Problem-solving. Collaboration. Self-expression. Confidence in the face of a challenge. And did we mention exercise?

These are just a few of the many benefits of scavenger hunts for children. But as the days grow shorter and colder, you might not want to venture outside as often as you used to.

In any case, we've got you covered with winter scavenger hunt ideas that can be adapted for the indoors or outdoors. Plus, we have a few tips for taking your scavenger hunts to the next level. 

Not sure where to start? Read on to get the inspiration flowing!

1. Nature scavenger hunts

If the climate is agreeable where you live, why not get some fresh air and have fun doing it? You can start small in your own backyard, or even branch out to your neighborhood and parks and trails beyond. 

Some treasures you might look for on your nature scavenger hunt include:

  • Snowflakes
  • Icicles
  • Pinecones 
  • Seed pods
  • Footprints in the snow
  • Different types of clouds
  • Different types of trees
  • Birds, feathers, and nests

The best part about this scavenger hunt is that it can be modified with the changing of the seasons! In the spring, you might look for different flowers. In the summer, you might look for different types of bugs.


2. Color scavenger hunts

Fun for all ages, a color scavenger hunt can help your children learn new colors as well as distinguish between varying hues. 

The setup is simple: Create cards with color swatches, then let your child collect "found" items that correspond to those colors. 

Outside, they might find a blade of grass for the color green — or a rock for the color brown. The items for each color will change with the seasons! This scavenger hunt works well with household items indoors, too.

And to make your scavenger hunts reusable, consider laminating them or putting them into protective plastic sleeves. This helps fortify them against the elements, plus you can use dry-erase markers to write on them. 

3. Stay-at-home scavenger hunts

Perfect for a snow day, stay-at-home scavenger hunts give you a little more creativity in the clues you can set based on your child's skill level. The vaguer your hints, the more bizarre things they might find!

You might include hints like:

  • Something to eat with
  • Something that floats
  • Something that holds other things
  • Something crooked
  • Something that turns on and off
  • Something with patterns
  • Something you can see through

To make it more challenging, try limiting your child to a single room or area of the house. 

4. Sensory scavenger hunts

No matter which scavenger hunt theme you choose, the clues can be divided up into sensory categories: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell — or whichever ones you're most comfortable with during a pandemic. You can even make a sensory bin after!

For outdoor sensory scavenger hunts, be sure to keep extra masks and hand sanitizer handy to ensure best hygiene practices.

5. Sports scavenger hunts

Whether your family enjoys watching baseball, football, basketball, or other sports together, you can turn this bonding activity into a scavenger hunt, too. 

Best of all, you don't have to go to sporting events in-person to complete this scavenger hunt. Turn on the TV, dole out some snacks, and set your children loose to find the items on your specific scavenger hunt list.

For clues, try asking your child to look out for specific equipment, player jerseys, mascots, and reactions from the crowd. For more advanced players, have your children look for specific plays and strategies.

This doubles as a great source of entertainment for younger children who have trouble sitting through their siblings' sporting events.

6. Take photos

To take your creativity even a step further, consider adding photographs to your winter activities for kids. 

You can arm your children with a disposable film camera and ask them to photograph the items they find on their hunt. Or, if they're a little too young to shoot photos, try taking them yourself on your smartphone. 

Not only will you have a collection of new memories to look back on, but you can also review the photos and come up with new rewards, like "Most artistic photo."

7. Make it a friendly competition

Sure, every competition has first, second, and third place winners. But to promote inclusion, try tiering your prizes based on the number of items each child finds: 1-5 items, 5-10 items, 10-15, and so on.

Not sure which prizes to include? Stickers, erasers, and stocking stuffers are great options during the holidays. Or, you could go the more personal route and incentivize your scavenger hunt with prizes like movie nights or sleepovers.

8. Take it on a road trip 

You might find yourself traveling long distances over the holidays. And every parent knows how difficult it can be to keep their children entertained in a cramped car for hours on end. 

Luckily, scavenger hunts are great for on-the-go fun. Some hints you might include are:

  • How many license plates can you find from different states?
  • How many license plates have fun words or phrases on them?
  • How many cars of a certain color can you count? 
  • How many traffic lights or stop signs did you pass?
  • What kind of unique street and city names can you find?

Before you leave, set up some categories on paper. All your children will need is a writing surface and a utensil, and they'll be entertained for hours!

Which winter scavenger hunt will you try?

Winter scavenger hunts don't have to be elaborate or difficult just because of the weather! Even the most creative kids games require only minimal supplies and preparation.