This outdoor sensory scavenger hunt for kids is a fun activity and great way to explore the world outside. Learn how to plan a zero prep sensory scavenger hunt, or use our free printable to get started!
Kids love being outdoors, playing, learning, and generally having a ton of open-ended fun. They also love sensory play!
In our house, most sensory play is unstructured. Playing with play dough or shaking a sensory bottle. Same goes for outdoor play! We love digging in the garden, spotting fish in the creek, climbing on anything and everything, and generally seeing where the day takes us!
But once in a while, it’s fun to offer a semi-organized activity with a clear plan and direction for their play.
Creating outdoor sensory scavenger hunts is a great way to fill your little one’s time while on nature walks, while exploring the local park, when gardening, or in between other organized activities (such as outdoor math activities or outdoor water play!)
They help your child to develop an affinity with nature and the world around them. And they’re a great excuse to get outside on cold and wet days.
Plus they’re incredibly easy to plan and make being in the outdoors fun!
What is a Sensory Scavenger Hunt?
An outdoor sensory scavenger hunt is a fun outdoor adventure involving all 5 senses … although we’ve substituted “taste” for “do and move” for safety reasons!
It lets toddlers and older kids explore the great outdoors using sight, sound, feeling, smelling, and moving their bodies.
What makes a Sensory Scavenger Hunt Different from a Regular Scavenger Hunt?
A sensory scavenger hunt is different from regular scavenger hunts as they require children to use all of their senses, not just collect a list of objects.
Some of the things they have to find or experience are just an idea or concept. They’re things you can’t necessarily ‘evidence’ or collect, but you can watch your little one do the tasks on the list, and celebrate with them as they complete each one.
As the word “sensory” in the title implies, these scavenger hunts are a great way to familiarize your children with their own senses, and the way they can use their body to interact with the world.
As well as the 5 senses we usually think of when we think of our body, we can also develop some of the ‘hidden senses’ that are important for our children’s development.
These include Equilibrioception (our sense of balance) Proprioception (knowing which parts of your body are where without looking), and Kinaesthesia (our sense of movement).
Putting together one of these is a huge parenting win in that your kids will love it, and it doesn’t take too much work on your part.
Read on for our guide to make your own sensory scavenger hunts, including how to make a scavenger hunt with ZERO PREPARATION!
We’ve also included a free printable sensory scavenger hunt for you to try at home.
How to Create an Outdoor Sensory Scavenger Hunt for Kids
It’s incredibly easy to create your own sensory scavenger hunt to try at home (or you could just use our free printables!)
The beauty of making your own is that you can adapt it to your own environment, and the natural features you’re sure you’ll explore along the way during these outdoor nature experiences.
Prepare a Sensory Scavenger Hunt for Your Child
Each of the activities on your sensory nature scavenger hunt should be related to your child’s senses.
We’ve broken up the senses into 5 categories, and filled each with creative ideas you can use directly, or use as inspiration once you get outside.
Obviously, the sense of taste isn’t on this list. We don’t want to be encouraging kids to put things they find outside in their mouths!
I Can See…
The sense of sight is the easiest one to plan for and for your little ones to evidence, as most of the things they search for they can then bring and show you.
As well as having actual things for them to find, also consider giving them broader and more creative activities to complete. For example, find something that is a certain color, size, exploring opposites, etc.
Here are a few ideas of things they can search for and explore with their visual sense:
- animals (ants, worms, dogs, etc)
- something that is red
- something that is moving
- something smaller than my hand
- a worm as long as mom’s foot
I Can Feel…
Think of different textures for these activities. Remember, they don’t all have to be physical objects. Some can be abstract concepts, like the wind on my face.
- a smooth stone vs a bumpy stone
- some moss
- something spiky
- something squishy
- something wet
- something hard
- something cold
- the wind on my face
- the sun on my skin vs the shade on my skin
You could also extend feel to their emotional state, and ask questions about how they feel when doing things outside, and how they feel about things they find:
- Show me something that makes you feel happy, nervous, etc
- Do something that you love
I Can Hear…
These ones are maybe more tricky for your little one to do. You can help them by encouraging them to stand very still and let their ears do all of the work. Model noises and point them out when you hear them too.
You can also encourage your child to make noise for this one (step on crunchy leaves, break a twig, etc!).
