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Have a holiday scavenger hunt

If there are hungry people bouncing around before dinner is served, why not engage your holiday guests with a holiday scavenger hunt?

Thanksgiving autumn scavenger hunt
Photo credit: Mykola Lunov/Getty Images

Thanksgiving is a day full of food, family and friends — but we have to admit, there can also be a lot of downtime. Guests are either waiting for the food to be ready (pure torture!) or everyone is spending some time digesting the amazing turkey dinner while relaxing with family.

If there are hungry people bouncing around before dinner is served, or folks aren’t really into the napping thing once the pie has been devoured, why not engage your holiday guests with a holiday scavenger hunt?

There are a couple ways you can organize a scavenger hunt — it really depends on how much work you want to put into it. Let’s take a look at a couple different Thanksgiving-themed scavenger hunts so you can customize the experience that will work for you and your family.

Thanksgiving scavenger hunt: Item list

This Turkey Day scavenger hunt is a classic scavenger hunt. You provide your guests with a list of specific items to find, and they go off in hunt of that particular pinecone or pumpkin.

Before everyone arrives, spend time carefully “hiding” objects throughout the house. Don’t make them completely invisible, but also don’t make them completely obvious. Encourage older kids to pair up with smaller kids so they won’t feel left out and frustrated.

Suggested scavenger hunt items:

  • Pinecone
  • Candy corn (go for the variety with a chocolate brown end instead of yellow — this looks more Thanksgiving-ish!)
  • Cranberries
  • Pumpkin
  • Football
  • Turkey
  • Sweet potato
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Ear of corn
  • Cornucopia
  • An acorn or chestnut
  • 5 fall leaves (different colors and/or shapes)

Note: Of course, please don’t hide actual turkey or pumpkin pie in your house. Please! It will be messy and possibly be forgotten, leading to a smelly disaster a week later. Instead, use fake food, or simply print out pictures of the perishable items instead.

Thanksgiving scavenger hunt: Photos

Another option is a photo scavenger hunt. Instead of hiding things and hoping everyone finds them (and risking massive competition), this only asks that your guests take photos — using a cell phone or a tablet!

You can also make this open-ended (that is, “Please take a photo of 10 things you are thankful for”), or you can provide a list of ideas for them to photograph. (To give it another twist, have them make each of the photos a selfie, too.)

Suggested photo ideas:

  • Animal
  • Food
  • Beverage
  • Group of two (or three) people
  • Sports team
  • Toy
  • Room
  • Hung art (photo or otherwise)
  • Centerpiece
  • Place setting
  • Cooking tool (pot, pan, and so on)

Once everyone is done, you can all spend time swiping through everyone’s Thanksgiving photos.

What about prizes?

You can have a scavenger hunt without prizes, of course, but if you are up for it, there are a couple ways you can go about handing out goodies.

  • Prizes for everybody. You can award all participants who complete the scavenger hunt with a small prize — a Thanksgiving-themed notepad and pencil, for example, or a small pack of crayons and a turkey coloring book. If you think adults will participate, you can offer prizes that will appeal to all guests, such as playing cards or novelty ink pens.
  • Prizes for the winner: If you’d rather award a larger prize for the participant who finds all items first, you can go for a bigger prize. A stuffed turkey (no, not what you’re having for your Thanksgiving feast — a stuffed animal!) would be a perfect prize for the fastest hunter in the house.

Note: Of course, handing out one big prize may lead to some disappointed or angry kids, which is the opposite goal of having a Thanksgiving scavenger hunt. You may, instead, opt to stick with smaller prizes for all participants to keep everyone motivated and happy.

The real joy of the hunt

Thanksgiving is a treasured time to get together with family and friends over massive amounts of delicious food. If you’re looking to get your guests engaged, a Thanksgiving scavenger hunt may be exactly the activity your group will love.

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