How to Plan A Scavenger Hunt For Teens

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This past weekend we got together with some of my son’s friends and held a scavenger hunt at a local shopping center to celebrate his birthday. WE HAD SO MUCH FUN! After posting pics on my instagram, a lot of people were asking questions about how I did this and that so I decided to do a post on it.

If you ever went on scavenger hunts as a teen (we used to do them with church a lot) then you know how incredibly fun they can be. Here is my list of steps to pull it off with low fuss, low muss:

  • Choose a Location: We chose an outdoor shopping center because the kids can be a little louder there and not disrupt anything or disturb anyone.
  • Send out invites! Initially, I sent out evites (email invites), thinking that would be the simplest and surest way to reach everyone. I was wrong though, because very few teenagers check email as it turns out. They check texts. Email is old hat y’all (I didn’t know this either). So I had Brady send texts to everyone and I contacted the parents.
  • Be sure you let parents know what to expect – If you are inviting parents to drop their kids off, make sure you come right out and say that. If you need volunteers to help with the hunt, be sure you request them. Have multiple forms of communication (emails, phone, etc) and make sure every parent has a way to contact you during or after the party should the need arise. We made sure to tell parents that each team would have an adult with them at all times (because that is just how we roll). Remind kids to bring their phones and make sure they are fully charged for pictures!
  • Make out your list. This is where it gets really fun. Talk to friends and family members to get as many creative ideas as possible. However, keep your location in mind when planning and make sure you don’t add anything that might cause your participants to get into trouble. Check out my list at the bottom of this post for ideas to give you a jump start and then add your own ideas in the comments to help expand all of our lists!
  • Give parents a designated drop off location and time as well as pickup location and time.

We waited around at the location while everyone arrived and once the gang was all there  I handed out shirts to each person. The shirts were an important part of the scavenger hunt (see my list) and I thought they’d be a neat momento. To save money, you can forego this or just ask kids to bring an old t shirt they don’t mind having folks write on.

Once we did that, we divided up into teams. Next time I do this, that is the one thing I will do differently. I ended up placing them on teams based on who was born on odd and even days and it pretty much worked out. A more fun (and easier) way to do it would be to place two different colors of lollipops or laffy taffy in a bag and having them draw.

Each team was assigned an adult “coach” to walk around with them, help take photos if needed, and make sure no one gave them any trouble (or vice versa in some cases, but that isn’t a concern with these kids) and I went over the rules:

  • Do not be intrusive or disrespectful of any person, business, or creature (natural or mythical). There was a Dr Who convention at the location of the scavenger hunt so mythical creatures could have possibly come into play and I didn’t want to upset any weeping angels.
  • Stay out of the way of crowds.
  • Remain with your group at all times.  Except for the bathroom, of course 🙂

Each team chose a captain and a person responsible for taking photos of everything. I gave that person my cell phone number so that they could text me a photograph of each item along with its number as they went down the list.

And then, we were off! Here are some of the more memorable pics and the total list follows.

How to Plan A Scavenger Hunt For Teens

Seeing their list for the first time…

How to Plan A Scavenger Hunt For Teens

Signing Shirts

How to Plan A Scavenger Hunt For Teens

Riding air horses outside of P.F. Changs

How to Plan A Scavenger Hunt For Teens

Searching for an imaginary lost contact

How to Plan A Scavenger Hunt For Teens

Posing with a fire hydrant as if it were a celebrity

How to Plan A Scavenger Hunt For Teens

An Entire team in a photo booth at one time. (This is a classic)

How to Plan A Scavenger Hunt For Teens

Playing Twister without the Twister mat

How to Plan A Scavenger Hunt For Teens

Re-enacting the King Of The World scene from Titanic

How to Plan A Scavenger Hunt For Teens

A business card from an Apple Store employee with birthday greetings written to Brady on it 🙂

How to Plan A Scavenger Hunt For Teens

All of the girls on your team in one bathroom stall. (Make sure there are girls on each team!)

How to Plan A Scavenger Hunt For Teens

The number 15 (for Brady’s fifteenth birthday)

Shooting a commercial for your team.

How to Plan A Scavenger Hunt For Teens

An entire team in midair.

These are just some of the highlights. All in all, I had 25 things to find and photograph and then a few questions to answer. I was really surprised that both teams finished everything on the list!

How to Plan A Scavenger Hunt For Teens

This was great fun, more fun that I even remembered it being when I was a teen. Everyone loved it and it gave them some fun things to do while hanging out and having a good time.

We are thinking about hosting another scavenger hunt once school starts back and inviting the new kids at school to help everyone get to know each other better. If we do that one, we’ll have kids bring their own shirts and definitely make sure we have plenty of adults.

Here is the entire list. I specifically wrote it to keep everyone out of the stores (with the exception of one) to avoid any disruptions and I tried to come up with a few challenges but they rose to the occasion and had a ball doing it!

Brady’s Birthday Scavenger Hunt!