- birds chirping
- an airplane or helicopter
- the sound of a car
- an animal noise
- squelchy footsteps
- the sound when I break a stick
I Can Smell…
There will be fewer of these ideas, but they can change with the season!
- a flower
- different plants (you can compare!)
- a pinecone or tree
- the smell of food
- a burning smell (a barbeque or a campfire)
- the smell of mud or a swamp
I Can Do…
For these motor skills, you can make the activities as crazy as you want. Seriously, take the opportunity to use up your children’s energy and break any nap time resistance before it happens!
(Let’s all agree that when parenting little ones, having them worn out by bedtime is great for everyone!)
- run a circle around a tree
- jump over a rock
- kick something
- throw a stick
- make my body into the shape of a tree
- a jump as tall as the wall
- roll an acorn as far as it will go
- roll over the grass
- bunny hop between two trees
Tips for Leading a Sensory Scavenger Hunt
Whatever activity you add to your outdoor sensory nature hunt, make it fun and memorable.
When your kids do the things on the list, be excited and celebrate with them!
It will help you to bond as a family and become a favorite thing to do on a nature walk if you treat it with as much enthusiasm as your kids do.
And don’t be afraid to have a hunt in fair weather, as well as snow and rain!
How to Adapt an Sensory Scavenger Hunt
The beauty of an outdoor scavenger hunt is that it can be adapted for kids of all ages, from preschool to adults! If you have kids at different age ranges, you can make it an activity the whole family can enjoy just by making the activities more or less challenging.
For example, when creating a ‘sight’ clue – instead of finding a leaf, you could ask them to search for a green leaf that’s larger than their hand.
You can add quantities to make it tricker too, so find 4 different smooth pebbles, or run 7 circles around a tree with no leaves.
By using lots of open-ended options, like – ‘something that is…’ you also develop your children’s critical thinking and problem-solving skills (plus make it easier for you to adapt to different places like the forest vs. the beach).
When The Scavenger Hunt is Over…
Use the time after your outdoor sensory hunt to discuss what they found, and encourage children to remember all of the things they found. Let them give opinions on the things that liked to feel, and those which they didn’t like.
You could collect the textured items and leave them to create outside sensory artwork and pictures back home!
Create Your Own ZERO-PREP Sensory Scavenger Hunt
A beautifully made and printed scavenger hunt is always nice to follow, but there are occasions you’ll find yourselves out and about, without a list prepared.
Never fear! It’s still incredibly easy to plan and do a scavenger hunt with your kids. Just tell them the items you need them to find or do.
If you need some inspiration, just look around you for things that you can easily spot.
The beauty of doing a sensory scavenger hunt this way is three-fold:
- Firstly, this opens the activity to little ones of different ages, as it doesn’t rely on being able to ‘read’ the paper instructions
- You can choose scavenger items for your children to find that suit the environment you are in – some printable sheets might ask you to find some moss, and this might not grow in your area. So it saves the disappointment that might be felt by children that are perfectionists!
- You can tailor this one to your child on the go too, so if your child is ‘struggling’ you can give them an ‘easy win’ quick find to help get them back in good spirits, or if they are bursting with a lot of energy you can tire them out by giving them more ‘active’ challenges!
Download Our Free Printable PDF Outdoor Sensory Scavenger Hunt!
There are other parenting times when it’s nice to have an activity prepared for you and your kids.
If you’d like to try out an outdoor scavenger hunt with your kids, but would rather use a prepared set of “clues”, you can use our FREE printable PDF sensory scavenger hunt.
It’s perfect for a trip to the park or to help explore the great outdoors.
As a bonus, we’ve also included a printable blank scavenger hunt too. This one you can adapt for your own adventures!
As an extra idea, you could print and laminate the pdf page and write or draw on the things your kids need to find or do! Keep it in the car with a dry-wipe marker and a ‘collecting bag’ for no-hassle fun whenever you find yourselves outdoors.
Final Thoughts on Planning an Outdoor Sensory Scavenger Hunt for Kids
We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide on how to make a sensory scavenger hunt for your kids. We hope that it will make being outdoors in nature more rewarding for you and your little ones.
If you know any other parents who would love to do this activity with their kids, feel free to share the link with them – and let them download the free bonus printable pdf search sheets too!