Help me plan an outdoor scavenger hunt for five 13 year old boys
October 25, 2013 9:12 PM   Subscribe

I need help planning a scavenger hunt for five 13 year old boys. I'd say they are all aspiring Metafilter members - they fit the profile!

One of the things I love about Metafilter is the posts that make me a better dad/uncle. Next week I am planning a scavenger hunt for my son's 13th birthday. We live on a rural island, nearby ocean beaches and forests and a lake. The kids have bikes, they are okay being in the woods alone and it's a virtual playground.

They are all gamers who also love spending time outside. I'd love some ideas for a collaborative hunt that would challenge them and let them rip around the island for a bit with a good reward at the end. I'd rather not split them into teams, so it needs to be something that works well with five guys figuring stuff out together.

And for some reason I'm flummoxed. I need some ideas. If you had all this at your fingertips, where would you start?
posted by salishsea to Human Relations (11 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
is it a 'photo' scavenger hunt or regular?
posted by hydra77 at 9:31 PM on October 25, 2013

Are you talking about a scavenger hunt where they go around picking up items (or taking photos of particular things/events), or perhaps do you mean the sort of thing where you hand them an envelope with a riddle in it and the riddle leads them to the next riddle across the island, and so forth? I hope it's the latter, because I wrote a bunch of stuff on how to go about it:

Start with where you want the clues to go. Make a list, and move around the order while keeping in mind where you want to start, end, and how much you want to make them run.

Once you've got that planned out, write the clues or riddles that they have to solve in order to find the next clue.

For added bonus challenge, make finding where the clues are located one puzzle, and how to actually access the clue another puzzle once they get there. For instance, the clue at one spot is a puzzle that leads them to a particular tree. But instead of just being tacked to the tree at eye-level, make it visible but (seemingly) inaccessible, like way up on a high branch. This might be a bad example if you don't want them climbing trees. Then again, you could go all Samorost on them and build contraptions that they have to assemble and deploy to retrieve the next clue.
posted by carsonb at 9:36 PM on October 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

For a 12 year old's birthday party, we had great success with this type of list, in which kids (in teams of three, but five would work) made things from stuff they found in yards and a woodsy area. At the end of the hunt, there was an outdoor station at a picnic table with paint, glue, string, scissors, hammer and nails, etc where they assembled all the stuff they'd found. -- I'm approximating the list here but this was the general idea.
They were tasked to "find":
1. A piece that fell off a UFO; explain its function and how it works
2. A ceremonial object from an ancient culture that used to live here -- explain what it is
3. A fossilized body part from a creature millions of years old
etc etc
They made some weird and wonderful objects and told some fabulous stories.
posted by third rail at 9:49 PM on October 25, 2013 [8 favorites]

Since you live on an island with beaches, forests and a lake, then one of the challenges had better involve combing all three locations for specific things that must be presented (e.g. a specific seashell from the shore, a specific tree berry/cone, and something from the lake) to get the next clue.

Do they have cameras or phones with cameras? You could require a photo from a specific location with them holding a specific item.

I'd be trying to find a way to weave some gamer trivia into a riddle or clue, too.
posted by Joh at 9:55 PM on October 25, 2013

Let me tell you about one of the best times I had in the forest with three of my friends: it was my freshman year of college and one night we decided to go hiking, there might have been some drugs involved but hiking at night was the sort of thing that we did regardless. So, we drove out of town and parked on the side of the highway when we hit national forest. We wandered in the woods, no trail mind you but the moon was full, we screwed around, crossed some railroad tracks and maybe crossed an old barbed wire fence. Anyways, one of us noticed a path...a really old overgrown path that was scarcely identifiable by a spattering of rocks. We followed it, of course, and the path grew a little more established. Then, kapow, we were suddenly on the edge of a small lake which has a stone bridge to a little island with a gazebo. Fucking gorgeous and magical. We quickly named it Fairy Tale Island. So, we hung out there for awhile and found fishing poles made of sticks and other items. We left Fairy Tale Island and decided to circumnavigate the lake. About half way around we started heading east again away and a short distance away discovered another much larger lake. Holy crap! Now shit had left interesting and special and was getting towards the surreal. There were some canoes, chained up and locked. And, a rowboat - not locked. We found the oars in a nearby and shed and decided to take a spin. So, now we were silently gliding across a lake in the moonlight. Like something out of a Wes Anderson film before their were Wes Anderson films. So we got to the far side of that lake and we could hear something. We kept walking and ended up with a vista, though it was hard to see, of a river far down a hillside below...which suddenly gave us a perspective on where we were but also topped off the most amazing experience.

Anyways, if I were you, I'd try to replicate something with some elements of this. Maybe not a scavenger hunt but instead a quest. It sounds like you have a lake, I bet you have access to a watercraft. I think you could come up with some way to hide the oars or something else that would hinder progress, etc. Have fun, you sound like a cool dad.
posted by fieldtrip at 10:57 PM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am not sure how this works out as an activity, but I am imagining a dying pirate, 200 years ago, coming ashore on your island, burying his treasure and then a series of clues around the island as his life bled out. The quest begins with his skull and a map...
posted by LarryC at 11:17 PM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't know how you would incorporate it, but they they are in any way Zelda fans, then LoZ references would go over well, the entire series is an homage to childhood scavenger hunts/nature exploration.
posted by The Whelk at 11:41 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd guess it's a rather small world there...other humans do exist on the island, yes? Any chance you could engage some of them to expect a knock on the door from a kid with a very specific request that they can be prepared to fulfill?

Am thinking of a direction like, "collect a medical instrument from a doctor." And so they knock on the island doc's door where they are then provided a tongue depressor. Along those lines where they race around the island and through the woods and some of the stops take them into peripheral neighborhoods.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 1:16 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

One way to keep them hunting together, is if you cut each clue into five puzzle pieces. That way they each have to get a piece of it and once they figure out where they're going, they find several more pieces hidden at the next place.
posted by Margalo Epps at 1:12 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

The last few suggestions sound less like a scavenger hunt and more like "The Amazing Pre-Teen Race" -- but I like it as a way to encourage a group experience. :7)

It would be neat if you could prepare a way to save some of the items that they collect as a keepsake. For example, have ready a jar to hold sand and a shell and another found item. Or maybe you could instruct them to collect several identical examples of various items and then assemble a pattern or mandala at the end. (You could then send out a print of the final product after the party...with the TYN?)

Could you structure this the way Multi-Stage geocaches work? The boys would get GPS coordinates to the first stage, and then that container either has the coordinates of the next stage, or offers a puzzle to identify the next coordinates -- and this continues until the final stage where they find the pay-off.

If they are gamers, could you hide a game-related prize in each stage (so everyone would get one by the end)? Codes for DLC, or gently used game carts, or the like?

Damn, you're awesome to do this!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:37 AM on October 28, 2013

Response by poster: Coooolll...thanks for the ideas...getting me sparked. Keep em coming...I have a couple of weeks to prepare yet And I'll post the results.
posted by salishsea at 12:11 AM on October 29, 2013

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