Do you want to have a blast with your kids- getting fresh air and exercise, while they explore and learn about maps and geography? Geocaching is a world-wide hide-and-seek treasure hunt, and anyone with a GPS (or smart phone!) can participate.
What is Geocaching?
People around the world hide “geocaches:” usually metal boxes with a log book and sometimes small treasures inside. They list the locations on geocaching.com, with approximate coordinates. Then others go on-line, find the coordinates listed, and follow the GPS to walk. Now the treasure hunt begins, as everyone searches for the cache.
Who can go Geocaching?
Individuals, families, scouts, old and young- anyone can go geocaching. My good friend Ashlea, mom to 2 adorable boys ages 7 and 5, started geocaching when her oldest was 2 and her youngest was just a baby. They began went the saw something on the news, and have been doing it for the past 5 years. “The boys love it,” she says, “and call it treasure hunting.” Using their Garmin GPS, their favorite part is finding something new: whether it be coins, small plastic lizards, or stickers. Ashlea says that by age 4 or 5 the boys really started to get into it, leading the family to the geocaches without much assistance.
- Groundspeak Geocaching for iPhone
- Groundspeak Geocaching for Android
- c:geo app for Android
- Here is list of many other apps related to geocaching
Next, set up a free basic membership at geocaching.com. When you log-in, go to the hide-and-seek page, where you will be able to see where geocaches are hidden. Search for those near your address, state, or country (check out how many countries are listed!)- or you can search from the map.
Once you have chosen your cache, write down the coordinates and enter them into your GPS or smart phone. Follow your GPS and walk (or first drive) to look for the cache! They can be in an urban, residential, rural, or forested area.
Let the kids lead the way- it is really easy to follow along on the screen, and even our 3 year olds were able to lead us! Once you get to the area, you can set aside the GPS and search for the actual box. Some are as small as a matchbox, while others are as big as a shoe box.
When you locate the cache, there will almost always be a log book. Jump up and down and celebrate! Congratulate your little kids for finding it! Get them excited:), and don’t forget to sign your name in the notebook. Sometimes there are little treats (many times they will tell you on geocaching.com when you get the coordinates). If you’re doing this with a group (like scouts) you can go beforehand and plant the treasures. We have found animal trading cards, bumper stickers, magnets, little army guys, stickers… The common courtesy is: you take something, you leave something. Bring a little party-favor-type trinket to leave for the next geocacher.
If you want to take geocaching a step further, look into “trackables” or “travel bugs.” These special disks have a code engraved on them, that can be entered on-line and “followed.” When another person finds the travel bug, they are allowed to take it with them, and place it into a new cache. Once they have re-hidden it, they go back on-line to tell the owners they have done so. We have friends who hid a wedding cake topper when they got engaged, and it traveled the world for a year before they asked that it be returned to Utah. They followed its journey on-line and saw that it had made its way through the US, and all the way to the Czech Republic! How fun would it be for kids to watch their little Hot Wheels Car travel the world?
The Best Part of Geocaching as a Family
For me, the best part about geocaching is that we are having fun as a family, outside, discovering new places, working together to solve a problem, and just enjoying each other. The kids are learning about maps, improving their geo-literacy, and having fun. I love that a wide range of ages can play together- whether it be parents, toddlers and their older siblings; grandparents and grandchildren; or cousins of all ages. Go onto geocaching.com today and just see how many caches are within 25 miles of your house- you will be surprised at this hidden game that is all around us!
Have you ever gone geocaching? My friends look up caches before they go on vacation! Where have you gone before? What’s been your favorite cache?