The Winter Doldrums

Ah March - the time of winter where even children bore of snow banks! So what to do with those children to keep them from driving you up the wall? Try a scavanger hunt!

When I worked with my sister at her daycare, most of her children attended a year round school - which meant that for 3 weeks in late March to early April, we had bored children 5 days a week. Being outside was never a guarantee, and certain indoor getaways started to dull, which is when we hit upon our best idea ever - Mall Scavanger Hunts! At first, the children competed against each other or in teams. Then, somehow, it became: The Children vs. Ms. Becca and her List - which was also very fun. (This is also a great activity for those too-hot-to-handle summer days as well.)

For those who don't want to venture out, try an In-Home Scavanger Hunt. Give children the first clue, which will lead them to each subsequent clue. If you want to be super sneaky and mean, plant dead-end clues as well for any wrong turns taken during the game. Make sure to have a fun prize or activity at the end of the game to reward any mischievousness you planted along the way and for any confusion/frustration they may have had as well.

Here is my Mall Scavanger Hunt. It's specifically designed for Mall of America, so some items might not apply, but they might give you a good idea for a new one.

- Look at the names of the stores in your mall: are there any unique names or fun names that you can ask a cryptic question about? (Like "An Apple With A Bite Taken Out" is for the Apple Store, conversely you could say "This Store Must Have A Lot of Views" for a Windows store. Be fun and creative, but also think of your children and their puzzling ability)

- If this is a place you frequent often, think of any fun stories/trivia to include. "The restaurant where Little Jimmy lost his first tooth."

- We made a point system: Tally up how many points are possible total and subtract 10%, that's your top level, now set your other levels and select appropriate prizes. Once, the big prize was to buy a new LEGO set for the daycare, another time they earned one of those huge chocolate chip cookies for snack.

Why aren't there any clues for hunting in stores?

I used to work retail, and what's worse than a gaggle of teenagers camping out in a store playing music and gossiping? A bunch of giddy scavanger hunters who burst into a store, need help, possibly disturb other customers and then leave. Besides the disruption to customers, and no sale for the store, it also might leave the store open to theft if it's a busy night and the store is understaffed. That is why my hunt never enters a store.

If you want to include stores in your hunt, here are some suggestions:

- Beforehand, price out a small item (preferably near the front of the store) that could be purchased, and give each team a small stipend that would cover the total amount. (something blue from the dollar spot, something chewy, try to blow the biggest bubble, how long can you drink an icee before you get a brainfreeze?, etc. - easily kept between $5-$10 per team)

- Check with the store if planting a clue would be okay with them. This is a long shot, but if they're in on it, they might also enjoy toying, I mean helping, the teams.

- Don't make teams have to go in the back of the store to find something. Keep it towards the front. Better yet if it's on display.

- Recruit other parents or responsible teens to help with the hunt and make sure each team isn't causing a ruckus in the mall or store (especially since some malls have curfews), or station someone outside a certain store with a "special assignment" for bonus points where only one team member may complete the instore mission.

Just remember to keep WHO you're making this hunt for in mind. Maybe even set up some extra clues that can be handed out if they're getting stumped. Be creative! Add a theme, make up prizes, set a time limit, try a new mall each weekend - just remember: Spring is almost here.