Un-Natural Treasure Hunt

This weeks scavenger hunt is going to require a bit of pre-planning. Inside your kit is a card with a bag attached to it. Inside the bag are the objects printed on the card.

Your grown up is going to go hide the objects in the bag in your backyard for you to then go and find.

See if you can find them all.

Maybe you can hide them for your brother or sister to find. Make sure they are in plain sight!

After you finish your treasure hunt you can use them to add to your Found Objects Collage project.

To the Grown-up:

One of the best parenting tips I ever received was to start a random toys vase. You may have seen these on Pinterest, I’ve heard people turn them into lamps.

Anyway…the vase is just a glass jar, wine glass, vase, whatever doesn’t really matter so long as it’s clear and can collect the small random toys your child will inevitably bring home. It is really a genius tip for two reasons, a) it gives you somewhere to put all those random bits that will just drive you crazy because you don’t know what to do with them and b) now you have a collection of tiny toys that come in surprisingly handy.

Some of the things we’ve done with our random toy collection over the years:

  • created this scavenger hunt 😉
  • made a box of trades and trinkets for geocaching
  • used them as game pieces for board games
  • found perfect tiny props for school projects

It’s also fun to dump out and use to remember and tell the stories of where the toys came from. Below is a photo of the one that sits on my dresser.

Properties of Mud

A Very Muddy Story

One summer a long time ago, when I was a little girl, my parents planted a hedge of large cedar trees. The trees had very big root balls and needed to be planted in very big holes. My parents dug holes for those trees for a week and my sister and I were allowed to jump in and out of them. The holes were so big that my 9 year old self could barely climb back out on my own. When I was in the bottom of one it came up to my chest. My little sister could hardly see out the top of them.

They were deep and dirty and the most fun we had ever had. Until planting day…..

Before you plant a tree you are supposed to water the hole it is going to go in. So those holes that my sister and I had played in all week now were being filled with water. Because we had jumped in them so much the soil was compacted and drained fairly slowly so we had several of the biggest mud puddles you have ever seen in your life to jump in. And oh did we jump in them!

Now that they were wet and slippery we couldn’t get out at all without my Dad lifting us. So my sister and I each jumped into a hole and that’s where he left us to play until we’d had our fill of fun. My parents planted the rest of their trees while we jumped and splashed and scooped and slopped and made a thick gooey mess in the bottom of our holes.

Eventually our parents were ready to finish their tree planting project and my dad hauled first my sister and then me out of our holes and replaced them with a tree. We had a sprinkler that sprayed tiny straight lines in a long strip into the air, my dad rolled it out along near the newly planted hedge for us to run through and rinse ourselves off.

Each time we came onto the deck to come inside he would come to the patio door and inspect us for mud. We had to run back and forth many times before we were clean enough to be allowed back in the house. Once we were inside, my Mom made us a tasty snack of grilled cheese and watermelon and my Dad sat down at the table with us so he could give us a stern talking to about the trees.

We had our fun and the trees were planted. We were not allowed to play in the mud around the trees anymore or they would die and my father would be very upset. He did however, leave us a pile of dirt in a corner of the yard that we were allowed to play with.

That week, playing in those muddy holes was so much fun that I think about it often, even as a grown up.

If you ask your grown up I’ll bet they have a very muddy story about that they could tell you.

Do you have a very muddy story?

What makes mud? What are the ingredients?

Project 1

I’d like you to go on a hunt and collect different types of soil so that we can learn about what kind of dirt makes the best mud and how we can make mud on our own.

You will need:

  • 3 clear containers with lids
  • A shovel or scoop
  • A stick to stir
  • A bit of water to mix

With your containers we are going to wander around your yard or neighbourhood and see if we can find three different kinds of dirt. Try to find more than one kind of dirt. Different types to look for include:

  • dry, hard-packed dirt
  • loose soil
  • gravel
  • silt
  • sand
  • clay
  • dirt collected from under a tree (in the leaf litter)

Mini Project 2

We are going to bring our samples home and fill our jars half full of water.

Give them a stir and then leave them for at least a couple hours.

Now you’re gonna come back to them and have a look.

  • What do you notice?
  • Are there layers?
  • Is the water clear or muddy?
  • Which one do you think will be the best mud?
  • Which would be best for growing plants?

Let’s go test it out in your backyard mud pit.

To the Grownup:

If you are really into this, as your child collects the dirt, encourage them to discuss what they observe.
The following questions come from Gwen at Preschool Science who also helped with the layout for this activity.

