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As my daughter’s 12 birthday approached, I asked her, “What should we do to celebrate? Curl up in the closet and sob about how fast you’re growing up?”

“No, not that,” she said. “Something more fun. With less crying.”

So we decided there would be some kind of birthday outing – not in a closet.

I was thinking she’d invite a couple friends.

She was thinking of including anyone she had ever met ever.

We compromised somewhere in between.

So what should we do?

A family friend (Ruby!) recommended a mall scavenger hunt. I immediately liked the idea because it wasn’t inside my house.

So we gathered a bunch of Dylan’s friends at the mall on a Saturday, broke them into groups (each with an adult leader) and sent them scurrying through the mall with a list of things to accomplish. Here it is….

Dylan’s Birthday Scavenger Hunt:

-Someone from the group take a photo with a mannequin (5 points). 10 points if you’re in a store window w/ the mannequin.

-Get a stranger to sing the group Happy Birthday (5 points)

-Get a perfume sample (10 points)

-3 members of the team spell out YMCA with a stranger. Take a photo. (10 points)


-Find a mall or other kind of brochure (10 points)

-Take a photo of someone in your group talking on their phone in a phone store. (5 points)

-Get a ketchup packet. (5 points)

-Get a job application from a restaurant or store (15 points)

-Photo of a team member modeling a wacky outfit (5 points)


-Photo of a team member modeling the biggest hat you can find (5 points)



-Photo of a team member modeling the smallest hat you can find (5 points)

-A picture of a team member with high heels on (5 points)


-Photo of a team member with a sales person (10 points)

-Find out the most expensive item in the Brookstone store (10 points)

-Pretend to sleep on the fluffiest thing you can find in the mall. Take a photo. (5 points)



I gave the kids 45 minutes to finish. The winning team was done in 25. Kids are fast. It must be all that Pokémon Go training. Next time, I will definitely add more to the list (and you can find tons of ideas on Pinterest).

Afterward, we had pizza and cake. And then I handed our party goers Starbucks gift cards and thanked them for attending.

It really was a fun idea. My house stayed neat. No one cried in any closets. Mall security didn’t give us a hard time.

In fact, a security guy even sang Dylan Happy Birthday. What more does a 12 year old want?

Dylan is telling me, “an iPhone 7.”

But if you can’t have an iPhone 7, a mall security guy singing you Happy Birthday is totally what you want.

12 Responses to the birthday mall scavenger hunt

  • Suzanne says:

    I did this as a kid growing up. We had Polaroid cameras and it was SO. MUCH. FUN. I’m glad to hear this is still a thing. I remember there were a couple stores where we were told not to take pictures. Can you imagine that now? No pictures?! No customers… haha

  • Fay Mass says:

    And I thought I was the only mom who thought of a scavenger hunt through the mall for my daughter’s birthday! My daughter was 11 and each team had a group leader ( another mom who I begged to help me). There were no cell phones in those days, so the girls scurried around the mall on clues I spent weeks putting together. Once they had correct answers the leader would hand out wallet bucks for points ( of course they had my daughter’s pic on them!!!) Anyway, that was 24 years ago!! My daughter and her friends still talk about that party and my friends (the leaders) still feel I owe them big time!!!

  • Lea says:

    What a great idea! My kids like scavenger hunts so much that I once had a birthday party with a scavenger hunt list with pictures because it was before the kids could even read. We also did one while camping, and some other campers asked us where they could “sign up” for the scavenger hunt.

  • Princess Judy says:

    Oh my gosh! This looks like so much fun. I want to go to a birthday party where this is a thing and I left kidhood and teen angst in the dust decades ago.

  • mari says:

    Awesome idea. 7 more years until 12 for us…so we’re doing a bounce house party this year – kind of terrified of having so many people at our house, but 5 seems like a big birthday that we should celebrate with lots of kids. I may be wrong…

  • Auntie T says:

    I want to do this for my next birthday party….and I’m a big girl! I’m so glad you had a great party, Dylan. Happy Birthday! Xo

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kelcey kintner