For a scavenger hunt to be a success, you should take into account the ages or skill levels of the people who participate. It is obvious that a scavenger hunt simple enough to be navigated by young children would be dull for adults who would not be challenged by it, but including just the right amount of complexity for different age groups can be tricky. This Scavenger Hunt Scout age guide is designed to help you make your scavenger hunt or treasure hunt perfect for the age level it is intended for.
Under 5 years old:
Toddlers may not have a clue what a scavenger hunt is about, but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy it. The main thing to keep in mind for children less than 5 years old is that each child will need someone to keep an eye on them and help them. Chaperones will have to guide their young charges, and explain every step of the process (probably many times!)
Tips for under 5 age group:
- Put items in plain sight.
- Choose items children are interested in, such as toys or candy
- Keep your item list short.
- Make your search area very small.
5-8 years old:
Children in this age group will need a lot of guidance, but they should not need someone to walk around with them the entire time if the items are simple. The best thing to do for this group is to demonstrate the process of finding an item once before actually starting the scavenger hunt. Show them an example list item, explain that you are going to look for and find it, then actually do so. Pretend to struggle a little bit, don’t just go right to the item… that way the kids will understand that some effort is involved and they won’t get frustrated when they can’t find items right away. Station an adult that kids can come to during the hunt if they have questions or need someone to read their items for them.
Tips for 5-8 age group:
- Put most items in plain sight, unless they can be found in an obvious location. Most kids will know a fork will be in a kitchen drawer, but don’t put a shoe there.
- Choose common, one-word items that are easy to read. Hat = good. Statuette of Charlemagne = bad.
- Limit your search area. A playground or backyard works well.
7-10 years old:
These children should need less guidance but a good explanation and demonstration is still recommended. List items can be a little more advanced, but don’t go overboard with words the kids will not understand. Children 7-10 are old enough to grasp the concept of a clue hunt and will probably enjoy the addition as long as the riddles are easy.
Tips for 7-10 age group:
- Kids this age will happily search for hours. Make your list as long as you want.
- It’s okay to broaden the search area as long as kids will be safe, but be very clear about boundaries. Sticking to a smaller, well-defined area is still best.
- Items do not need to be too conspicuous, but they should not be fiendishly hard to find.
9-12 years old:
This age group will enjoy a little bit more difficulty that younger children would struggle with. Clue hunts are perfect, and adding physical challenges will increase the fun as well. Just be sure to keep things safe. If you are designing a traditional scavenger hunt rather than a clue hunt, make some of the list items unusual or harder to find. Throw in a few things the kids are not likely to have heard of, so that they have to learn what the item is in order to search for it.
Tips for 9-12 age group:
- The more stimulation, the better. Add riddles, puzzles, obstacles, interaction with people, etc. to make finding each item a little different.
- Start your list with easier items and gradually make them more difficult.
- Try to make it educational!
11-14 years old:
A lot of what applies to the 9-12 age group holds true for these kids, but you can step up the difficulty and introduce more subtle elements. Incorporating pop culture can go a long way if you have your finger on the pulse of pre-teen interests. Kids in this age group are generally better at working together than younger children, so team scavenger hunts are a good idea… especially if you have a lot of participants. Competition is also a bigger factor, even more so if a treasure is involved.
Tips for 11-14 age group:
- Widen your search area as much as you feel comfortable with. These kids or teams will probably want to spread out and keep their searching hidden from each other to avoid giving competitors an easy find.
- If you form teams, try to balance them as much as possible. There can be a significant ability difference between an 11 year old and a 14 year old, or two kids of the same age for that matter.