Get Off-Screen and Outdoors With a Scavenger Hunt

For those who read the recent article about escaping COVID screen time and getting outdoors, you saw a list of six or so activities to do in Washington’s great outdoors. You may have done them alone to get some individual, “you” time. You may have gotten those kids of yours off the screen and out of zoom and went to soak in much-needed vitamin D from the sun and fresh winter brisk air. Either alone or with your family, it may be easy to bundle up and walk outdoors — but what then?

The reason I wrote that article is because, as a preschool and elementary school special education teacher during these times of COVID regulations and Zoom, screen time is almost inevitable. But it does not mean that it is healthy for any of us. There aren’t really any other options, however. Too much screen time has been linked to low attention spans, lack of quality relationships and the fear of missing out, only to name a few. Too much looking at a screen has exposed kids and adults to too much blue light and sleep habits have been affected in negative ways. Therefore, I wanted to encourage adults and their kids to get outside, escape the screen and live. Get outside and experience the outdoors that is abundant across our entire state. Washington has so many public lands and parks for the general public to experience, so get to them! 

Make a Plan

Many people (unless a strategic plan is drawn out and a road map is created) go outside and sometimes walk aimlessly. But how? Why? We have so much to do, sometimes that is the problem — the opportunities are endless and therefore, could be overwhelming. This week, I wanted to provide a specific activity that both adults and families could engage in. So for those of you who need that road map, that direction, that little extra guidance of what exactly you or you and your family could do outdoors — here you go.

This activity is to get anyone outdoors and explore the nature that surrounds them. Whether in a city or out in the country, nature resides with us, and appreciating it is something we all can do no matter our living situations. 

Activity: Winter Wilderness Scavenger Hunt!

For this scavenger hunt, make any adaptations needed in order to meet your circumstances. But I do think anyone will be able to seek and find most of the things on the list. Also, none of these have to be done in order. But each beyond the first two things is intended to spark conversations, create wonder and make a habit of noticing and observing things around us. Now, without any more mumbo jumbo, here we go for some fresh air!

toddler playing in creek
  1. Put on shoes or boots (dependant on weather)
  2. Grab a jacket or sweatshirt
  3. Identify what the weather is like outside — what controls the weather? How does the weather dictate what we need/should wear?
  4. Find two different species of trees. What do they have in common? Different? Is there any new growth?
  5. Find trees, bushes, other plants and flowers. Do they have any new growth? Anything blooming? Why or why not?
  6. Find sticks, rocks or leaves and spell your name — capital or lowercase letters. 
  7. Now walk for 5 minutes, and after 5 minutes is up, take 20 random jumps in any direction and say the first thing you see. Try spelling the thing you see in nature.
  8. Finally, collect three things from nature, things that you can hold and carry. Now find a bench, big rock or something that gets you up off the ground — beyond just standing. Hold your three things and drop them, which one hits first? If you have a stopwatch, drop each thing individually. Start and stop the timer for each one, which one hit the ground the slowest? Fastest? Order them from fastest to slowest. Compare them to the other object other people collected. Who has the fastest out of them all? Why do you think the fastest one was the fastest? What about the slowest? Why was it slower than the rest?

Create Learning Opportunities

This is not anything extensive but it is an activity that has the potential to spark and create more opportunities for conversations with your kids that you may have not engaged much with them in. Our kids are sponges and what we do, what we talk about, and what appears to be important to us, are going to be things that they pick up and emulate most times.

If you’re reading this, you love the outdoors. Showing your kids that you love the outdoors and everything about them and finding glimpses of nature in big cities or out in the country will also teach them to appreciate it as much as you do. Teaching your kids the skill set to be observant and to notice nature will carry over into other aspects of their lives. Talking about it and communicating with them, talking through it all is what cements it as valuable in their brains. Isn’t that what we want? For our kids to observe life, to notice things happening around them and to appreciate life and everything it has to offer?

It starts with you and it starts with our kids directly experiencing it all. So get them out there to practice and live it. Enjoy!

A.J. Howard

A.J. is married with two children. Living in NE Washington State you will find A.J. and family outdoors exploring new areas all of the time. Pursuing adventure and making memories as a family.

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