Reunion scavenger and treasure hunts

High tech scavenger hunts

When we were kids on scavenger hunts, we asked for old calendars of a certain year or a penny of a certain date. Everyone had the same list.

Now scavenger hunts use technology. Each group gets a camcorder, digital or Polaroid camera and a list of things to do at various locations. They film activities for proof.

Go to a gas station and help someone get gas or wash the windows. Go to another business and sing a song. Wave at a passing motorist. Ask directions. Each group goes to all the locations in different order, then they watch the films or look at pictures to verify what was done.

Scavenge for information

Ask hunters to gather information, not things. Ask them to get dates from a building cornerstone or gravestone or building lintel inscription, count the seats in a restaurant or the number of overhead light standards on a bridge, or identify historic community landmarks.

A community service scavenger hunt

Give groups a list of nice things to do for others: sweep a kitchen floor, read a story to a child, unload a dishwasher, sweep a front sidewalk, take out the garbage. The winners are the first group to return with all the items done.

Scavenge the family

This is a twist on an old favorite from the Family Fun website. The search is for family information. Great for kids who have an innate gift for asking endless questions. Before the reunion, gather clan lore and trivia from family members. Type a list of questions (include reunion-day happenings too).

  • How did Grandpa propose to Grandma?
  • Which relative traveled to this country by boat?
  • Who traveled the farthest to be here today?
  • Who has the worst sunburn?
  • Which relative has the most children? What are their middle names?
  • Who has the reddest hair? The loudest laugh? The biggest feet?

Encourage players to pursue questions in teams throughout the day.

How about a scavenger hunt?

When deciding what type of scavenger hunt to have, you must consider the number and age range of guests, and how well they know the reunion area.

Photographic scavenger hunt

Ask members to bring digital cameras; each team should have one digital camera.

Form teams of four to five people, including drivers.

Create a list of items you want teams to photograph and assign point value to each photo. Hard-to-find items should earn more points.

Offer bonuses: for example, an American Flag with fewer than 50 stars earns a bonus point value. For July 4th reunions, include cars decorated for the holiday, houses with patriotic decorations other than flags, stores with a “Happy July 4th” sign posted, and other items that you know exist in the area.

Give teams a time limit (for example, two to three hours) to collect photos. When teams return, hand cameras to designated checkers. All checkers use identical scavenger hunt sheets explaining the types of photos and point values. Checkers score photos for each team. Award a prize for the team with the highest number of points.

Scavenger hunt highlight of winter family reunion

At a family reunion, Margaret Carney, Durham, North Carolina, sent three generations into knee-deep snow on a nature scavenger hunt.

The list was straightforward. Find three different leaves, three seeds, three birds, three animal tracks, three different-coloured stones, an insect, something more than 100 years old, and something less than a month old. In half an hour. What they couldn’t collect in their bag, they could draw or describe.

Carney, an outdoor writer, was pleased by the booty teams brought back. For the insect category, two produced goldenrod galls, one with a hole pecked by a downy woodpecker to get at the grub inside. Another team found a snail shell in a ridge of sand where the sun had melted the snow — not an insect, but she gave them marks for trying.

Birds included a chickadee, blue jay, cardinal, Canada goose, goldeneye and gull.

Tracks included cottontail, squirrel, coyote, fox, dog and bird – and what seven-year-old Jacob was convinced was a deer.

Two teams brought snow for the less-than-a-month-old category. Ironically, the other team chose snow for their more-than-100-years-old item, arguing that water was ancient and had been on Earth for millennia. Their month-old item was a bud they claimed was sprouting.

From Margaret Carney’s column on, Durham, North Carolina.

Dollar Stretcher
We found these great games at Dollar Stretcher.

Scavenger-hunt/road-rally. Divide participants into teams of two or three, with immediate family members on different teams. The list of tasks/questions requires each team to collect information. Be clever and creative in how you word questions.

  • What’s the zip code of [some nearby small town]? They must drive to the town and find the post office; by the time we got there, a group of local teenagers had assembled on the post-office steps and were holding up a sign with the answer!
  • What brand of pump is in the derrick at [intersection]? They must park the car and walk about 100 yards into a field to read the name. Get the farmer’s permission first!
  • How many miles between two landmarks? They had to drive it or the smart ones found the highway sign that gave the mileage.
  • What was the date of death of [name of someone buried in a country church’s cemetery]?
  • What time is the Sunday service at [different country church]?
  • Who has [rural mailbox number]? They had to follow box numbers down a desolate road until they found the correct box and read the name displayed on it.
  • How many anhydrous ammonia tanks are at [local farm or intersection]? A “trick question,” because there were eight tanks, but only four were ammonia tanks.

Bring back the proof
A Scavenger-hunt/road-rallyScavenger-hunt/road-rallyScavenger-hunt/road-rallyScavenger-hunt/road-rallyScavenger-hunt/road-rallyScavenger-hunt/road-rallyScavenger-hunt/road-rally. Each team needs a Polaroid camera to bring back the proof. Get a photo of your group doing a human pyramid or your group in front of a house with the numbers 123 or a picture of a member of your group getting frisked by a police officer. Set a time limit – two hours is good. Some pictures are worth more points than others, depending upon difficulty of acquiring the picture. After time is up, add up the points.

The Main Treasure
By Karin Cameron

Maybe your relatives are thinking that the upcoming reunion doesn’t have much going for it. “Same old, same old,” they say.

Think about creating a treasure hunt as a way to add fun to your reunion. You could have a treasure hunt for adults and a separate one for children, or combine them. You can set up an elaborate or simple treasure hunt at home, in a park or any place where the reunion is held.

First ask family members questions. Then turn the responses into a way to unveil the clues. How can you stump your family?

Or, if you want to keep the treasure hunt a secret before the reunion, use clues from a line of a movie or from family history, or simply solve a riddle. For younger children at the reunion it can be as simple as clues found at one toy directing them to the next toy.

Next you need a map. This is where you must be creative. Think of all the hiding places where the hunt will be. You can go all-out making an elaborate map, or keep it simple.

Set up teams as an opportunity to pair kids with adults or relatives with new members of the family. Adults will love the thrill of something different at a reunion and new bonds will be made.

Your treasure hunt may also include challenges or tasks to complete, such as ring toss or balancing a book on their head. Think about all the ways you can make the treasure hunt a challenge. It can last one hour or one day, depending on the difficulty of the clues.

When setting up the discoveries or clues think of all the things kids or adults may not like to do. How about hiding a clue in a bowl of soggy bread? Or blindfold a participant who has to retrieve a clue–protected in a Ziploc bag–from a bowl of Jello (add olives or grapes for higher gross factor). Or set up a 15- to 20-piece puzzle, with a clue written on the back; participants must piece together the upside-down puzzle in order to read the clue before moving on to the next.

Children and adults can learn something new about a relative or make a new favorite family member. A treasure hunt is a learning opportunity to get everyone’s brains going and spark conversation.

The main treasure doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive. You can even ask relatives to bring treasures or send money to help cover costs. What about family reunion t-shirts as the treasure? You could have special desserts, a photo album to store future year’s reunion pictures in, or an updated homemade family history book as treasure gifts.

You’ll know you’ve been successful if you’re asked for an encore in the future. And, as always, remember to take lots of pictures.

About the author

Karin Cameron has grown up with a bundle of summer time family reunions, all of which provided memories of laughable distinction and heartfelt smiles, not to mention a few horseshoe competitions and too many adults acting like children. She lives in Arizona with her husband.