The weather is finally getting warmer, and the world is blooming all around us, so naturally, my family is itching to get outside. Although I’m a big fan of letting my daughter, Chloe, just amble about aimlessly in the yard (it’s amazing how much fun a stick and a pile of dirt can provide), I sometimes like to give her something a little more interactive to do outside.
One of my favorite outdoor games is an ABC nature scavenger hunt, where players have to find something outside that starts with every letter of the alphabet. This game is great for so many reasons. Obviously, it helps teach kids letters, sounds, and spelling, so Junior gets to learn that the word "centipede" actually starts with a "C" not an "S."
But it also lets kids really explore and dig into their environments, discovering plants and animals that they might not notice on their own and learning their names (lichen, anyone?). They have to look beyond the clearly visible to find what’s hidden and less obvious, and watching kids do this is always exciting.
To play, every object on the list has to be something that the kids have actually found in their environment, not just an animal that they know exists somewhere in the world. So putting down "zebra" for the letter "Z" won't fly unless you actually live in the African savannah and just saw one run by. But on the other hand, I'm all for encouraging creativity for tough letters like "Z," so things like "zebra-striped rock" or "zephyr" are OK.
You can either play casually, just by looking around and naming things, or actually make a written list; both ways are fun. Players also have the option of actually collecting the things they find or just observing them. I’m a fan of a hybrid method, where some objects, like rocks or flowers, are collected, whereas others, like a hawk or a bee, are just observed. Groups of kids could make it a contest to see who finishes their list first.
And the best part of this game? It changes! You can play it again and again, throughout the year, and in different places—the beach, the backyard, on a camping trip—and you’ll never have the same list twice.
What are your favorite outdoor games for kids?