A Scavenger Hunt Tween Party

This might just be the easiest party we’ve ever hosted.

My son turned 12 earlier this year, and crummy weather foiled our original plans for his birthday party. In a semi-frantic state we brainstormed ideas for Plan B. There were some really desperate choices in there, but I’m telling you about Plan B because, honestly, it was such a hit that I wonder why it wasn’t our Plan A all along!

On a Friday afternoon all the kids gathered at our house after school and we headed off to North Star Mall. We fed them dinner at the Food Court—no cooking, no clean up. It was at this point I declared my husband a genius. Then we had the kids draw randomly for their scavenger hunt teams, synchronize their timers, and reviewed the rules before sending them off into the wilderness. We gave them one hour to collect as many points as possible, and the winning team members got gift cards as their prize.

I was delighted to discover several things:

  • Giving 12-year-olds an hour of freedom to roam and be silly was a much bigger deal to them than I thought it would be.
  • They were more creative and courageous than I could have ever expected.
  • Strangers can be kind and helpful and super good sports, which is a nice reminder about humanity in general.   
  • You don’t need to spend a ton of money and orchestrate outrageous plans for kids to have a really, really good time.

I can wholeheartedly recommend this approach for a fun tween party, if you are in the market.

And here is our instruction sheet in case you want to steal away:

Mall Scavenger Hunt Extravaganza


  1. Teams must work together to gather as many of the following items as possible in 60 MINUTES.
  2. Earn the designated points for every item completed.
  3. Lose FIVE points for every minute your team is late to return.
  5. All team members must be RESPECTFUL of everyone in the mall.
  6. No running, shouting, or being rude.
  8. Do not make a mess or break anything. No stealing.


Using your phones, you must take a picture of your team…

  • With a salesman named Robert (5 points)
  • Wearing a hat with a feather (2 points)
  • Wearing a feather boa (2 points)
  • Tying an orange necktie (5 points)
  • Wearing a tiara (5 points)
  • With something with the number 12 on it (2 points)
  • Covered in stuffed animals (5 points)
  • Riding the escalator (2 points)
  • Riding an elevator (2 points)
  • In front of a bathroom door (2 points)
  • Singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” to a child, with video evidence (10 points)
  • Lying on a bench (2 points)
  • Helping someone with their packages (5 points)
  • With all team members washing their hands in a bathroom using the same sink (5 points)
  • Looking and pointing at a mall information sign (2 points)
  • Giving one person a piggyback ride (2 points)
  • Playing a video game (2 points)
  • Trying a sample of cologne (5 points)
  • Trying on a suit (10 points)
  • Wearing blue eye shadow (10 points)
  • Getting ketchup and napkins for strangers in the Food Court (10 points)
  • Wearing one high-heeled red shoe (5 points)
  • Eating a food sample (5 points)
  • Holding helium balloons (5 points)
  • Wearing sunglasses (2 points)
  • Walking up the stairs backwards, with video evidence (2 points)
  • Opening the door for four people (5 points)
  • Hiding behind a tree or a bush inside the mall (2 points)
  • Doing the wave with a stranger, with video evidence (10 points)
  • Asking someone for the time (5 points)
  • Sitting in a booth in a restaurant (2 points)
  • Giving dolls piggyback rides (2 points)
  • Looking in a mirror (2 points)
  • Standing on the second floor waving to people on the first floor (2 points)
  • Holding hands with a cute girl (10 points)
  • Wearing cowboy hats (2 points)
  • Playing follow the leader (2 points)
  • Saluting people as they come out of a store (2 points)
  • Asking for an employment application (5 points)
  • One team member getting a full makeover (10 points)
  • Walking the wrong way on an escalator, with video evidence (5 points)
  • Buying gumballs (2 points)
  • Everyone holding hands and walking through the mall (5 points)
  • One team member posing as a mannequin, next to a mannequin (2 points)
  • Spelling out “YMCA” with a stranger (10 points)
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