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Starting a few years ago, we began using a holiday scavenger hunt to make present time last longer. With the boys getting older, they are beginning to ask for more expensive gifts, which means they get less of them, which means they tear through them in minutes.

Christmas Scavenger Hunt clues are a great way to share a fun experience and make gift opening last a little longer. Even our teenagers love their scavenger hunts, and we love watching it all unfold! 

As kids get older they ask for more expensive gifts, which of course means less under the tree. A Christmas Scavenger hunt can make present time last longer! Holiday Scavenger Hunt | Christmas Tradition | Holiday Tradition #tradition


Adding a holiday scavenger hunt to your holiday morning can help to draw out the suspense and add some fun family time into your gift opening tradition!

I posted about our holiday scavenger hunt tradition a couple of years ago and have since received many emails asking about our rules and clues. I wanted to add to that post for you here!

Holiday Scavenger Hunt Rules (There really aren’t many, and you can easily make your own)

1. Kids must stay together during the holiday scavenger hunt. No running ahead to the next clue, even if your brother is just learning how to read and is very slow.

2. You must go in order. Yes, even if Mom and Dad mess up and you find one scavenger hunt clue on the way to another.

3. Mom is going to take pictures, so smile or you don’t get to open your present. 

 scavenger hunt rules

Holiday Scavenger Hunt Clues

Here are some of the clues we used. Please feel free to copy them, change them around a little, and make them your own!

Please note: I can not rhyme to save my life. Some clues rhyme, some almost rhyme, and some don’t even come close.

  1. One last gift before it’s done. We’ll make sure this is lots of fun! Your next clue is under the place where you eat dinner.
  2. You found me under your chair! Now look in the place where you do your hair.
  3. This clue was found in the sink. Now look in the place where you find something that writes with ink.
  4. You found this clue with all the pens. Your next clue is in the den. Look up high. Are you hot?
  5. Wow! You found this on the fan! Next, look under the garbage can.
  6. P-U! The trash stinks! Next, look under something PINK!
  7. Haha! You found me under a sock?! Now go out front and look under a ROCK!
  8. Tell Dad what 9×7 equals…. Maybe then he’ll give you your next clue!
  9. Your next clue can be found by the sidewalk on the ground.
  10. Back inside the house you go! You need to use your really long arms for the next clue. Find the cactus skeleton and look down its throat! (We have a decorative saguaro lamp in our living room)
  11. Go find your gift in the best hiding place in the house… if you can fit in there!

Here is another set of holiday scavenger hunt clues for you to use as ideas for your own scavenger hunt! 

  1. One more gift for you to see… Look for your clue under the tree!
  2. Christmas Day is here at last, your next clue is where your Dad puts his gas.
  3. Brothers are best friends, did you know that? For your next clue, look under the front door mat.
  4. I know you woke up early, but don’t start to doze… your next clue can be found right next to the hose!
  5. My reindeer landed outside your shed, bend down for the next clue, but don’t bump your head!
  6. Look down at the end of yours and the neighbor’s wall. Your next clue is on your NEW BALL!
  7. Santa doesn’t want brothers to fight, for your next clue, look where the fire is bright.
  8. Because you were good this year and didn’t snoop, look towards the grill at your new basketball hoop!

Do you set up a holiday scavenger hunt for your holiday tradition each year?

If you’re looking for more holiday scavenger hunt posts, you might like these: 

What is a holiday scavenger hunt? 

Leading kids (or even adults) to their holiday gifts via a scavenger hunt is a fun way to make gift opening last a little longer. As kids get older, parents tend to buy less gifts that are more expensive. Gift opening takes a lot less time and once I realized that I decided I wanted a fun way to make it last a little longer. 

Setting up a Scavenger Hunt

I type out and print the clues the night before, and start each scavenger hunt with a clue taped to the wall in back of the Christmas tree. I have found that it’s easier to place the clues in order from first to last, instead of placing them where I am first, and walking through the house. 

I cut the clues apart and then start with clue #1, then walk to where clue #2 is, then clue #3 and so on. This also helps me see if there is anything amiss with the holiday scavenger hunt clues I created. 

For example, if I mention walking to the iron but it’s in the wrong place, that could be confusing, so it’s always good to walk the same route and the kids will walk on their scavenger hunt. 

