Pandemic Litter Scavenger Hunt (free and downloadable!)

You may have heard that we’re in the midst of a terrifying global pandemic that’s totally upended our way of life and will infect millions of people and cause unprecedented economic devastation.

But like, me, you may also just be trying to get through the day, perhaps with multiple children smearing peanut butter over both horizontal and vertical surfaces of your home.* 

These peanut butter-smeared children need fresh air and exercise, but our local playground was sealed off two weeks ago, and the stern and exhausted mayor of our very large city lives half a block away and can see the park from her back window. 

The streets and sidewalks and alleys are still open, but my kids refuse to just “go for a walk” unless there’s ice cream at the end. And the ice cream got sealed up, too. 

The one thing my kids DO love is garbage:  inspecting it, rolling around on it, secretly sliding it into their pockets or mouths. And thanks to the recent breakdown in social order, garbage is everywhere

So to trick the kids into taking a walk, I developed a scavenger hunt based on garbage I found within a one-mile radius of my home. I suspect the garbage is similar near your home, too. Different types of garbage are worth different points, because some garbage is simply more rare. Just print out this form (visual or text, based on your literacy levels), hand each kid a pair of rubber gloves and a trash bag,** and enjoy a few minutes of well earned me-time. 

[non-literate version]

SCAV HUNT visual

[download a printable PDF HERE]


[download a printable PDF HERE]

Just plain text version: 

50 points:
Street sign
Piece of transportation infrastructure (traffic light)
Identifiable piece of car (bumper, muffler)
Stuffed animal (especially sad if wet)

25 points:
Full or partial household item
Baby gear (shoe, pacifier)
Intact hubcap
Christmas decorations (February – October)

10 points:
Buttons (surprisingly rare, also tiny)
Knit hat
Winter gloves (not disposable, see 3 point section)
Identifiable non-processed food item (chicken bone, broccoli stalk)
Adult sock
Identifiable bike part (tire, lock, chain)
Full or partial electronic device
Reusable (non-disposable) cutlery or glassware

5 points:
Full-sized liquor bottle (pint or more)
Beer can or bottle
Full-sized chip bag
Candy wrapper of candy you’ve never personally eaten
Zip tie
Oral hygiene item (seriously, why are there are floss picks everywhere?)
Game piece or playing card
Plastic cutlery

3 points:
Latex glove
Face mask
Other disposable protective gear
Mini liquor bottle
Small chip bag
Candy wrapper of candy you’ve eaten in your lifetime

1 point:
Rubber bands
Bottle cap (double points for Corona brand)
Screws or nails
Baby wipe
Lottery ticket
Plastic bag
Coffee cup or lid

* We do have walls that run at a 45-degree angle, and those are covered in peanut butter, too.
** Some people may not like the idea of their kids picking trash off the street, which I respect. Just give the kids a pen and let them cross off each item as they find it. They will absolutely cheat.


3 thoughts on “Pandemic Litter Scavenger Hunt (free and downloadable!)

  1. What a great idea! Shame it won’t work with a rambunctious 77 pound greyhound who is righteously irritated at being deprived of his social life and leash-free runs around the local fenced dog park. Not living in a large city, I’m a lot less constrained and on our leashed (him!) mutual exercise outings (still permitted) I’ve noticed that coronavirus has resulted in a bizarre outbreak of house-proud front-yard grooming in most homes, with the occasional don’t-give-a-damn standing out by contrast, but it doesn’t seem to have produced an increase in trash… your kids would fare badly here. Oh, except the dog would eagerly volunteer to clean up the peanut butter smears!


    • Here in Chicago, all the homeless pets have been adopted this week. True story! I certainly don’t need anymore creatures in my house right now, but I can definitely see the appeal especially of a dog in this moment. A reason to take walks everyday, someone to eat all the crumbs on my floor, and a companion that doesn’t have any clue about how many people just lost their jobs or how many ventilators we don’t have.

      We still have our two feral cats — one who thinks she’s a housecat, but she thinks every piece of food we drop on the floor is a trap.


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