How to Organize a Birthday Scavenger Hunt

Years ago it was a common practice to send kids out into the neighborhood on their own, even at night, for a scavenger hunt adventure. Today scavenger hunts are still a popular birthday party activity, but parents need to take certain precautions and make some arrangements ahead of time to assure kids’ safety. With this in mind, a scavenger hunt can make for an entertaining and memorable birthday party for kids in elementary and middle school.

Step 1

Give a hint about what’s in store for guests at your child’s birthday party by hand delivering invitations wrapped around an inexpensive flashlight. State clearly on the invitation that the party involves an evening scavenger hunt, that adults will be accompanying kids along the way, and that any interested parents are invited to come along.

Step 2

Prepare the scavenger hunt list. Include such ordinary items as the following: a used stamp, a sports magazine, a spaghetti noodle, and a black marker. However, throw in a few hard-to-find items such as a wooden spool, a newspaper from two years ago, or a piece of red yarn.

Step 3

Contact neighbors to give them a heads up about the scavenger hunt. You might even ask a willing neighbor to sponsor a surprise “trick or treat” for the kids, and provide them with goodies to distribute to the kids when they come knocking.

Step 4

Contact parents to find out if any of them will be coming along on the scavenger hunt. If not, recruit some other adults so that there will be at least one adult for each group of kids. Provide adults with enough information to help kids with hints along the way if they get stuck. Ask each adult to bring a cell phone so that you can contact the groups if necessary—and also to keep track of the time.

Step 5

Divide kids into groups and give them about five minutes to look over the scavenger hunt list before they leave, and make sure they know what time to be back; the first group back will be declared the winner, but it may be that the win will go to the group finding the most items at the end of the time allotted. End the party by serving the birthday cake or other refreshments.


  • Resist the pleas from kids wanting to go off on their own; each group should stay together under the watchful eye of an adult.



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