  • How does dirt differ from place to place?
  • Where is the ground hard?
  • Where is it soft?
  • If the dirt is hard-packed, what’s the best way to loosen it?
  • Is the dirt dry or moist?
  • What does it feel like?
  • What does it smell like?
  • How is dirt collected from under a tree different from the dirt collected elsewhere?
  • Do you see any leaves? Bugs? Twigs? Seeds? Clues that animals have been here?

If you have a child interested in gardening you can extend this into a seed sprouting experiment.

Tiny Matchbox Treasure Hunt

This is a treasure hunt for your keen nature eyes.

How many different things can you fit in your matchbox? They have to all be different. 10 of all the same flower or stone doesn’t count. Take your time and see what you can find. I’d love if you brought it with you to show me.

You can take a magnifying glass on your scavenger hunt to help to investigate your discoveries. Can you see intricate patterns, subtle colour changes and interesting textures?

To the grown-ups:

I saw this idea from another Forest School program and thought it would be a fun one to try. I’ve wrapped your children’s matchboxes with plain paper so they can decorate or draw on them as they see fit.

This is an easily repeatable one and a way to keep that nature collection down to a dull roar.
When you go on a walk bring a matchbox along with you for your child to put their treasures in. If it doesn’t fit in the matchbox it can’t come home.

Finding Flowers

This week we will look at the many flowers blooming in our community. I couldn’t possibly include them all so I’ve gathered some of the most common and marked those which we can pick and those which are best left in place.

You will need:

When you’ve gathered a collection of flowers from your yard and neighbourhood bring them home to create a beautiful pressed flower Mother’s Day card. (you can speed up your flower pressing project by using an iron)

My #1 goal is always toward stewardship.

Stewardship is when we take the time to care for something outside of ourselves.

As humans we are always going to pick and harvest natural materials so it is important to instill some mindfulness toward that activity when we are with our little ones. Just because we “can” pick it doesn’t mean we should pick it.

If you’d like to continue your flower hunting in a nature park or on a trail make sure to remind your little one to not pick the wildflowers .

There are some wonderful local resources for identifying flowers.

My favorite field guide is an out of print one called Plants of Southern Interior BC that you can sometimes find on Amazon.

We have a local Facebook group called the Kamloops Wildflower Project where some local naturalists share their vast knowledge.

Nature Bingo

There are A LOT of nature Bingo cards on the internet. Like a lot.
But none of them are really very pretty, or seasonal or are things you can collect, which is pretty much the most fun part about scavenger hunts! So I had my lovely talented daughter make us a beautiful spring nature bingo scavenger hunt. You can follow her art account on Instagram here. She takes commissions and makes beautiful art.

You will need:

We are going to use our nature bingo items for two different activities.

Sort your items into two categories.

  1. Everything that will make colour when you smash it for Hapa Zome
    (leaves, cedar, flowers, pine needles, dandelion)
  2. Everything else – Sink or Float
    (rocks, trash, bark, sticks, feather – if leaves and flowers end up here it’s totally ok!)

If there is some crossover or misplacement no worries the process will soon show your little one they’ve categorized incorrectly.

Signs of Spring

Spring is about to burst into blossom and bloom downtown here where I live. The city streets are full of buds and blossoms are beginning to emerge. Warmth is in the air and jackets are scattered in the yard. Seems the perfect time of year to begin collecting colourful treasures to play and create with.

This weeks scavenger hunt comes to you from my amazingly talented daughter and you can download it here you can also follow her art account on Instagram here. She takes commissions and makes beautiful art.

You will need:

  • Scavenger hunt list
  • Container for collecting
  • A thick heavy book (later, when you’re done)

There are two extensions this week for your scavenger hunt items a spring nature collage (below) and making spring soup for a back yard tea party.

Have your child choose which items they’d like to put in the book and which they’d like to leave outside to play with. It helps to press the items you are going to use for this in a big book before you begin to make your collage.

Once you’re done collecting grab a sheet of contact paper and start creating.

Spring Nature Collage

Another classic that will yield marvelously different results if repeated in the fall and spring.

You will need:

  • Contact paper
  • Pressed nature items
  • Additional materials for their collage
  • Backing – tissue paper, contact paper, construction paper

Tape one of your pieces of contact paper to the table where you are working.

When you are ready carefully peel the contact paper backing and have your child test the stickiness with their finger.

Begin creating.