How to make a good Scavenger Hunt

I try to create a mix of easy clues, thinking clues like math problems, and partner clues where the kids have to ask each other or parents for help. For example, a good scavenger hunt clue we had one year was on a ceiling fan, so the kids had to ask my husband to grab it since nobody else was tall enough to reach that clue. 

Christmas Scavenger Hunt Tips

Sometimes, I like to make the gift in the Christmas Scavenger hunt the one that the child asked for but didn’t think they’d receive. For example, our son asked for an iPad one year but we explained that it was a very expensive gift for Santa to bring. 

After opening all of his Christmas gifts he was so excited to find the iPad as his scavenger hunt gift. Of course, we can’t make the “big gift” the scavenger hunt gift every year because then they’ll expect that the last gift in the Christmas Scavenger Hunt will always be the big one, but it’s fun to do. 

We definitely try to make the Scavenger Hunt gift a fun one. If you are giving an outdoor gift, like a soccer ball, you could have your hunt lead outside for the last clue. If giving a toolbox, maybe your last scavenger hunt clue could lead everyone to the garage? 

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  1. Shannan @Tween Us says:

    No way! I wrote about the 30 year scavenger hunt tradition in our family earlier today! Good all on providing clues, I was too embarrassed to share my bad ones, and couldn’t find the great ones my dad wrote. I’m telling you – it gets fun when you can make it a road rally :)

    1. I saw yours as I was finishing mine up! We totally know how to make tweens happy ;)

      We are definitely not great clue writers, but the kids get the point , right?

      Ok, maybe we’ll be a little competitive this year…

      1. You can add a little extra fun by wrapping a box in a box in a box. This has been a blast for all kinds of presents and always gets the same response. And by the time you’ve wrapped the last package, you are a pro present wrapper!!

  2. Shannan @Tween Us says:

    We do know what works! I also suspect that my tween will roll her eyes, or at least fail to appreciate poetic genius, when it comes to clues, so I’m saving my energy on that until she’s older. Or maybe she never will. That’s possible, too.

    We should totally swap clues next year (although I’ll need to get a cactus…) :)

    Hope your boys enjoy some very happy hunting!!!!!!

    1. Yes – lots of eye rolling, but you know she loves it in the end :)

      I’ll let you borrow my cactus!

  3. Gramma Teetsie/T Thompson says:

    So much fun. And a great tradition for kids to carry on for many, memorable Christmas’ to come.
    Where did you get your smarts from?

  4. Lyn Meeker says:

    The Easter Bunny did this every year .. a scavenger hunt for the basket….some years it was puzzles… when math was important .. problems had to be solved to = letters of the alphabet… word searches … and the traditional clues… took all morning if the Easter Bunny was clever…

    Santa some years … would attach a ribbon/yarn to a too big to wrap present (and left it in the garage…) and weave it all throughout the house….

    1. That’s a great idea, Lyn!! We might have to do that this year – a weight bench was on someone’s list and it’s not going to be easy to wrap!! Thank you!

      1. Lyn Meeker says:

        And they really roll their eyes that they have to roll it up and not just follow it…..

  5. This is so fun! My mom loves having us do scavenger hunts at the holidays. I’m terrible at finding the clues and my sister is super fast. It’s even more fun now that our husbands and children are involved too.

  6. I have 3 sons, no longer teens even, that I did Easter scavenger hunts for every year up until about 2 years ago, and last year my youngest asked if I would start it again!!! No matter how old, how many “eye rolls”, kids of all ages love tradition, and love that you do it FOR THEM! :)

  7. We have an annual scavenger hunt (4 year now!) through the whole town for our adult family and friends and one on our block for just the kids. By the time I was working on the kids version, my mind was blank trying to come up with new ideas – your clues were such an inspiration, THANKS!

  8. I left a note near the cookies and each clue told how things Santa did before he left the house (ie. After eating the cookies I needed a little rest so I went to play the Xbox for a little while) each year now my kids ask Santa in thei letter to give them more clues:-)

  9. Once we made our daughter follow clues that make her have to search for a particular You-Tube video where she saw her cat in a costume and a voice-over that led her to the next clue location. One year we took super close up pictures of things around the house, decorations, etc. and she had to identify the object, locate it and find the next photo clue. That game took her quite a while! We try to subtly match the style of the game to the gift, so we made her follow a treasure map to find a Pirates of the Carribbean DVD, the photo clues led to a camera. She had to solve trivia questions about her favorite shows then unscrambled highlighted letters to solve the location of her gift – a tv for her dorm room. If I get organized in time, next year I might get our family and friends involved so she will have to call each of them to wish them Merry Christmas and they will give her a clue of who to call next until one gives the final clue where to look for her gift. One mistake I won’t repeat is when I hid the first clue in her cinnamon roll…but she was too distracted to eat breakfast and was getting annoyed as to why I was nagging her to eat! Lol! I’ve enjoyed reading these posts and look forward to seeing other ideas.

