I’ve been seeing signs around town advertising for Easter egg hunts over the past week or so. In our area, many churches hold them after the sunrise Easter service. When we lived in the North, the local hospital held one each year for the children and grandchildren of the employees; my mother-in-law, a nurse, took my kids every year. You know the drill: when someone yells, “go,” dozens (or hundreds, depending on the venue) of basket-toting kids run out onto a field and grab as many brightly colored plastic eggs as possible. Within approximately four minutes, all of the eggs are picked up, some kids are gleefully showing off their loot, and others are crying because they didn’t find any eggs.
You can avoid the pitfalls and mayhem of public egg hunts this year by holding your own in your neighborhood. This is also a great way to get to know your neighbors, or to reacquaint yourself with them after the long winter, when you might have only waved a few times while shoveling snow. The goal of an egg hunt is to let the kids have a good time, and to keep things fun for everyone. Here are a few tips:
* Choose a day other than Easter Sunday, because between Easter baskets at home, church for those who attend and family obligations, most families will be too busy to participate in a neighborhood egg hunt. We have had good results holding egg hunts on the Friday before Easter, because oftentimes the kids are off from school. If your neighbors observe Good Friday, though, this might not work. The weekend before Easter can be a good choice.
* Ask people to RSVP so you can plan. Purchase one dozen eggs for each child who is attending, along with an extra couple dozen for last-minute stragglers and to cover the possibility that some eggs might get stepped on or may be hidden too well. When you have your egg hunt, you should let the children know that they can each find 12 eggs, tops.
* Be aware of allergies and choking hazards when filling the eggs. If you are unsure if any of your young neighbors have food allergies, avoid buying candy that contains nuts. If you are inviting children under the age of four, do not include gumballs, jawbreakers or other candy that is easy to choke on.
* Don’t limit yourself to candy when you fill the eggs. Other good ideas include stickers, coins, keychains and other small, non-edible items. You could also use small boxes of raisins, peanuts (if no nut-allergic kids are coming!), grapes or similar relatively healthy small snacks.
* Tell each child to bring her own basket, box or receptacle for collecting eggs. Have paper bags, markers and stickers available so those who forget to bring their own can decorate a bag.
* Think about the age range of the children coming and come up with a solution that is fair for everyone, and won’t end in the little children getting upset. Some ideas might be to pair up an older child with a younger one, allowing the bigger child to “help” the little one to fill his or her basket first; sectioning off part of the yard for the little kids and part for the big kids; or color-coding the hunt: yellow and blue eggs are for the young children and pink and orange are for the older kids.
While the children are egg-hunting and opening their eggs, serve the grownups snacks, such as deviled eggs, finger sandwiches, cake, donuts or coffee, depending on the time of day. Let this be a time to talk about plans for the spring and summer, and to arrange get-togethers and other neighborly activities.
Do you host an annual Easter egg hunt? Do you have any tips to share?