildlife (there was even a case of a squirrel entering a popular bar).
    Probably the “don’t get too close” should be adjusted depending on local wildlife (how “wild” is it?) and kid’s age.

  27. Squirrels on some college campuses are quite daring and will attack students who get too close to “their” trash cans. I’d make the “don’t get too close” applicable to all the animals on the list, or at least any animal the child doesn’t personally know. Even a five pound dog can turn out to be very mean.

  28. We used to do this as adults, lol. It was a lot of fun 🙂

    You obviously have to edit the list for things that are easier and harder depending on a) location and b) age range of participants.

  29. @Stephanie (and others) regarding the Pink House —
    My 4.5 year old has a pop-up princess “house” that she plays in, courtesy of another neighbor’s grandkids. That counts, plus points for creativity!!

  30. A gaggle of girls were were running around in my neighborhood trying to complete this list (probably an adjusted list – no pink house or Dogwoods) on Saturday!

  31. Hi! I’m a huge fan of your blog and your philosophy. Our kids have always been “free range”. Unfortunately, today, someone in our neighborhood called the police because of the “unsupervised children” running around the neighborhood. My son is six (seven in September), and we allow him to ride his bike to friend’s houses up the street (we live in a small, three street neighborhood far from any major roads), rollerblade down the road, play with friends in the little patch of woods across the street from our houses, play in sprinklers with the neighbors, etc. There are constantly kids running around our neighborhood playing with their friends – kids of all ages. The officer said that kids under ten, by law, are not allowed outside unsupervised except in their parents’ yard. The officer did not come to our house, but visited the mom of two of my son’s good friends. The people who called reported that all the way back in the winter, a “whole bunch of unsupervised kids were sled riding down the hill” that is across from our townhouse units. It’s true – there were ten or twelve “vagrant” children sledding in full snow attire with NO PARENTS present for hours, with some stops to run home for bathroom breaks and hot cocoa. I don’t know who reported our kids. The officer was very kind and said he understood, but still said that if there were more reports they would have to take more aggressive action than just a warning. I have no idea what to do about this – but I know it’s not fair for us to have to keep our kids inside or in our backyards for the entire summer. Any insights?

  32. Regarding the last posting (town where “children under ten……”). May I suggest checking with the city government to make sure the law is what the officer said it is, and if it does include these restrictions, start attending council meetings. It doesn’t even have to be a parent–a retired person who likes to “stir the pot” could take up your cause. Most public meetings have a “public comment” period where citizens can speak on behalf of issues that concern them.
    (my cause is electric railway transportation, and I’ve spoken at a number of Metro Board meetings to get my point across)

  33. “Only thing nonfreerange there is “don’t get too close” to the squirrel. (wth??) G’head — try it. Get as close to the squirrel as you want. Try it. Try to grab it by the tail. Good luck. (Squirrels are fast.)”

    Uh, no, because the squirrel MIGHT let you, and that could mean it’s rabid or otherwise diseased. “Too close” just needs to be sensibly defined — you don’t need to stay ten yards back, but don’t go up and try to touch it. Rabies risk isn’t Free Range.

  34. “The officer was very kind and said he understood, but still said that if there were more reports they would have to take more aggressive action than just a warning. I have no idea what to do about this – but I know it’s not fair for us to have to keep our kids inside or in our backyards for the entire summer. Any insights?”

    Ask him to cite the law. If he can, consider Bob’s suggestions.

  35. @JKA, yes if you talk squirrel, the tame ones will try to climb your leg like a tree. I found this out years ago while gardening and am now more cautious.

    One way to spin a scavenger hunt is to make sure that some things to be found will be best visible to those walking and biking. Some competitive hunts can come down to who can park faster, get in and out of a car faster, etc. There are hunts designed for cyclists. Certainly it would defeat the purpose(s) if parents helped too much by driving or supervising.

  36. At the Grand Canyon, I was able to walk up to a deer and feed it a potato chip. Then, I was able to lay on the ground while holding a peanut enticingly over the top of my chest and a squirrel walked right up on my chest and ate the peanut while sitting on my chest.

  37. This is my list! (And yes, we have a pink house in the neighborhood!) I set this up on Mother’s Day so I could get a little peace and quiet. 🙂 My daughter is 10 and has her own inexpensive camera, so I didn’t have to send the kids out with mine. They had a blast doing this. I’m going to have to come up with a summer list soon.

    Thanks for putting this up Lenore! I’m glad everyone is enjoying it.

  38. My brother lives in a nice new neighborhood built in the early 90’s and they have houses including colors like plum and salmon. Fads change but houses last decades so there are plenty of neighborhoods with interestingly colored ones! And of course in the city where you don’t have such restrictions at all, people can get quite expressive sometimes. Somebody here actually painted a lifesize image of Michelangelo’s “David” on the side of his house, just an ordinary house in a working class neighborhood. That wouldn’t be a good scavenger hunt one, though, because it’s likely that it’s the only one in the whole country. 😉

  39. Maria I am in Pittsburgh too – that’s a great list and I think we will try that next time we go to Frick!

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