An Irresistible Word Scavenger Hunt

A fabulous article about an outdoor playful literacy activity by Malia from Playdough to Plato. Enjoy!

I love making learning entertaining and this outdoor word scavenger hunt definitely does just that. As children race around tracing labels for common backyard objects, they don’t even notice that they are practicing reading and writing. It’s brilliantly sneaky!   
 To play, wander around your backyard labeling everything with chalk. The beauty of using chalk, of course, is that it washes off easily when you are finished. Be careful to write the labels when your children are out of sight so that they must search to find your writing.         Next, give your child a different coloured chalk and invite him to trace as many words as he can find. This photo is of my 2.5 year old “writing” the word {fence}. Although he’s not developmentally ready to play this game, I hope this action shot of my favorite little model helps capture the activity.     When your child plays the game and traces the words, it will look something like this:     This word scavenger hunt is a perfect activity to play with multiple children because they can run around with different colored chalks, trying to trace all of the labels before their competition.   And, of course, one of the best parts of this activity is the clean up. My son loved spraying the water to wash off the chalk. It’s not often that I can promise clean up time will be as fun as the game itself.     
 Malia is a National Board Certified elementary teacher and the blogger behind Playdough to Plato, a site dedicated to helping parents teach their children to read and write in 20 fun-filled minutes a day. You can find more playful early literacy activities on her blog and Facebook page.  


  1. says

    The idea is interesting, but just a word about the writing : it’s not recommended for kids to write in script.

    The french program is :
    1. Reading and writing capital letters (3 yo),
    2. Reading and writing capital words (3/4 yo),
    3. Reading lowercase letters (4 yo),
    4. Matching capital and lowercase letters (4 yo)
    5. Reading lowercase words (4/5 yo)
    6. Matching lowercase and cursive letters (4/5 yo)
    7. Reading and writing cursive letters (5 yo)
    8. Reading and writing cursive words (5/6 yo)
    9. Finally reading and writing capital, lowercase and cursive sentences (6/7 yo)

    By a french kindergarten teacher 😉

    • says

      Thank you for sharing your sequence, Setjay! In the United States, we have started debating whether to teach children lowercase letters first (since they are the most commonly used form of letters children see) or if we should stick with our traditional approach and begin with capitals. I’m curious to see the final outcome. It’s an intriguing conversation.

  2. says

    that’s such a great activity! I’ll have to keep it in mind for when my 18mo is a bit older. The hosing off at the end is a perfect touch!

  3. says

    Looks like a great way to practice letter sounds too. My son would love to circle the words he finds. And the cleaning? Well, just perfect!

  4. says

    I love that you thought of using sidewalk chalk in other ways!! What a great idea. This will really excite my grandsons when they come to visit in a few weeks! Thanks, Renee