When I was little - maybe 1st-2nd grade - my mom took me to a city-wide Easter egg hunt. You know, one of those hunts with 100s of kids and the eggs are thrown on the ground (which, may I interject, is not a HUNT...that's just an Easter Egg Pick Up). Well, I was extremely shy at that age and when someone yelled go and all the kids raced out to get the eggs, I naturally hung back with my mom. She encouraged me to run out there and I picked up one egg. One. Egg. That had been stepped on. It was awful! I was scarred for life! lol No more Easter Egg hunts for me :) I left with nothing and we never went back. I don't get these events. They aren't designed for younger kids, for shy kids or special needs kids. They are great for energetic, outgoing and confident kids who aren't afraid of running over someone to get an egg :) So, needless to say, I've never taken my kids to one. Instead, I've worked in a church since my oldest was born, so they've always participated in my Easter Egg hunts. I've organized them for 8 years...this will be my 9th. My first few hunts I had around 20 kids, at another church I had 100s of kids, and this year I'm expecting around 50. I've never had a tear shed at one of my hunts and every child - from 1 to 5th grade - has gone home with a basket of eggs. The secret? Here are my surefire ways of running a religious, large, multi-age, successful and FUN Easter Egg hunt at your church or wherever...
First you need to estimate how many kids you are going to have. Overestimate. This year, I'm thinking we'll have around 50 so I'm estimating 75. Plan on 10 filled eggs for each child. Since you're over-estimating, they'll probably get more. Estimate how many in each age group (see #4 below). Get 3 big boxes/containers - one for each group. Divide the eggs into grocery bags in groups of 25. This makes counting verrrry easy. As you'll read below, I divide the kids into 3 groups. One reason I do this is because I don't want 2 year olds trampled by 4th graders, but also because I can put age appropriate candy/toys in the eggs. For the older kids I've put neat little things like tiny fingernail polishes or squinkies (when they were a big deal) and you wouldn't want littles to get those. And of course, that goes both ways :)
If someone is helping fill the eggs, this also helps with organization. *one side note, if the youth at the church are helping you fill the eggs, give them a few extra bags of candy just for them to eat...otherwise you'll be short on candy ;) I learned this the hard way! lol Once you have your eggs, put an extra 1-2 bags (or 25 eggs) in each box/container empty. When you read/tell the story (see number 3) emphasize how the tomb was empty. Tell them some of the eggs will also be empty! If they get an empty egg, they get to bring it to the leader of the group (see #4) and they can get something from the "prize box". This is awesome for 2 reasons - one, you get to use all the donations that were too big for the eggs! and two, your volunteers can do a quick count at the beginning and during the story (number 3) and see if you need any extra or less in a group. It's easy to take out or add empty eggs!
2. The day of, meet inside at a central location. Have a few crafts sitting out (something simple, don't go crazy) for those that arrive on time. Give the stragglers 5-10 minutes to get there. Face it, these are parents with little kids and there are going to be diaper explosions, tantrums and things forgotten and some families will be a bit late. Don't hold it against them :) Give them a chance to get there.
3. When you are ready to start, this is when you make it religious.
I avoid Santa Claus in church at Christmas and I never speak of the Easter bunny. The only reason I do egg hunts is because I can make it a community event and spread some Jesus love to kids that may never have heard of him :) I do something quick and simple (because you have toddlers up to 5th grade waiting for a sugar high...so don't go nuts here). I have a book I've used many times that goes through many questions of "what is Easter"? Is Easter about bunnies? NO! Is Easter about eggs? NO! Is Easter about decorating eggs? NO! you get the point :) The kids enjoy shouting NO! on every page and at the end we finally hear about Jesus and how he died for us. The whole thing takes maybe 5 minutes but it's very effective. Another idea is to hide the resurrection eggs around the meeting room and tell everyone to go find one (you'll need enough eggs for everyone...luckily we have 7 sets are our church so we're good :). Then, go through each egg - not quickly, but don't dawdle either. Say, "Stand up if you got the YELLOW egg! What's inside? That's right! And that's the part of the story when"...etc.
|telling the story|
4. Give specific instructions. This is the part where you need to be concise, specific and efficient. This part will make or break your hunt! No pressure :) There are rules to be followed and the kids and parents need to know them. Make it fun! Usually, my first instruction is this, "Everyone count to 10" - count up together. Then tell them - that's how many eggs you will pick up! Once you have gotten 10, sit down wherever you are, and see what's in them! (cause you know they're dying to anyway). This gives the other children time to catch up. Do you think any of the kids get upset by this? Not. at. all. In fact, it's wonderful to see the kids sitting down helping the kids still looking - "look under there!" "I saw one over there!" It's very sweet. When everyone is sitting down - then yell GO! again and they can finish the hunt. Boom. Everyone has at least 10. Believe it or not, some kids stop there :) They'd rather see what's inside :) Instruction number 2, let them all know that there will be 3 groups hunting: toddlers to prek, K-2nd grade and 3rd-5th. (you could change the groups to fit your church, but I recommend three). If a parent has a child in two different groups, tell them to just pick one. Our three groups are very close, so the older kids could actually go by themselves if they wanted to and the parents could still keep an eye on them. Call them to line up by groups. Let the first group go, then call the next. Have a leader (someone noticeable...with a sign or wearing bunny ears :) take them to their spot and yell GO! Make sure they know their parameters. Instruction number 3 deserves its own number...
|the youngest group hunting in a nice, secure, closed in space :)|
|trading in their empty eggs for prizes!|
5. The "Cry" or "No Tears" Bag -
Whatever you want to call it, have each leader take one with them. Inside the bag, keep a few extras of all the main items you put in the eggs (maybe little bubbles, chalk, certain special candies, etc). When you are inside, let the parents (and kids) know, that if their child doesn't receive something and has a meltdown (and don't judge...all of our kids have had them...and to have them happen on what should be a happy occasion like this just ruins it) that they can ask their leader if there is an extra in the "no tears bag". In 8 years I have had to use it once...most kids are happy with what they get. But the fact that I made that one kid happy when he would've had a meltdown is reason enough for me to do it every year.
Last, but not least, a little tip for next year - put out an empty bin either in a central location or put out 2-3 with a big sign that says, "DON'T WANT YOUR EGGS? DONATE THEM FOR NEXT YEAR!" You'll have a lot of parents thanking you because they don't want to take them home ;)