Learning to read doesn’t mean you need to sit behind a desk and stare at books all day. Super Mom Christie came up with a cool, fun way to get her kids to read – a “Reading Scavenger Hunt”.

This activity works best when a child is close to learning to read.  It is not for children who are seasoned independent readers.  But for the child who is just beginning to read or learning to put sounds together or to recognize words, it can be an excellent way to reinforce the skill that is just emerging and to develop mastery.

 Age group: 4-6 years

Purpose: We hear a lot about phonics, and yes, phonics are important for learning to read new words.  However, fluency in reading comes from basically memorizing common words and recognizing the whole word.  Although phonics are important, children also slowly, gradually build a registry of common, familiar words.  When they come across a new word, they use phonics to help them sound it out, but after repeated encounters, they commit the whole word to visual memory.  The word bank grows and grows.

Things You Need:

  • Envelopes (Chinese red packets work well)
  • Paper and pen to write clues
  • A prize

Step by Step:

  • Write clues to locations and place inside envelopes.
  • Hide the envelopes in their respective locations.
  • The final envelope contains a prize or treat.


  • At the first location, child finds clue #1 (Go to the rug). 
  • At the second location (rug), child finds clue #2 (Get a cup). 
  • At the third location (where you store cups), child finds clue #3 (Get a book). 
  • At the fourth location (bookshelf), child finds clue #4 (In the tub). 
  • At the last location (bathtub), child finds the envelope and in it is the prize!  Hooray!

Super Tips:

(1) Print clearly.  Do not use cursive.  Pay special attention to make your letters clear.  In the beginning, your child may be more familiar with capital letters, and if this is the case, stick to capital letters.

(2) For beginners, select clues that are simple and follow the phonics rules such as “bed” and “rug.”  For example, “shoe” and “door” are not great for kids at this stage.  To a new reader “shoe” should be pronounced “showy” or “show.”  The rule with early readers is to keep things simple.  “Go” and “get” are better than “around” and “above” at this point. 

(3) After basic words have been mastered, introduce harder words.  After that, you can phrase clues as questions.  For example, “Who is the shortest person in the house?”  or “Where you wash your hands.”  I once hid a clue on the little brother!

(4) Try to keep things at your child’s level, but always throw in one clue that is harder, slightly beyond their current level.  This is especially good if it is a common word.  For example, after a few scavenger hunts, my then 5-year old could easily read simple words, so I introduced the word “behind.”  He struggled with it at first and thought the ‘I’ should sound like the ‘I’ in “bin”.  Not a bad guess.  After seeing “behind” a few more times (and “behind” is very useful in clues!), he quickly learned to recognize it.  It’s ok if the next time he saw the word, he knew what it was based on context.  It’s not cheating if kids use the context to figure out what words are.  It is what they should do!  Eventually, after seeing the word enough, they commit it to memory.

(5) You may need to ask your child to hide or leave the premise when you hide the clues.  You want to make sure your child finds the clues based on reading, not based on searching. 

(6) You can use any kind of envelopes for this activity, but I found the Chinese red packets to be perfect.  They were just the right size, easy to spot, and easy to open.  Around Chinese New Year, we get way more of these than we know what to do with them. 

(7) The key to making this activity enjoyable for your child and an experience that will stretch his/her learning is to create clues that are appropriate for your child’s current abilities.  This means being attuned to improvements and knowing when to increase the difficulty level.

Super Mom Christie’s Overall Experience: “My son really enjoyed doing these. It was something special for him to do.  I did one scavenger hunt per day with about 6-8 clues each time. He always asked for more, but I didn’t do more. I think that was also part of what made it special for him.”

Special thanks to Super Mom Christie for sharing her Reading Scavenger Hunt idea with the SuperMommy readers!!