School is out for the summer, which means there will be kiddos with nothing to do.

In my next couple of columns, I will highlight some excellent outdoor, kid-friendly, family-oriented activities sure to excite children and help out parents at little-to-no cost.

I’ll begin by suggesting a great activity to get the kids outdoors and keep them occupied for an hour or two: a nature scavenger hunt.

I suggest going in the morning when the temperatures and sunlight are not so harsh, but it can also be done in the evening after supper and before dark. It takes a small amount of preparation, but it’s not difficult.

The first thing to do is decide where you’d like the scavenger hunt to take place.

It can be in your backyard, around the neighborhood, in a local park, or in a nearby county or state park.

Next, you will need to come up with a list of nature items to search for on the hunt.

Take into account what would likely be found in that location and the age and capability of each child to participate (pictures can be used to help small children).

Some items you might suggest searching for include a feather, bugs, berries, mushrooms, acorns, particular colors of flowers, a log or certain size stick, a bone, a worm, a nest, a pond or stream, an animal track, animal scat (another term for poop), a pine cone, a spider web and so on.

Since we should always try to leave nature as we find it, it’s best to have children locate the objects and check them off their lists rather than pick the items up. Older children with camera phones or digital cameras can photograph their finds. Then, the family can discuss each treasure discovered.

As always, safety should be the main focus, then fun.

Remember to go to a safe place, wear sunscreen and bug spray, monitor children at all times, discuss stranger danger, encourage them to stay on trails to lessen the chances of poison ivy and bites, take water, and remind them to leave nature better than they found it.

There are many websites to help plan an adventure. Google “nature scavenger hunt” if you need help.

Next week, I’ll discuss another outside activity for the whole family.

Darla Menking is a certified Bell County Texas Master Gardener and a Texas Master Naturalist. Email her at

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