Outdoor Fun for the Family

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Spring Sensory Scavenger Hunt

If your child is home from school, you are telecommuting to work, and your family is social distancing as the CDC recommends, you’re probably getting a bit of cabin fever. Maybe more than a bit! 

It’s time to get creative and OUTSIDE with kids. It’s also an opportunity to slow down a bit, spend time together, and pay attention to the natural world around us. 

Springtime is bursting with treats for the senses.  This activity is ideal for families, groups of friends, or a solitary walking meditation. Enjoy a few moments unplugged in the fresh air, while heightening your awareness and gratitude for the natural world around us.

Allow a half hour.  You’ll need the following materials:

  1. Comfortable, water-proof shoes and proper attire for the weather – you’ll be outside for a while.
  2. Three small containers to carry: lemon or lime slices, mini pretzel sticks, chocolate chips 
  3. Hand sanitizer or wipes
  4. Eyes, nose, ears, fingers, tongue — use the senses that work best for you!

Step 1. Find a nearby natural area: the forest preserves, a park, even your own backyard.

Step 2. Begin walking slowly, and if you are with children, talk with them about our five senses, how important they are even though we sometimes forget we even have them! Younger children may need an explanation about what these senses are and what parts of our bodies we use to smell, touch, taste, hear, and see.

Step 3. As you are walking, start with the sense of sight. What do you see that is alive?

Step 4. Now, focus on your sense of hearing. Stop walking and listen. To the best of your ability, tune out the sounds of traffic, human voices, airplanes, and identify sounds of nature (wind, crunch of leaves under your feet, birds). Can you differentiate bird calls?

Step 5. Next, turn to your sense of smell. Rub a leaf between your fingers. What does it smell like? Notice any scents in the air? If you can find a pinecone, what does it smell like? Grab a handful of dirt and give it a sniff, too!

Step 6. On to our sense of touch. How would you describe how the grass or dirt feels beneath your feet? The bark of a tree? A flower petal? How do different leaves feel compared to one another? A rock?

Step 7. No, you don’t have to taste a pinecone! All but one person closes their eyes. The open-eyed person cleans his or her hands, then distributes a piece of lemon to everyone, and asks them describe how it tastes. Now, the pretzel sticks. Now, the chocolate chips. Not strictly about nature, but a fun way to connect with our sense of taste.

Here’s another way to conduct the sensory scavenger hunt. Focusing on natural, not human-made objects, try to identify the following in each sensory category. Or make up your own!


  • Something rough
  • Something smooth
  • Something soft
  • Something bumpy
  • Something hard
  • Something crumbly


  • Something yellow
  • A shadow
  • Something bright
  • Something tiny
  • Something with a tail
  • Something growing


  • Something fragrant
  • Something unpleasant
  • Something fresh
  • Something pine-scented


  • Leaves rustling
  • Birds chirping – any woodpeckers?
  • Animals moving
  • The wind

TASTE – same as before. Have each person but one close their eyes and place one snack at a time on their tongues. Can they determine what they are eating by taste alone?