    1. I like these! Creative!

    2. I really like the idea of calling someone to get the clue!!!

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  11. I’m working on what to do this year when I came across your Holiday Scavenger hunt. I try to do something different each year. Last year my family ranging in age from 40 down to 7 had to go caroling for their gifts. This was Christmas Eve and it was hard to find people at home (church services and all). I gave them the address of the first house, upon arriving they had to sing a song to receive a gift and the next clue (or address in this case). I had downloaded an karaoke app to my iPad so the music would play and the words would pop up. My 10 yr old grand-daughter picked The Twelve Days of Christmas a the first house (that didn’t happen again). I had dropped the gifts off ahead of time, but still had people that ended up not beng home so they just left them on the porch (they still had to sing). I took pics and videos. They all said it was the best time. Hard to beat – that’s why I’m starting now for new ideas. I enjoyed reading your blog.

  12. I have been doing this for years for my Son. Last year was the first year I didn’t do it and he was so disappointed! He’s 44! Does make the gift opening process take a little longer – especially when you are giving $$ because it’s all they want. I break the $$ into smaller amounts and hide in different places in the house with hints leading from one gift to the next. One year I used the bookcase with a small library to do all the clues based on literature. So much fun, but so much work!

  13. Pat Larson says:

    Not just for tweens. When my grandchildren were around 4, 5 and 6, I did a Scavenger Hunt with nursery rhymes being the clues. Since the adults don’t exchange gifts, the three kids found three gifts at each spot, one for each. Some of these were smaller stocking type gifts as they got stockings at their parents and not Grandmas. They had to take turns guessing the clues so the oldest wouldn’t do them all. Then they would bring each gift back to come to the living room to open and sometimes play with it a little before the next clue. It slowed it way down and it down and they appreciated each gift more instead of barely looking as they would rip through their pile in the past. Some of the rhymes were: Old Mother Hubbard, she went to the …(we had an antique cupboard); Little Boy Blue …(toy musical intrument box); Three Little Kittens…(mitten basket); Little Miss Muffet ( needed help that porridge is like oatmeal…to the cereal cupboard); Rub a dub dub …(bathtub); It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is…( Grandpa’s bed); Three Little Monkeys… ( a different bed); Hey Diddle Diddle…(dish cupboard or silverware drawer); Rock a bye baby…(crib or by dolls); Humpty Dumpty…( a hard one, in the frig by the eggs); Run, Run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me…( in the oven); There was an old woman, she …(in a closet by the shoes); Hickory Dickory Dock, the mouse…(by a clock). Look at names of nursery rymes on the internet for more ideas.

  14. I have been doing this since my son was 4 years old (old enough that wrapping large toys were an issue, like bikes). He is now thirty four and married. I now save a gift for he and his wife and do the same. So glad to see others have the same tradition.

  15. It’s so cool that other families do this! My mom always made scavenger hunts for our birthdays, from age 3 until we decided we were too old for it (16-17, usually). There would be as many clues as the year we were celebrating, which works really well, because a 3-year-old doesn’t have that much of an attention span. :) Before we could read, there would be pictures of the next place to look. When we were just learning to read, she would just write out the clue. Once we were able to read alright, she would reverse the clues so we had to read them in the mirror. And then at about age 8, she would type out the clues, switch the font to Wingdings, and then give us an alphabet decoder. We are probably the only people in the world who can read Wingdings. :) We LOVED birthday scavenger hunts.

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  17. Rebecca Sechrist says:

    I do this every year for my family and found some great ideas on pinterest. Last year we had fun at each station had to play a family game. like a Christmas mad lib or put a Christmas person on each other foreheads and guess who they were etc It slowed the gift giving way down which is great for their big gift. This year I am in the process of doing one for my mom. My brother passed last year and I have been wanting to do a memorial bench for him at one of our favorite parks. So she is going to have a big surprise! Even grandma deserves a great scavenger hunt!

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