How to Have a Nature Photo Scavenger Hunt: A to Z Style
Looking for a fun outdoor activity that doesn’t take a lot of time to plan?
Hand your kids a camera and head outside for an outdoor activity you can do together. Give it a shot—you may find that your kids like to play with your camera almost as much as their electronic games and gadgets.
In this article I’ll show you how quick and easy it is to plan an A to Z photo scavenger hunt that will get your family outside exploring your neighborhood or park and begging to stay out longer.
Why an A to Z Scavenger Hunt?
Scavenger hunts are a great way to engage with your kids, but the thought of all the intensive preparation—the maps, checklists and other considerations—can be enough to stop you before you begin. My Kids’ Adventures makes scavenger hunts and treasure hunts easy. And this A to Z scavenger hunt is the easiest one yet! For most families, the school year is busy! There are so many things to get done: homework, reading, car pools and after-school activities all go by in a blur, leaving not much time for fun family activities. An outdoor letter scavenger hunt helped our family get outside doing something fun together without any preparation or mess. I wanted to share it with your family, too. Does this scenario sound familiar?
- Son: “Mom, I’m bored.”
- Me: “Go outside.”
- Son: “There’s nothing to do outside.”
In my youth long ago and far away, I remember spending full days outside, but it seems my son hasn’t yet mastered that skill. Son: “If you would buy me a DS I wouldn’t be bored.” Kids these days. Why don’t they think they can have fun without pressing buttons? Like any good mom, I have a board on Pinterest where I have catalogued experiments that look like fun to do on days like these. I boot up my computer and take a look, but all of the projects on Pinterest seem to involve big messes and copious amounts of cornstarch. In the back of my mind, I remembered seeing a poster at a home store that spelled the word “welcome” using everyday objects as letters. Suddenly, I had an idea for an outdoor activity that wouldn’t be messy or take any preparation. You can see in this screenshot from Great BIG Canvas what a fun project you can make.
An outdoor letter scavenger hunt is the perfect boredom buster because it gets you and your kids outside, it requires no prep and involves no messy ingredients. I was happy because I was outside with my kids, and my kids were happy because they got to press a button—the one on my camera.
Your family will enjoy an A to Z scavenger hunt, too. Read on for some tips and tricks.
#1: Explain Your Objective
As you start your walk, explain to your kids that the purpose of the scavenger hunt is to find as many objects that look like letters as possible and take pictures of them.
Upper case or lower case, block vs. cursive, things found in nature or manmade objects—it’s all fine. Just look for letters, however you can find them. This may be a little hard for young kids to grasp. It’s easier to show than to tell.
Once you find your first letter, you’ll start to see them everywhere.
Our first find was the letter ‘W’ formed out of tree branches. We saw a lot of ‘O’s, a couple of ‘T’s, and what my 2-year-old insisted was a letter ‘A’ (but we all suspect it was a ploy to use the camera just like big brother).
Your kids may like the challenge of searching for letters, or they may just like getting to use your camera. What’s the big draw that keeps your kids interested? Either one is fine. The important thing is that you’re outside doing something fun together.
#2: Decide What to Search for
Keep it simple at the beginning. Start your scavenger hunt just looking for random letters. Once you’ve had a chance to observe your kids’ interest levels and gauge how easy or difficult it is to find letters in the place you’re exploring, then you can announce a more specific objective. Here are some ideas:
- Find 3 (or 5, or 10) letters each time you go for a walk
- Find all the vowels
- Spell your child’s name
- Spell a pet’s name
- Spell your city or town’s name
- Spell a word or phrase (like ‘Welcome’ or ‘Happy Birthday’)
- Spell your family’s last name
- Find the whole alphabet
- Find the whole alphabet—upper case and lower case
- Find numbers (it’s harder than you may think!)
Be flexible and attentive. Simply looking for letters in nature and architecture may be enough for a 5-year-old. A 10-year-old may be driven to find the whole alphabet.
I set out with the idea that we would find the letters in my son’s name, but it was too much for him. And that’s ok. Quit when they’re tired and keep it fun for everyone. You can look for a few more letters on your next walk. If you’re going to look for specific letters or words, it’s a good idea to make a checklist to take along on your walk. You can print an alphabet page or jot down the letters you need on a note or in your phone. This will help keep track of letters you’ve found and what you still need to look for. The point is to have fun and get outside, so be creative!
#3: Take Better Pictures
There are a few tricks you can learn (and teach your kids) to take better photos of the letters you find. Fill your frame with the letter. A close up draws the eye right to the letter.
Hold the camera in the same orientation. Take all the photos in either horizontal/landscape or in vertical/portrait. This will make it easier to create artwork and words with your photos later.
Remove distracting backgrounds. Zoom in, take the photo from another angle or move the letter onto a neutral background so the letter stands out.
Don’t expect perfection, but if you practice these suggestions, your letter photos will improve.
#4: Letter-Finding Tips
If you’re having trouble finding certain letters, these tips may help.
Look everywhere: up, down, at small things and large things, at things that are nearby or far away.
Sometimes you’ll see a letter you didn’t notice before when you look at something from a different perspective.
If you find more than one thing that looks like a particular letter, take pictures of them both. Decide later which one is best to use.
You may be able to use the spare as a different letter.
Take another walk in another place to look for letters you couldn’t find the first time.
Keep in mind that photos can be cropped. Something may look more like a letter when you crop away the distracting details that surround it.
As a last resort, you can turn or flip photos around in your photo editing software.
#5: What to Do With Your Letter Pictures
Okay, you had lots of fun together on your scavenger hunt and now you have all these pictures of letters. What’s next? Take a few minutes to look through them on the screen of your digital camera or on your computer, but don’t stop there. There are many creative things you can do with your pictures once you’ve taken them. With the help of free photo editing sites such as PicMonkey, you can work with your kids to edit and crop your photos into words or names. You can then use the photo collages or individual letter photos for artwork or as graphics on thank-you and holiday cards. You can make alphabet flash cards or a framed print or a sign of a name. Use someone’s initials to make gift tags.
Check out the items that can be made out of your pictures on photo printing sites like Shutterfly or Costco Photo Center. They offer a lot more than just photo albums and coffee mugs. You’re only limited by your imagination (and Pinterest can help with that). Some Final Thoughts… It’s easy to spend your busy days rushing from one activity to the next. Despite the obstacles, kids and adults alike will benefit from time spent together. A letter scavenger hunt is a great way to get outside, spend time with your kids and let them practice their photography skills. And you’ll end up with some photo memories and unique gifts to give, too. What do you think? Do you have any ideas for other simple scavenger hunts? Have you ever found letters in unexpected places? I’d love to see your pictures or read your stories in the comments.
Jillian Kay is an office worker by day, and at night and on weekends you can find her working in the garden, or cooking from scratch in the kitchen. Other posts by Jillian Kay »