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Zoomazium to You: Scavenger Hunt Weekend!

We're Going on a Bear Hike...!

Did you know May 24th is National Scavenger Hunt Day? This long weekend, join us for a short virtual scavenger hunt with our Going on a Bear Hike singalong video! Look for the animals who sing, stretch, sneak, hop and swim along as we take you on a hike through the zoo in search of grizzly bear brothers Keema and Denali!


Watch: Going on a bear hike: https://youtu.be/NuK-w2DLUgM

As you watch, practice stretching, sneaking and swimming with your young learners! You might even pause the video to ask them to show you their biggest hop and quietest sneak!

Now that you've enjoyed a virtual bear trek at the zoo, it's time to get outdoors for your own neighborhood scavenger hunt!

Zoomazium to You: Scavenger Hunt Weekend!

Posted by Janel Kempf, Early Childhood

It doesn’t matter where you look, there’s always something worth seeing.

It’s easy to think of wildlife and habitats as living far away—a pride of lions on the African savanna, a pair of white-naped cranes dancing gracefully on the steppes of eastern Siberia, or a solitary snow leopard stalking the Himalayas. But here’s the thing—everywhere is far away to someone. Even our own neighborhoods!

A baby pudu hidden in the grass, photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.
Look at your neighborhood through the eyes of your early learner, and you’ll see wonders.

Now’s a great time to take some walks with your child. During the pandemic, many households are placing teddy bears in their windows for a little extra motivation to get outdoors for some safe, healthy exercise. And, even better—the week of May 24 is National Scavenger Hunt Week!

Zoomazium’s early childhood team loves scavenger hunts! Collecting and sorting objects into categories is a favorite activity of early childhood, and is developmentally important as well. In addition to simply adding information to their growing brains, sorting is one of the foundations of mathematical literacy. Scavenger hunts provide opportunities to virtually collect and sort things that can’t (or shouldn’t) be physically picked up and brought home.

Look closely and you'll discover lots of hidden things! Photo by Landon Martin on Unsplash

What you need:
A notepad and pen or pencil to make your scavenger hunt list (or use a notes app on a mobile device)
Time: As much as you have!
Age Range: Ages 18 months to 8 years
School Connections: Early numeracy skills, particularly counting, one-to-one correspondence, estimation; early literacy

At its most basic, a scavenger hunt is just a list of items to find. But the best ones for young children have a theme, and allow for sorting into categories. Your list can contain any number of items, but consider starting small—you can always add more if your child finds the theme especially exciting!

Who can you spy in your neighborhood? Photo by Jason Rost on Unsplash
Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Fuzzies! Incorporate all those teddy bears in windows into a scavenger hunt for real animals, too! Make two columns on your paper—a teddy bears column, and one for real animals. You can either just count and make lists as you go (which provides quick success for very young children), or create lists of teddies/animals to look for. Your teddy bear list might include a brown one, a bright-colored one, a tiny one, and one that’s not a bear at all! Think about what real animals you might be likely to see in your neighborhood. Your list might include a squirrel, a rabbit, a dog, or (if you walk near dusk) a bat!

Crittersong: Not every scavenger hunt needs to be things you can see. Try listening for animal sounds! If your family enjoys birding, you might make a list of familiar bird songs, and listen for them with your child as you walk. If you don’t recognize bird songs by species, you can still have fun with this one—just listen for bird calls, and write each unique one you hear on your list. Lots of other animals make sounds, too. Maybe your list could include the huge buzz of a flowering shrub covered with bees, the subtle hum of a hummingbird’s wings, and the sudden rustle of leaves that tells you a rabbit just darted under cover as you approached. 

Robin nest in a rhodie, photo by Janel Kempf
Signs of Animals Past: You don’t always see animals—sometimes you just see signs they were there! What signs can you think of that an animal may have left? Start your list with a slime trail left by a snail or slug, a spot of bird poop, and maybe an insect tunnel in the wood of an old tree stump.

Animals at Home:
It’s not just people living in your neighborhood—lots of animals make their homes there, too! Some animal homes to look for might include a foam ball made by a hidden spittlebug nymph (they especially love the stems of lavender plants), the nests of crows, robins, or bushtits (for the last one, look for a hanging nest of moss and small leaves held together with spider silk), or a hole in the side of a tree trunk (“whitewash”—bird poop on the tree trunk below—can be a sign one is currently in use). Just remember this is springtime, and babies might be in nests. Observe from a distance, and don’t risk disturbing an animal family by investigating too closely. 

Spittlebug! Photo by Janel Kempf

Spineless: A lot of neighborhood wildlife is teeny-tiny—just right for close viewing by toddlers and preschoolers! Invertebrates (animals without backbones) can be found in all sorts of neighborhood mini-habitats. Carefully turn over a rock or piece of wood, and list all the animals you find. These might include sowbugs (AKA pillbugs or roly-polys), centipedes, earthworms, snails, and more. Think of all the tiny animals you might find in and among the leaves of a shrub, and see how many you can find. There might be bumblebees, honeybees, ladybugs, spiders, or aphids! 

Insect tunnel, photo by Janel Kempf
Literacy extension for ages 18 months to 4 years: Scavenger hunts don't have to be words alone, especially for children building the earliest foundations of literacy. Draw pictures (labeled with words) of your scavenger hunt items, and have your toddler or preschooler use a crayon to make a mark every time they see a real-life version of the picture. When you get home, draw pictures together of what you saw, then write your child’s comments on the picture. Capturing what a child says in writing tells the child their thoughts are important to their special grownups!

Literacy extension for ages 4 years and up: Try a scavenger hunt for letter shapes in nature! You can make it easy by only looking for shapes like O, V, lower-case L, and other uncomplicated letters, or go as tricky as you like with B, R, or the entire alphabet. After all, that hole in a tree is definitely an O, the beak of a singing bird might be a V, and centipedes and garter snakes spend a lot of time S-shaped!

Happy Scavenger Hunt Day! And if you're looking for even more inspiration this weekend, visit our zoo.org/zootoyou activity packets just for kids (packet 4 even has a nature walk scavenger hunt print out!).

What will you find? Photo by Nurpalah Dee on Unsplash

For the previous week's Zoomazium To You activities as well as animal-inspired activity kits and coloring pages, visit zoo.org/zootoyou to invite the zoo to your home.


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