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Random Scavenger Hunts: A Camp Tradition

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Kids love hunts, especially scavenger hunts. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe because it’s a competition where everyone is equal. Athletic ability and intelligence take a back seat to observation, and all campers can observe and look for hidden objects.

The Golden Smurf

Years ago I came across a 2 inch high plastic Smurf that was painted gold (The Golden Smurf). At camp we were already doing other hunts, and I thought this would be another item to add to the plastic and stuffed animals we already hid for our animal hunt.

Our camp is divided into color teams. At the time we had four teams and the week I brought in the Smurf, the teams stayed pretty even on points as the week progressed. On a whim I decided to hide The Golden Smurf on its own and do a hunt just for it, with the camper finding The Golden Smurf earning big points for his/her team.

I sat the campers down and explained that I had hidden a small golden Smurf somewhere at camp, and the camper to find it would earn the Treasure Hunter bead and 5,000 points for their team. I gave them the boundaries and told them to go find it. Immediately the campers scattered, running in all directions with wide, greedy eyes. Many of them teamed up and others went solo. Within minutes campers were asking for clues. I gave a couple and off they went to search again with renewed enthusiasm and hopeful smiles. After about 5 minutes, cheers erupted as a 4th grade girl ran towards me with The Golden Smurf raised high. She was surrounded by campers from every team wanting to get a look at The Golden Smurf.

papa_smurfSince that day The Golden Smurf hunt has become a tradition. Return campers ask me on the first day of camp when I am going to hide the Smurf. Their eyes follow me during the day hoping to get a clue as to where I’ll hide it, which I no longer do since I cannot hide it without a camper seeing me. Instead I hand it off to one of the other staff to do it. The Golden Smurf has expanded into a group of figurines including a regular Smurf, a transparent blue Papa Smurf and a worried looking Smurf all the same size as the Golden Smurf (which is still worth the most points).

dkHunts have become so popular that I now have a “Hunt Activity Leader” who takes care of all the hunts. Last summer the leader’s camp name was DK (Donkey Kong). After some searching I was able to find a 4 inch high Donkey Kong that he added to the group of hideables. “Mini DK” is now a part of the hunts and the campers even take pictures with him.

Creating Your Own Hunt Tradition

  • Find a small character figure that all the campers will recognize. The Smurf was popular with both the staff, who grew up watching Smurfs, and the campers, who know the Smurfs from the movies.
  • Find an appropriate time to hide the figure. Make sure the “playing field” is not too large, and do not hide it in staff pockets, backpacks or anywhere else you don’t want the campers to go into.
  • Have an incentive. Not only did our campers receive points for their team (which would be enough) they also got a special bead to wear.
  • Add other figures so that there is a better chance for campers to find a figure. We also added a Travelocity Gnome to the mix, but he was 8 inches tall and much harder to hide. He is used on occasion but not as much as the smaller figures.

Do you offer your campers unique hunts?




  • Camp Red Feather had a special gnome named Gjerome who would hide in random places. He froze any time kids were around but then would come alive again and scamper off to another hiding place. He would climb trees, crawl across the support beams in our pavilions, swim in the deep end of the pool, hitch a ride on the golf cart, and even go canoeing. Being a gnome, he had over 500 children since they breed like rabbits. His wife lived at our Aquatics Director’s house, tending her gardens as they both needed to work to pay for the needs of so many children. Every time a camper spotted Gjerome, they earned a random amount of crazy points for their tribe. Announcements would be called across the staff radios and Gjerome would go off and hide once again. Sadly, during the summer 2012, Gjerome hid in his last hiding place and was kidnapped from camp. He is now captive in the possession of some neighborhood teen, developing Stockholm syndrome. I like to believe he is practicing his archery skills, though, with the supply of archery equipment the same kids stole from our camp in 2011.

    • Amy, I LOVE that! Maybe one day you can put together a rescue unit to bring Gjerome home. I’m sure his wife is worried.

  • We also have a camp gnome (Gnomeo) that would travel around camp and would often award the clean cabin award at some point in the afternoon. Campers would always make sure to clean their bunks very well in hopes that Gnomeo would visit and bring them a prize. When not in a bunk, you could always find him around camp at the flag pole for morning ceremonies, the mess hall or by his favorite spot at the camp fire.

    • It’s funny how something so easy to do like hide a little golden figure gets kids all excited. Love the tie in to your K9 camp with the sheltie.

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