Nature Scavenger Hunt

In this lesson, the children will explore their outdoor environment on a scavenger hunt to find and classify different natural materials.

Content Area:

Curiosity and Wonder

Learning Goals:

This lesson will help toddlers and preschoolers meet the following educational standards:

  • Demonstrate curiosity about the world and begin to use the practices of science and engineering to answer questions and solve problems
  • Explore concepts and information about the physical, earth and life sciences

Learning Targets:

After this lesson, toddlers and preschoolers should be more proficient at:

  • Developing and using models to represent their ideas, observations and explanations through approaches such as drawing, building or modeling with clay
  • Collecting, describing, comparing and recording information from observations and investigations
  • Identifying, describing, and comparing the physical properties of objects

Nature Scavenger Hunt

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.

Step 2: Introduce activity.

  1. Describe what a scavenger hunt is and tell the children that today they are going to be nature detectives.
  2. Introduce the Nature Scavenger Hunt handout. Review the objects that the children will search for on their scavenger hunt. Be sure to go over objects that the children may not be familiar with (such as acorns, pine needles, moss, pine cones, vines or ant hills).
  3. Discuss ways that we can use our senses to explore our surroundings, including seeing, touching, smelling and hearing.

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. After the children review the items on the handout, they are ready to head outdoors to explore.
  2. Instruct the students, who can work individually or in groups, to search for the scavenger hunt items in the environment.
  3. Offer clues if the children are having a difficult time, such as “I see something red under the tree.”

Step 4: Vocabulary.

Classify: To arrange objects by rules or shared attributes or characteristics

Conclude: To make statements about what was learned after an observation or experiment

Data: Information that is collected through a study or an investigation

Observe: To watch and document an item to gather information

Early Science Glossary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • need hints if they are having a hard time locating objects
  • need a shorter scavenger hunt list with 3-4 items  (pick a specific topic, such as “things that fly”)
Child care providers may:
  • Break the hunt down into a hunt for a specific object: Say something like: “Find something that is a certain color, dry, wet, shiny, crawls, that blows in the wind, etc.)
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Participate in a group walk around the neighborhood to find more objects
  • Find things in categories, such as items with bark, items that are high up, items with branches, types of flowers or something with seeds
Child care providers may:
  • Consider “planting” natural materials in your outdoor classroom if they are not already there

Suggested Books

  • Explorers of the Wild by Cale Atkinson.
  • Hi, Butterfly by Taro Gomi
  • Hike by Peter Oswald.
  • The Hike by Alison Farrell
  • Up and Down by Kate Messner

Music and Movement

Outdoor Connections

  • This is a great outdoor activity to get children outdoors and connected to nature. Consider creating other scavenger hunt lists that focus on specific categories, colors, sounds or smells.

Web Resources

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