Things might rip or tear if you try to lift them off the contact paper so if your little one is a stickler for layout you might want to hold off on peeling the backing.

When they are all done gently lay your second piece of contact paper over the first and trim the edges.

Hole punch the top and add a string for a beautiful wall or window hanging.

This can turn into a beautiful gift for grandma for Mother’s Day.

Nature Portrait Scavenger Hunt

In this invitation we will gather some materials in the backyard and then bring them inside to create a self portrait. You’re going to want to send them to where they can actually find a cottonwood tree.

You will need:

  • container for collecting
  • Parts of a Cottonwood – scavenger hunt list
  • a mirror
  • a dry erase marker (optional)
  • a piece of cardstock
  • a pencil (optional)
  • white glue (watered down 1:3 water:glue)

There is a list in your kit this week but if you need another you can download the printable here it was created by my talented daughter who you can follow on Instagram here. She takes commissions and makes beautiful art..

Send your child off with their and the sheet and while they are gone set up the remaining materials in an organized way, leaving room for your child’s container when they return.

Toddler Adaptation

Instead of giving your toddler a list you could have them find the matching items already in an egg carton.
Fill the back 6 spaces of an egg carton with items easily found in your yard and ask them to find something just like they have to put in the front spaces.

I saw this lovely idea at Toddler At Play

A self portrait is a very introspective activity that is perfect for little ones because it focuses on the most important person in their world – themselves!
Looking in a mirror at yourself and deciding what material to use for each of your features, which parts you capture is a way for you to gain insight on how they see themselves.

Read More at Journey into Inquiry – Reggio: Examining Self Portraits

When your child returns invite them into their work space and ask them to create a picture of themselves.

If they’d like to practice they can trace their face on the mirror with the dry erase marker.

They can also draw their face on the card stock before beginning with the natural materials.

Encourage them to play with making their face happy or sad or angry or laughing before gluing any pieces down. When they are happy a little white glue and a paint brush will allow them to spread the glue where they’d like to stick their nature pieces.

Remember the purpose is in the play not the product. The point isn’t to have a nature face to hang on your wall. The point is to engage your child in exploring their inner and outer world more deeply; to support their learning how to recognize their own facial features and expressions.


What is a minibeast?

Quite literally, a ‘minibeast is simply a small animal. Spiders, snails, slugs, beetles, centipedes, worms, earwigs, caterpillars……these are just a few well-known examples of the thousands and thousands of types of ‘creepy-crawlies’ that exist all over the world.

They are animals which do not have an internal skeleton technically they are called invertebrates aka…..bugs. There are more invertebrates on earth than any other type of animal.

Fact sheet

Minibeasts live all around us in a many different habitats, including our backyards and in our homes. As you explore and search for the minibeasts in your yard think about what makes a good habitat for them.

Is it wet or dry?

What is nearby?

Let’s go on a hunt to find some. Grab your magnifying glass and this beautiful scavenger hunt printout we can use by Kelly Rowe on her website Live Laugh Rowe.

To the grownups

If you child is interested in minibeasts one of the most classic and engaging projects to begin is to create a habitat for them.

A bug hotel, a bee house, a mud pit or pile, a box with grass and leaves. Simple.

These are all classic children’s activities that you probably did your fair share of as a child. You don’t need a terrarium or anything fancy. The materials you have in your home are more than enough.

The purpose is the play.

To be creative.

To explore and experiment.

To pay attention to the details.

To show care and attention to a living creature.

A fun starting place is discovering which live where. Some live on the ground some under it. Some live in the air and some in the water.

What kind of habitat might your child be interested in building?

Rabbit Small World

Can you make a home for this rabbit and their family in your backyard or a box?
Where might they like to live?

rabbit small world

The rabbit in Peterson Creek lives in the hillside just below the musical bridge. If you look over the edges you can often see his trail. He hops through the grassy field when everyone is at home for the day. He hops far from his house, always mindful of the owl who also watches the field.

What do you know about rabbits?
What do they like to eat?
Where do they live?
Do they have lots of babies or just one?

You will need:

  • Rabbit
  • Items from your nature treasure hunt – rocks, pine cones, flowers
  • Magic Door

To the Grown Up

Small world play is a big developmental step for young children and they may need some support to get there. The purpose of this prompt is to begin building their imaginative skills and engage your child in a playful world of their own creation.

Questions to deepen play:

Can you dig them a burrow? (if digging is permitted)

What kinds of things might you add to their home?

Who lives next door to the rabbit?