Planning an Egg Hunt for Littles
In the Christian tradition, Easter is the symbol of renewal. I embrace Easter traditions as a way to help me emerge from the lethargy of winter. Four years ago I created a space for tiny flowers and fairies in my back garden, and staged our first Easter egg hunt. Starting simply, with only Bean and her best friend from nursery school taking part, it has become a family tradition, complete with an annual garden spruce-up, crafts for the children, mimosas and brunch for the grownups. My mother’s Easter tradition was to make Hot Cross Buns for Ash Wednesday, so sometimes I include those in my brunch as well.
When my children were small, they enjoyed the novelty of Easter Egg Bread, and my oldest daughter has taken over the tradition of baking that each year. Our Austrian friend Nina introduced us to the Germanic tradition of Ostereierbaum, or Easter Egg Trees, and began our collection of wooden ornaments. Our Easter tree will be the centerpiece of our brunch table this year. My Jewish friends post their favorite variations on traditional matzo ball soup on Facebook, most of which seem to feature chocolate. My favorite so far is Matzo Toffee with Candied Ginger, which may also make it to our table. I also promised a daughter that I would make Samosas – because when I told her we’d be drinking Mimosas I substituted samosa for mimosa. (You had to be there, I guess.) So it’s going to be a fairly substantial, multicultural meal.
However, this year our Easter egg hunt will be different. Two of our special guests will be Bean’s 13 and 14 month old cousins, freshly walking. They are too little for the small plastic eggs we usually fill with even smaller toys and candies, and probably won’t appreciate the carefully died hard-boiled eggs that the older children enjoy searching for. “Will they even know how to hunt for eggs?” Bean asked. Good question.
So together we are planning our first egg hunt for toddlers.
Since I will be arriving home just a few days before Easter, I combed novelty stores here in San Diego for Easter supplies, and found some giant plastic eggs and signs that will help our novice hunters find their treasures. You can make your own signs from scratch or use printables that are all over the internet, but I found a very nice collection of pre-made signs from Meri Meri in a gift shop. Bean was the one who first mentioned the need for big eggs “so my baby cousins won’t choke,” and I found some in a dollar store.
Bean and I decided to stage the toddler egg hunt first, and to pair the little ones with an older child and a parent to walk around the flower garden looking for eggs.
For this part of the hunt, the giant plastic eggs will be hidden in plain sight, beside a flower or directly on the grass. We’ll make sure that they aren’t in wet soil or have any obstacles in the way of reaching them. For toddlers, the fun is finding, not searching. Inside the eggs will be smaller eggs containing parent-approved treats (we will be using Cheerios and the puffs shown below, although some parents may approve Goldfish crackers).
After the Littles have found their eggs and the treats inside, the preschoolers can be let loose to hunt for eggs that were previously hidden by the older children or parents. Those should still be easy to find, but could be slipped into a potted plant, tucked under a cluster of colored flowers, nestled in the fairy garden or dropped just behind a rock.
Older children are all about the hunt, so grownups should hide their eggs and make finding them a challenge. Eggs for five and six year olds can be hidden in a bush or a tree, in an empty plant pot or mailbox, even under the overhanging leaves of a plant. Beginning readers enjoy a real treasure hunt, with clues written out or illustrated with pictures guiding them to the correct part of the garden and eventually to the eggs themselves.
Tips for Success
What we’ve learned in previous years:
- Tell children where they may search for eggs, and where they do not need to look. For instance, we have a fish pond and a waterfall, and even though there is a fence around it, we need to remind the children that there will not be any eggs inside that area. Older children may climb a tree to retrieve an egg; reassure younger children that they do not need to do that!
- Do some simple arithmetic before the eggs are hidden, so you can tell the younger children (and their parents) how many eggs each child may find. Encourage children who have already found their limit to help other children to find theirs.
- Sometimes I think we should make a map of the back yard and mark all the eggs on it to save the adults finding rotten eggs during a late summer weeding, but I have never actually done it.
- In case of rain or snow plan an indoor event.
Follow with Games and Brunch for the Parents
Easter Egg hunts take a lot of planning, but once you say “Go,” the eggs are found in a very short amount of time. You can extend the fun with games and crafts.
- For the little ones, throw a dozen light plastic balls onto the lawn or carpet – the kind you can get in bags of a hundred at big box stores. (Make sure they are too big to put into a toddler’s mouth, but small enough for a little hand to hold). Toddlers are fascinated by putting things into other things, and taking them out again, so supply each child with a small plastic bucket or egg basket, and help them collect the balls and put them into the container. After that, the children will probably continue the game without much help, taking the balls out of the containers and putting them back in again.
- Bring out some favorite Easter or Spring books to share. Our family favorite is Humbug Rabbit, but there are lots of others. Parents will just naturally pick up the books and read them aloud to their children and any others who join them.
- Provide a craft table for the older children, with age-appropriate supplies like crayons, colored pencils, white and colored paper, scissors, glue, etc. Using these supplies, children can be encouraged to decorate their colored eggs to their own taste as well as make drawings or other items. This year I’m adding an egg decorating kit I picked up at the grocery store. It contains sequins and glitter and I’m hoping the over-fives enjoy it.
Come back later this week and I’ll share recipes for mimosas and other brunch dishes that have worked well for us. Please use the comment section to share your own ideas for celebrating spring with young children.
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