Adventures in the Wilderness: Geocaching With Kids
What’s a parent to do when the kids only have eyes for games, apps, and buttons to push but you want to get them outside to play? Ever heard of Geocaching?
What is it? Geocaching is an activity that uses technology to find hidden loot in woods, forests, parks, and paths. Seriously – it’s like Treasure Island meets Spy Kids. Or, for the younger kids – High Tech Dora.
How much does it cost? Once you download the official app or purchase a handheld GPS unit, the only real costs you’ll incur are any park admission fees associated with the location your family chooses to hunt. The apps cost around $10 and handheld devices can run anywhere from $70 to hundreds of dollars. *We opt for a handheld GPS just because it’s more rugged when one of us drops it, falls on top of it, or throws it on the ground when her turn with it is over. Also, it’s easier to find when I put it down on a rock or log to look for the cache and then forget where I put it… Yep. All of these have happened on our various outings. And, for the record, I didn’t spend $70 on a new device. I bought a gently used one on Ebay.
Sounds Fun! How do we begin? Visit Geocaching.Com and create a free account. Then, you can find cache locations nearby. With more than 2.6 million active geocaches worldwide, you shouldn’t have any problem finding a few to choose from. As an example, there are more than 200 located less than 10 miles from my home! It’s also fun to do on vacation or while visiting relatives.
I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to do this! Although I wouldn’t recommend geocaching for infants, with proper research I didn’t hesitate to bring my kids before they were even walking. The descriptions for each challenge include difficulty levels for finding the cache and the terrain (with a 1 being the easiest) as well as distances you’ll need to travel. Just choose wisely for your particular situation.
Tips For Geocaching With Your Kids:
You want them to have fun with this, so the first thing is to make sure they are dressed appropriately for the weather as well as the environment you’ll be exploring.
Pack plenty of water and snacks; treasure hunting is thirsty business!
Pack a pen or pencil so the kids can sign the log book you’ll find in the cache.
Caches designated as regular or large will almost always contain small treasures your kids can collect. But remember the rule that if you take something out, you must put something in. Pack some little doodads your kids can leave behind in the cache for some other eager explorer.
While having fun, remember that it can also be a teachable moment. The kids will be focused on finding the cache, but as they look under rocks, remind them to replace it. As they prepare to stick their hands into a hollow log let them know that it might be an animal’s home. Ask them to pick up any litter you may find.
Expect that bumps and bruises might occur; travel with band aids and wipes. With our kids (knock on wood) we’ve only needed band aids for psychological purposes.
For kids and adults alike, there’s nothing more wondrous or exhilarating as being set free into the woods. We never know what’s around the next corner or what we’ll see from the top of a small hill, but in our hearts we suspect it will be something amazing! It might be a sparkly rock, a feather, a pond or beaver dam. If you’re geocaching, it might also be a box dangling from a tree limb, tucked into the hollow trunk of a tree or peeking out from the crevice in a huge boulder. No matter what, it’ll be an adventure you and your kids will truly love!
Helena Robin is President and CEO of the Robin family. She coordinates and executes all family operations including (but not limited to) communications, transportation, management, catering, maintenance, troubleshooting, and cultural development. Her Executive Team is composed of a Husband/Creator of Chaos and three unpaid interns.