Beach Scavenger Hunt Tips for Grandkids

Every kid dreams of going on a treasure hunt and finding gold buried on the beach. While you might not have any pirate booty, you can still recreate a beach adventure through your very own scavenger hunt! Whether you’re jet-setting to an island paradise or planning an activity for your staycation, a scavenger hunt is a great way to spend a beach day with your grandkids.

Planning a great scavenger hunt is about more than just writing down a list of things to find, however. To make sure you make the most of the occasion, check out these helpful tips and tricks for a beach scavenger hunt you won’t forget!

Why You Should Do a Beach Scavenger Hunt With Your Grandkids

Scavenger hunts aren’t just a way to kill time in those long summer months –– they are actually good for your grandkids’ minds and bodies! Here’s why:

Connecting With Nature

It’s no secret that spending time outdoors is good for anybody. For children especially, the fresh air, sunlight, and greenery can be a great stress reliever. Exploring the outdoors instead of being cooped up inside can also improve their sensory regulation –– that means they can work on becoming more aware of their senses, including touch, smell, and sight!

Developing Problem Solving

Following a checklist and working on various tasks is actually an excellent way to develop executive function skills, such as organization, sequencing, and creativity.

By including diverse checkpoints on the scavenger hunt, kids will also get a chance to flex some unique problem-solving abilities. It’s no secret that outdoor learning is much more engaging than a classroom for most of us!

Getting Exercise

Unfortunately, most young people get less than an hour of exercise every day. Regular exercise is important in maintaining a young person’s physical and mental health. It can be hard to get kids to ditch the TV or the comfort of an air-conditioned living room. By organizing a fun scavenger hunt on the beach, you can get kids moving, running, and even swimming! 

Building Social Skills

When multiple players are involved, a scavenger hunt can be a great way to boost a child’s social skills. Teamwork and communication is a big part of making sure every item on the list is checked off. Kids will be able to learn the importance of creating a group plan, working together, and winning as a team!

Where Do Scavenger Hunts Come From?

When imagining the history of scavenger hunts, we might first drift to thoughts of pirates and buried treasure. However, scavenger hunts may actually be more modern than you think.

While their exact origin is unknown, scavenger hunts have roots in traditional folk games. In the 1800s, letterboxing and orienteering were popular pastimes. Letterboxing enthusiasts hid small boxes (filled with trinkets, log books, and more) in public places and passed around clues to find them. Orienteering was a timed activity in which rough maps and landmarks were used to test navigational skills. Both of these things are still practiced today around the nation! 

When it comes to the modern scavenger hunt, 1920s gossip columnist Elsa Maxwell is often credited with its popularity. Her swanky Paris parties included scavenger hunt lists that delighted and scandalized guests and gossipers alike. 

Other famous scavenger hunts include the annual University of Chicago Scav (which students spend all year preparing for) as well as the real-life treasure hunt that ensued when millionaire Forrest Fenn buried a treasure in the American Southwest.

Ways To Make Your Beach Scavenger Hunt Extra Memorable

Create Stylized Lists

This step isn’t strictly necessary, especially if your scavenger was an impromptu decision. However, decorating and personalizing your scavenger hunt checklists can add a bit of adventurous flair. Make the checklist look like an old scroll, sealed with wax and stained with tea, to evoke a swashbuckling vibe.

Encourage Dressing Up

Whether the theme is pirates, mermaids, or sailors –– a bit of dressing up can help everybody get into the right spirit! Bandanas, scarves, blouses, and seashell jewelry are quick ways to put together a beachy costume. A beach cover-up can easily be paired with a pirate hat and scarf belt to transform into a seafaring buccaneer. 

Reward The Players With a Picnic

Depending on how long you’re planning to be on the beach, having some refreshments handy is always a good idea. Make sure everybody stays hydrated while running around under the sun. At the end of your game, a nice reward can be a tasty assortment of snacks and drinks (or a trip to the beachside restaurant)!

