Prolong museum visits with a scavenger hunt

Melynda’s hack is perfect for Spring Break prep:

If I want to spend a little more time at a nature center or museum than I think my kids might, I’ll get on the Internet the night before a visit and make a scavenger hunt. By quickly looking through the web site I can make a list of things we will see. For younger kids you could print out pictures, for older kids look for something that isn’t obvious (something they’ll have to search for). Or write the clues in code (find something huge, scaly and from the Jurassic period). Maybe they have to answer a question or write a description. You can also use a scavenger hunt to help them focus on something you really want them to notice.

We’re planning a trip to Zion National Park, and I found that the National Park Service website has tons of info and activities for kids. I also find that this is a great way to prepare kids for a trip. Mine feel more comfortable when they have an idea about where we’re going and what they’ll be seeing. For us, at least, predictability solves many problems before they start.

Related: Save money with reciprocal museum memberships


  1. Shawna Boell says

    Great idea! Some teachers may even give extra credit if it’s part of the lesson plan. Talk to your child’s teacher before going on a “field trip” they may give you some ideas on how to maximize your time there.

  2. Steph says

    National Parks may also have Jr. Ranger activities to complete where kids get badges, and if you’re just starting out, get a NP passport that you can stamp at each NP.

    My sister and I have been to all 50 states….we’ve visited quite a few!

  3. says

    Don’t forget to check with the museum office, because many of them have scavenger hunt sheets already prepped – I know at least two of ours do.

    You can also do basic map-reading as an activity. The kids LOVE to lead the way for grownups, so taking a little time to spread out the map and mark where you are and where you want to go, then see if they can get you there, TONS of fun (at least for the ones who don’t mind a little ‘wait, I’m not sure where we are!’, obviously apply to your child’s personality appropriately).

    I still love it when my kids come home from an outing with someone and say ‘We got LOST today, Mommy, but Mr B got us UN-LOST!’ (in other words, they had a moment where they had to stop and figure out exactly where they were, find it on the map, and reorient themselves to the route).

  4. says

    Our art museum has scavenger hunts available at the front desk. In addition, they have a “toddler tuesday” which isn’t just for toddlers, but involves viewing art and then making something similar. My 7yo had a fabulous time and was not too old. Check and see what your museum offers. They’ve learned that making themselves interesting to kids is good business.

  5. MidlifeMidwife says

    Not that kids would probably be interested in this, but moms and dads might: many museums now have free podcasts that you can download from itunes, which are essentially guided tours of the collections.

  6. molly says

    National Gallery of Art has printed scavenger hunts with images for little kids at the information desks.

  7. Jaime says

    Sorry this is late – i’m behind on my feeds. One thing I noticed when I traveled to England with my then 5yo niece – all their museums were so kid friendly – multiple kids activities, well advertised, etc. Moreso than I’ve noticed here (although mine is only 2, so haven’t done a great deal of research on the topic).