Scavenger Hunt Ideas for 3- and 4-Year-Olds

By Molly Thompson
Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Keep preschoolers active and engaged with a scavenger hunt for a birthday party or class activity. Set up a nature hunt at the zoo or park, a character hunt in the library, or a search for colors and shapes at home. Use simple picture clues to assist their searches, and draft plenty of adult helpers to accompany the kids and keep them focused and safe. Toy magnifying glasses will make them feel like real "hunters"; also supply small bags for the kids to collection of treasures. Reward the hunters with toy medals, stickers or healthy snacks.

Character Hunt

Being stuck indoors with a group of preschoolers doesn't have to mean disaster. Keep the 3- and 4-year-olds occupied with an indoor scavenger hunt using familiar books, puzzles or videos. Give the children pictures of four or five familiar characters from favorite stories or shows. Explain that they need to look in books or other sources readily available in your home, the library or the classroom to find the picture that matches. For example, they might look in a Sesame Street coloring book to find a picture of Elmo, or in the toy box to find the stuffed Winnie the Pooh bear pictured in the clue.

ABCs and 123s

Reinforce learning concepts in an entertaining way with preschool scavenger hunts. For example, build your scavenger hunt around letters the children recently learned. Ask them to find an object that starts with each of four or five familiar letters. Spend a few minutes before the hunt helping them think of items that start with the letters on the clue sheets. This will reinforce the concept of finding things that start with certain letters, as well as giving them some ideas for each letter. As an alternative, the children could look for letters or numbers in books, magazines or on labels of kid-friendly household items.

Pick a Color

Even kids too young to know their letters typically enjoy a color scavenger hunt. Children can be asked to find four or five objects that are all one color; for example, for the color red, they might find a stop sign, an apple, a clown nose and a ball. Alternatively, the children can find one object for each of several different colors: They might choose a stuffed animal for "brown," a leaf for "green," a banana for "yellow" and a pen for "blue."

Nature Fun

Turn your backyard, the neighborhood park or even the zoo into a scavenger hunt venue for preschoolers. Using pictures as the clues, ask the 3- and 4-year-olds to find certain items specific to the surroundings. In your yard they might look for a swing, a flower, a lawn chair and a bird feeder. At the park, send them hunting for an acorn, a pine cone, a worm, someone walking a dog, and a bush with yellow flowers. On a zoo outing, ask the kids to find specific animals, things that start with a certain letter or animals that share a common characteristic, such as stripes or antlers.

About the Author

As a national security analyst for the U.S. government, Molly Thompson wrote extensively for classified USG publications. Thompson established and runs a strategic analysis company, is a professional genealogist and participates in numerous community organizations.Thompson holds degrees from Wellesley and Georgetown in psychology, political science and international relations.