Bring the Right Gear

No quest is complete without the right supplies. Here are some things you’ll want to have handy on your beach scavenger hunt.

  • Sunglasses –– Sunglasses can always come in handy, especially when you need to keep your eyes sharp for clues! Make sure nobody has to uncomfortably squint all day on their adventure.
  • UV Protection –– On a sunny beach day, make sure you’ve got the right protection from sunburns and other risks associated with UV rays. Sunscreen and hats are, as always, a must-have!
  • Sneakers and Flip-Flops –– While there’s nothing wrong with treading around the beach barefoot, it depends what sort of terrain you’re dealing with. Pointy rocks or hot sand may want to be avoided with a trusty pair of flip-flops. If you venture beyond the beach, sneakers can also be a good idea.
  • Swimsuit –– Unless you’re planning a beach day in a colder area, you’ll want to be prepared to take a dip or two! Don’t forget to bring a comfortable swimsuit or tankini. For extra practicality, wear it under board shorts and a hoodie so you can slip in and out of the water with ease.
  • Towels and Napkins — Sand, dirt, saltwater — who knows what the kids might get into? You are on the beach, after all, so be prepared with tools to dry off and clean off when the time comes.
  • Buckets, Bags, or Other Containers –– If your scavenger hunt includes collected souvenirs, and let’s be honest — it should, you and the kids will need something to carry around your spoils in.

Disposable Cameras

Distributing a few cheap disposable cameras is a wonderful souvenir for your scavenger hunt. Incorporate them into your checklist –– on top of collecting things, kids can use the disposable cameras to take pictures of things that can’t be taken with them! This is also a great way to make sure you capture all the fun memories.

Incorporate Video

Much like the disposable cameras, here’s another way to use technology to your advantage. If you or your grandkids have a smartphone or even a digital camera, you can try using videos in your scavenger hunt! Checklist tasks can include taking a video of a bird in flight or performing a silly dance in the sand!

Make Place Markers

Certain items on your scavenger hunt checklist can include going to a place without collecting anything. In this case, the kids might want to commemorate their visit with a place marker. Small flags or painted rocks are a great way to do this. Or, in true pirate fashion, an X-marks-the-spot will do!

Reminder: While place markers are a fun addition, be sure not to leave behind anything that will litter or pollute the natural environment!

Look for Colors, Shapes, and Letters

For young children, a scavenger hunt can be a great way to encourage learning. Kids in preschool who are just learning about different colors, letters, and shapes can sharpen their skills by applying them in a fun, outdoor environment! For kids who are at a certain reading level, you can even add words to the list. 

Here are a few ideas for clues:

  • Find a stick shaped like a letter of the alphabet!
  • Find a word! (This can be from a sign, old newspaper, or even spelled out in the sand)
  • Take a picture of something green.
  • Collect something shaped like a triangle.
  • Make a sandcastle shaped like a star.

Encourage Creativity

Add items to the scavenger hunt list that are open to interpretation. For example, if your checklist says “Make a wave,” kids could decide to splash in the water, draw waves in the sand, or even do “the wave” dance move. Test your players’ creativity with some puzzling prompts!

Pro Tip: You can also add items to the list that require some crafting and problem-solving. Making a sandcastle or drawing a portrait of a mermaid are great ways to encourage an artsy take on things!

Final Thoughts

A beach scavenger hunt is a great way to explore nature, problem-solving skills, and to simply enjoy time with your grandkids! We hope these tips inspired you to create your own scavenger hunt! Whether you’re working solo or as a team, you and your grandkids are sure to have a great time!


Before Pokémon Go, These Scavenger Hunts Were All The Rage | Smart News | Smithsonian Magazine

What Is Orienteering | Orienteering USA

Finder of Treasure Chest Hidden in Rocky Mountains Reveals His Identity | NPR

Hidden Benefits of Scavenger Hunts | Occupational Therapy Helping Children

Physical Activity | Facts | Healthy Schools |CDC