  1. A coin with Brady’s birth year on it.
  2. Get a stranger to serenade you.
  3. Take a photo of your team with a person wearing a concert t-shirt.
  4. The team with a person playing a musical instrument
  5. Convince a stranger to sing a Justin Bieber song (video) to the team.
  6. A business card from someone in the apple store with birthday wishes to Brady written on it.
  7. Have your entire team sign your shirts
  8. Have the other team sign your shirts
  9. Come up with a team name and logo that can be quickly drawn and draw it on everyone’s shirts
  10. Photo of two team members with a uniformed police officer
  11. Entire team jumping, each member must be mid air
  12. Entire team posing in front of the fountain
  13. Entire team playing twister – without a twister mat.
  14. A married couple kissing.
  15. A clock striking 7:00 pm
  16. All of the girls on your team in a bathroom stall (Boys stay outside for this)
  17. The number 15
  18. The entire team posing for a photo with coins over their eyes
  19. The entire team with a fire hydrant behaving as if the fire hydrant were a celebrity.
  20. Shoot a commercial about your team. Bonus points if Brady is in the commercial.
  21. Everyone “searching” frantically on the ground for a contact lens
  22. Pictures of each of the letters of BRADY, from all different signs, and formed into a collage. App suggestion : instacollage
  23. Two members of your team re-enacting the King Of The World scene from the Titanic
  24. Your entire team in a photo booth – at the same time.
  25. The entire team riding air horses in front of the PF Chang horse


How many benches are there at Bridge street?

What is the time of the last movie showing at the Monaco tonight?

How many sinks are there in the men’s restroom?

I’d LOVE to hear your ideas on more things we can add to the list since we are planning another hunt soon.

Please share your ideas in the comments below.

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  1. How about a shopping bag with a store’s name on it?
    One of those little cards at the perfume counter (girls) with a sample sprayed on it and men’s cologne (boys).

  2. Great idea. I have a seven year old son and I cannot wait until he is off age to have a scavenger hunt party. At the end of the scavenger hunt, did you sing Happy Birthday and have cake? If so, where did you do it? And do you think 12 years old is old enough to have such a party? Oh, how long did it take for the kids to complete the list? Did you plan to give prizes to the winning team, if so what, OR was the prize just completing the hunt?

    1. Hey! Actually, Brady threw me a curveball about a week before the event. He said “the most important thing for my birthday is that I want everyone to get to have Shepherd’s Pie and Banana Pudding”. @,@ Where we had the event no longer has a food court due to construction so I made a big old dishpan full of Shepherd’s Pie and the banana pudding from my second book (I put it in little mason jars in a cooler) and we just met in the far corner of the parking lot and tailgated it! I served from the back of an SUV and it all worked out great 🙂 No prizes, it was just the fun of finding everything and the t shirts were the party favors 🙂 I think seven is a great age to do this! You’d just need to tailor the list to a younger crowd and make sure you have enough adults, smaller teams would be better for younger folks. It took these teens a little over an hour to complete the list.

  3. What fun! When my daughter was younger I had one for her and some of the things we did was; skipping and singing follow the yellow brick road, a boy in the group standing and pretending to be Elvis while singing Jailhouse Rock and girls pretending to swoon, getting a stranger (woman of course) to take a lipstick out of their purse and apply it, seeing who can find the most unusual birthday gift for $1 or under (one group bought toilet paper, another bought a pair of huge size 16 undies) the laughs were endless on what the kids came up. Standing and offering strangers free candy had to give away 10 pieces but to all different people.

  4. We did this for my daughters 16th. It was awesome! Each team had a list, a camera, and a money manager. On the list were lots of items similar to yours but we also had them shopping for birthday presents for my daughter. If you are spending money the managers are ok with it and the cashiers had fun too and were willing to have their pictures made even. A few fun things we had on our list… They had to find a flag and recite the pledge of allegiance to it… they had to ask a mall security guard if they could use the family restroom together even though they were not related… They had to stand outside Macy’s and welcome people to Walmart… They had to find a boy with a pink shirt and have their photo taken with him (our group was all girls)… we had them interacting a lot with strangers…. oh, and they had to pick their nose on an elevator with someone not in their group on the elevator! Of course they pretended, we knew they would! Afterwards was pizza while hubby and I went to a one hour photo, then the girls each made a scrapbook page using the photos. It was awesome and they talked about it for 2 years until the treasure hunt when she turned 18. That one took them all over town!

  5. We did this with a group. One thing on our list: a washing machine. We actually got someone to give us an old machine and got it in the back of a car!

  6. Sooo much fun! We used to be youth leaders in our church and we did this all the time. I enjoy this so much that for our daughter’s wedding rehearsal we had a scavenger hunt. We had the bride wear a veil and tee shirt that said BRIDE, and the groom wear a derby hat and a tee shirt that said GROOM. They were on opposite teams and oh my the competition that went on. Everyone in our neighborhood thought it was such a hoot. Never forget that one!

    1. It is amazing to hear just how many people have had fun doing a scavenger hunt Marty. I am loving hearing others ideas and some of the fun things they have implemented into their hunt and I absolutely adore that y’all did one for the rehearsal!!!

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