They've become a little too old for princess parties. The pirate theme has become too babyish. They're older, wiser, but still in the mood for a fun, active party with a gang of friends. If this describes your child and friends, they just may be ready for a mall scavenger hunt and, surprisingly, you may find this is one of the least expensive, fun parties you've hosted for your child.
The object of a mall scavenger hunt is to gather the party child and guests at a local mall and provide them with a list of things to find. But as you'll see most, if not all, of the items won't cost anything. Here's how to plan your mall scavenger hunt.
Make your guest list and send out invitations.
Divide party guests into teams.
Decide whether the kids are old enough to travel around the mall independently, or whether you will need to enlist adult chaperones for each team.
Spend time walking around the mall, creating your list for the hunt. Expect to spend anywhere from 1 to 3 hours during this part of the planning. Once you get home, create a copy of the list, for each participant.
Purchase pads and pencils for the teams to record their findings. Give one to each player or just to the team leader according to your preference.
Will you serve food in the food court of the mall, or in a family friendly restaurant located at the mall? If so, make reservations at the restaurant for your party, and add an extra hour to your party schedule.
Will you bring and serve cake or cupcakes? If so, you may need an extra adult on hand to retrieve it from the car when you're ready for the birthday song.
What will be your party favors? Possible ideas include a magnifying glass, a notebook and pen, candy, or a small gift card to one of the mall stores.
Will you give out prizes to the winning team members? If so, what will they be? A gift card to a mall shop or food court location? An iTunes gift card? A special box of candy?
Scavenger Hunt Themes
Best Shopper Hunt - Give each team an imaginary budget and a shopping assignment. The team that was able to purchase the most and/or best collection of items wins. Instead of actually buying items, have the teams write them down with the name of the store and purchase price. If the stores permit it, give each team a camera to take photos of the items, but first you'll need to clear this with the store and mall management. Some possible challenges might be: the best package of items to take with you to a desert island; the best purchases for the first day of school; what you would need for going on safari.
Alphabet Hunt - The team needs to find an item for every letter in the alphabet.
Color Theme Hunt - Give each team a small amount of cash, such as $20, and a color. Challenge them to see which team can purchase the most items in their color while keeping to the budget.
Persuasion Hunt - This hunt will work better with older teens. Give each team a video camera and then a list of assigned photos they will need to take in a specified time period. However, to take these photos will require their best powers of persuasion. For example: ask an older man to take a picture with the group; get a small child (with parents' permission) to sing a song for the group on camera; get someone to ride the escalator with the group while being photographed; ask a group of people to blow a bubble gum bubble together, etc. Remind the teams to be respectful and well behaved while persuading their targets.
Photo Hunt - In this type of hunt you will give each team a camera and they will have to take photographs of specific items or in specific locations in the mall. For example: by the fountain; by the information desk; in front of a specific store; next to an American flag; etc. Note, however, that many stores won't allow photographs to be taken in their store, so you should check first before you plan your hunt. Check with the mall management, as well, before you give photograph assignments in the general areas of the mall.
A Miscellaneous Hunt - This hunt will be a combination of acquiring freebies, photos, and buying things. For example:
- Assign photographs next to certain described locations in the mall, without telling them where they are. Such as find the "EB" on the wall and take a photo.
- A photo of the group tossing pennies in a fountain (give them the pennies before they begin).
- Purchase as much candy as you can from the gumball machine for a quarter per child and take a photo (give each a quarter).
- Bring back a napkin, straw, credit card application, mall directory, and store promotional flyer, all of which are freely available around the mall.
- Find out how many trash cans are in the mall.
- Count how many benches are in the mall.
Tell the teams before they start that you don't expect they'll find everything. However, assign points to each item they can possibly find so they can plan their search to maximize points, if they choose. You can add and deduct points for these other reasons too:
- Give a specific time when the teams must return. Give points to the first team back.
- Deduct points from late teams.
- Deduct points for running, yelling, or any other disruptive behavior. You shoiuld emphasize the need to be considerate of shoppers and storekeepers.
If you'd like to find more of Donna Pilato's advice on hosting parties and entertaining friends and family you can visit her at The Delicious Dozen.