Seek and find

Photo by Bill Barber

Despite all the toys that surround them, August is when you’re most likely to hear the kids say they’re bored.

This is the time of year that the wise parents and grandparents have a few surprises up their sleeves, games and activities that will keep the kids occupied and active all day. One of the best is a cottage scavenger hunt.

Scavenger hunts seem to have gone out of fashion in recent years, which is a shame because they’re incredibly versatile activities. You can tailor the task to suit your group, from young children to mixed teams of all ages. You can even structure the timeframe, coming up with a list that can be completed in under an hour, or one that takes all weekend – or even all summer – to complete.

The only things you need for a good scavenger hunt is a list of items and a set of ground rules. The ground rules spell out things like the timeframe (the easiest approach is to just set an end time, and say “we will gather on the deck at 4:00”) and whether items need to be collected or can be photographed or videoed for proof. Decide whether this is being done individually or in teams: if you’ve got enough people, teams can be the most fun.

Geographic boundaries are important, too – don’t underestimate how far afield people will go in once the competitive spirit takes hold! (For more than 20 years, most graduating classes at the Bracebridge high school have organized a decidedly-not-school-sanctioned “scav.” It often gets out of hand and sometimes results in arrests for things like public nudity – a clear case of competition gone overboard!)

The real fun of hosting a scavenger hunt is setting the search list. This is where you get to draw on your own knowledge of the area, and your creativity.

The simplest form of hunt involves finding things in the woods: young children will be engaged for an hour or more looking for an acorn, a maple leaf, a pine cone, etc.

If you’ve got a longer time frame and older people involved, you can broaden the scope to beyond the property. Locally-available items like an Oliver’s coffee cup or a bottle of Muskoka Springs ginger ale will have people planning a run into town just for the fun of it.

The items don’t just need to be tangible goods, either. Try adding experiences that need to be recorded or photographed for proof – ask for a video of the oldest member of the team diving off the dock, or a picture of someone standing up in a canoe.

Or you can add items of arcane knowledge to the list. What’s the middle name of the woman who works at the corner store? How many signs are nailed to the tree at the end of the road? What colour is the third mailbox from the corner?

The goal, of course, isn’t to get these things. Those are really just an excuse to get out, explore, and have fun. Make up some fun prizes, or even a trophy or two, and you’ve got the makings of a fabulous cottage afternoon or weekend.



Posted in Connecting with Nature.

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