Summer scavenger hunts

It's a beautiful day and you want to get outside...Try planning a scavenger hunt. With a little bit of advance planning you can design an exquisite afternoon of family challenge and fun.

Start by dividing your gang into two teams. Each team receives a clue collection bag containing a Polaroid instant camera, film, hunt instructions, a challenge sheet, and various supplies.

Decide how long each team has to complete the hunt, and you're off.

Each team manages its own hunt, deciding in what order to complete the challenges and how to logistically handle the game. The goal is to complete as many challenges as possible in the time allotted.

The success of the game will depend largely on the challenges you devise... so plan wisely! The difficulty of your challenges will depend on the age of your players and the environment of the hunt.

For example, challenges in town can range from taking a photograph of one of your teammates posing with a police officer, to collecting 5 custom matchbooks from local restaurants. If you're planning a hunt in a more rural setting, consider nature challenges like taking a photograph of a particular kind of tree, digging up a mushroom and bringing it back in your bag, or building a miniature teepee out of twigs in the woods and taking a picture of your whole team posing next to it.

When time is up, everyone convenes at a designated place to tally up the results. Make sure you're on time. Photos serve as evidence of what you've done. Teams should be penalized for tardiness, awarded points for tasks completed, and given a bonus for an inspired or funny account of their adventure. Remember, not every challenge needs to earn its team the same number of points. Some can be weighted for difficulty, courage, or creativity.

Scavenger hunts can be designed as a party activity as well. And if the weather's bad, try including indoor challenges instead of ones that can only be completed outside. Cooking challenges, song-writing challenges, clean-up challenges -- anything is fair game. If you have an Internet connection, try a Web scavenger hunt where collecting facts or images is the point of the game. Whatever and wherever you are, the scavenger hunt can provide hours of fun and real collaboration between you and your younger teammates.

And don't forget, it's the thrill of the hunt, not who's won and lost that counts the most. After the game, make a date for a rematch and go out for pizza to celebrate.

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