Scavenger hunts organized by mother and daughter provide some fun in pandemic times

by Alice Hom on August 9, 2020

When COVID hit our county and schools were closed, my daughter Olivia and I shared our kitchen table — her with distance learning classes at M-A and me with Zoom meetings and Google hangouts.

We also had daily afternoon walks and were always bumping into other families doing the same. She and I discussed how isolating distance learning can be and wished there was something we could do. Olivia knew about the scavenger hunts that I’d organized in the past and came up with the idea of taking them outside.

That led us to planning it out — what it would look like and where? How many areas should we cover? Should we have prizes for students demonstrating great life skills? With that, I called Olivia’s orthodontist, Dr. Stacey Quo, and without hesitation, she ordered us a box of prizes! I called her dentist, Dr. Vernon Adams and they let me have whatever toys were available at their office. Little did we know, that was the easy part!

With a camera on hand, we started taking hundreds and hundreds of photos. We looked over the city map to create boundaries, created a list, discussed what would be safe and the least concerning for neighbors. The week before every release of a scavenger hunt, we did a dry run.

The concept came with the hope families could do this within walking distance, across neighborhoods and see one another, opening up their COVID world just a little larger but at a safe distance. We decided on objects participants could easily spot from the sidewalk.

We imagined older siblings taking their younger siblings so their parents could get in a few hours of work or some much needed alone time. We imagined family time, getting outside, going on a fun adventure together.

Our  seven weekly scavenger hunts started in May, leading to the final two scavenger hunts last week. The response from families has been rewarding, many discovering new neighborhoods. But the best part — this summer project brought my daughter and I even closer together.

One of the last hunts featured photos of nine staff members from Laurel School dressed like Waldos last Halloween. For those, we got special permission to place at several locations! Astute eyes might spot a Menlo Park fire station in the top photo.

Author Alice Hom is long-time Menlo Park resident
Photos by Robb Most (c) 2020; the Waldo pictured is Laurel School principal Linda Creighton

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