What? When? Where? How? Hunt!

Go on a scavenger hunt to inspire children’s thinking about ideas like big versus small. Ask: Where is it? What does it look like? How long does it take? How many are there? How does it feel? The answers to these questions are known as “basic concepts.” Asking questions about basic concepts helps children learn new words, follow instructions, do math, and communicate with others.

Click here to save this activity with instructions, additional pages, and a create-your-own-hunt page to your phone or computer.

Prep It

Nothing is required for this activity, but we’ve created a handy guide you can print or save to your phone to help lead the game!

Play It

Go on a scavenger hunt for words that a describe what, when, where, and how – ideas called “basic concepts.” Anywhere you go- home, outside, on a bus ride, the store- search for these ideas, or “concepts.”

Look for things that are:

  • Big, small
  • Open, closed
  • Noisy, quiet
  • Empty, full
  • Heavy, light
  • Hot, cold
  • Behind something, in front of something
  • Above something, under something
  • Hard, soft
  • Asleep, awake
  • Curvy, straight
  • Near, far away
  • Happy, Sad
  • Front, Back
  • Above, Below
It is very important to start with just one concept at a time!

Use everyday objects (like a child’s favorite toy)

Try playing “I-Spy” with one or two concepts before going on a scavenger hunt for them. (“I spy something… big!”)

Make sure the objects are very different (small versus big could be shown using a marble and a beach ball)

Search for concepts in a variety of places throughout the day

Search for concepts while children create (“That tower must be heavy!”)
Sometimes hunt for concepts out of order, without their pairs

Hunt for one or two concepts at a time in as many places as possible

Look for concepts in images in books and media

Look for the written word in titles, signs, billboards, song lyrics, and in stories

Compare objects of the same concept (heavy, heavier, heaviest)
Look for where concepts are in written text, especially when they’re not explicitly stated (skyscrapers are big; smart cars are small)

Have children create their own scavenger hunt lists of other concepts they experience every day

Super-Thinker Simon Says

Shake up how the children in your care learn new words, follow instructions, do math, and communicate by playing a twist on Simon Says that focuses on developing children’s ideas about position, time, size, numbers, characteristics, and patterns.

Prep It

Nothing is needed for this game- just some space for everyone to move around!

Play It

Standing somewhere where all children can understand your directions, follow the prompts below to get started, then change them up to make the game even more fun! The prompts are organized by what idea they inspire children to think deeply about, but feel free to go out of order.

Begin by saying: “Simon says…” and say one of the following commands. If you do not say “Simon says” before the command, the children should not do the action!

Give a big (large) wave to our neighbors

Walk in a small (little) circle

Point at the short table

Sit on the long couch
Put your chin up

Put your right foot behind your left foot

Put your elbow in front of your tummy

Put your hand next to your ear

Put your finger under your eye

Pretend to throw a football to someone who is far away

Pretend to toss a baseball to someone who is very near

Put your hands apart

Put your feet together
First hop on your right foot, then hop on your left foot

After you blink three times, stick out your tongue

Before you touch your shoulder, touch your nose
Hold up more fingers than I hold up

Hold up less than five fingers

Show me all your fingers

Show me none of your fingers

Do between 5 and 7 jumping jacks
Show me what it looks like when you’ve eaten something that was too hot

Pretend you’ve been out in the cold too long

Pretend to be asleep next to the shelf

Pretend to be a baby awake during nap time

Find something in the room that is old

Point at something that is new

Open your mouth as wide as you can

Close your eyes

Pretend to be a noisy animal

Tip toe quietly

Pretend to carry a full bucket of water

Put an empty cup on your head

Do the same pose as me

Do a different dance than me
Skip in a zip-zag line

Walk backwards in a straight line

Crab-walk in a wavy line