As a parent in a world that is saturated with screens, I am constantly trying to find ways to make the natural world more interesting for my kids. Obviously there is the part of me that thinks, "the outside world is flipping brilliant - why am I pandering to this crappy culture by resorting to bait to lure them out?"
On the flipside though, I also understand that kids these days have grown up with the possibility of accessing entire worlds from the palm of their hands - of course the simple things seem a bit, well, simple! It is around then that I stop being so crotchety and give myself a break by reasoning that the ends justify the means. Which brings me to the hero of the post...
... the humble egg carton and the endless possibilities it holds (not just the eggy ones).
How an egg carton treasure hunt works
An egg carton treasure hunt is all about exploration and getting to know the outside.
We usually take our cartons on family walks and it adds a lot of excitement to the kids and distracts them from the fact that they are burning off precious energy.
Before your walk (or your visit to whatever outdoor space you want them to explore) decide on the treasure (something they will find outside). Write a quick list of things that you can find in that area. For example, if you are going to a park you may find sticks, stones, feathers, leaves, bark or a butterfly wing. The beach may offer shells, sticks, sea glass or rubbish. You get the gist.
Then either write, draw or paint (gauged by how much effort you have in your stocks) a different object at the bottom of every egg dimple (where the egg usually sits). There you have it! It's so simple but so damn entertaining.
Why egg carton treasure hunts are awesome!
You are repurposing an item that would have previously been either recycled or rubbished.
You are displacing the need for other toys.
You are getting your kids outside, interacting with their world. This is basically a trojan horse for training your kids in mindfulness.
Just preparing the carton can be a craft activity in itself - painting the egg dimples, thinking of things that might find.
It's free. It's easy. It's fun.
Exercise, without any whinge factor.
You can teach them about local plants and animals in the process. If you don't know enough about them to teach? Then you can learn alongside them.
Ideas for your egg carton treasure hunts
There are so many different ways you can do these, limited only by your imagination. Here are a few ideas though in case the ol' brain is feeling a little groggy today:
Paint each egg dimple a different colour and they can find a rainbows worth of goodies.
Send them on a rubbish hunt - you can do the environment good at the same time as teaching them about plastic pollution. I can guarantee you that it will shift the way they ask for plastic toys.
Leaves - get them to find different colours and shape leaves for every egg hole. This one means you don't even need to prep them!
Forest / Tree areas - stones, sticks, petals, leaves, insects (dead), feathers, litter, flower, bark, pinecone, seed, nut, grass, wood-chip, soil, clover, etc.
Beach - shell, seaweed, bottle cap, plastic, wrapper, rope, anemone, cuttlefish husk, feather, sea-glass, foam, driftwood, rock.
When you get stuck you can also suggest colours (something red), shapes (something round, something straight), textures (something dry, something hard), sizes (a big rock and a small rock) and similarities (two pebbles that look exactly the same).
Have you played this game before? If so, I'd love to hear about any variations that you had to it.
In the meantime, happy hunting!