Having been in some form of lockdown these past few months I wanted to get the kids away from their screens. I wanted to find a fun family activity that could be done outside. Fresh air was key as the children have been cooped up inside for far too long with their online learning and tv watching.
I decided that I would try geocaching with kids as a means of both getting them outside and hopefully having some fun. If you haven’t heard of geocaching before, or you’re not sure how it works, then please feel free to check out our beginners guide here.
Benefits of Geocaching
- It’s an outdoor activity
- You get to explore different areas
- It’s great fun for the whole family
- Kids see it as a great big adventure
- It’s a really cool pastime!
- There are geocaches everywhere
Making Geocaching fun for Kids
As an adult, I could see the benefits of geocaching with the children and I knew that they would enjoy it. However, it was important that they got to enjoy their afternoon enough that they would want to go out geocaching again. Here are some tips of what I found worked with my gang:
- Plan Your Day
- Cool Usernames
- Choosing Your Location
- Easier Caches
- Cluster Caches
- Finding Real Treasure
- GPS Device
- Logbook Signing
Plan Your Day
Putting a little bit of planning into your day of family geocaching with kids can really pay dividends. Do this and you can expect to have some very happy children who will look forward to their next outdoor geocaching adventure. In other words, it’s a win-win situation for everybody! The kids get to enjoy their day treasure hunting and you get them out of the house and away from their screens!
As any parent knows if you are heading out for the day with children you need to be prepared. In our house that always involves making sure that you have plenty of refreshments in your backpack – a packed lunch along with some snacks and drinks can work wonders. I always bring a foldup picnic blanket with us too so that we can sit on the grass in order to have our lunch.
It’s also always worth checking the weather before you go to make sure that you are all dressed appropriately – nothing worse than being caught in a downpour with no coats!
If you haven’t already set up your account on geocaching.com then why not let the kids choose your username. Let their imagination run wild and they will probably come up with some pretty awesome names. Here is a flavor of some of the names that my kids came up with:
Pretty cool, huh? After much debate, we finally managed to narrow the names down to a few of the favorites. We decided that the fairest way to make the final choice was to throw all of the names into the hat and to pick one winner at random!
Choosing Your Location
Deciding upon where to go geocaching with kids can have a huge impact on the success of your day. It’s important for the location to be exciting and interesting. I also found that choosing a park with a playground and an ice cream shop worked wonders for the overall experience. This meant that we could take a break from searching and grab some refreshments to keep the energy levels high!
Use the map function over at geocaching.com to visually search any area. Being able to see the caches as icons will help you pick an area that has plenty of caches available.
Choose Easier Caches
The good thing is that there are millions of caches hidden all over the world. This means that there will be plenty of caches that can be classed as suitable for families. Kids should, therefore, be able to have fun searching for and hopefully finding these caches without too much difficulty.
In order to search for suitable caches for children, it’s a good idea to note the following:
- Choose easier terrains – a rating of 1 or 2 is the best range. A lower rating will limit the requirement for climbing or scaling heights and trekking through the overgrowth.
- Pick lower difficulties – again a rating of 1 or 2 works best here. The more difficult ratings may require you to solve a number of mathematical clues before the final location is revealed. It makes sense to avoid these unless you have a real genius on hand.
- Multi Caches – try to avoid a large series of multi-caches. Kids can get bored of a singular theme, particularly if there are 20 connected caches on your walk.
The aim is for the children to be able to find the caches themselves (albeit with your supervision). This enables them to take ownership of the search and should increase their excitement.
Cluster your Caches
At this stage, you should have picked the area you are planning on exploring for caches. It’s worth bearing in mind that kids can get bored if the distance between caches is too great. For example, the excitement of having found a cache can wear off pretty quickly if there’s a couple of hours walking in the park until you get to the next one.
To avoid this scenario, it’s wise to choose caches that are clustered together. This can help keep the walking distances between caches to more manageable distances.
The real fun of these outdoor adventures for children is the actual finding of geocaches. Being able to say to your siblings that “I found that one” is a massive win for them. However, imagine how much more exciting it would be if you also found some swag.
There are lots of geocaches that contain small trinkets or treasures as we like to call them. We’ve happily managed to obtain some toy soldiers and various key ring chains these past few weeks. These items are really only small tokens and therefore aren’t worth any monetary value.
The rules here are simple – if you take something out of the container then you must put something back in. This also provides an opportunity for each of the kids to choose a trinket or small toy from their own collection to replace what they take out of the geocache.
So, how do you find those caches with ‘real treasure’ inside? One rule of thumb is to look at the size of the caches. A smaller cache such as a micro or nano cache would be too small to hold any trinkets. It’s a good idea, therefore, to search for medium or larger containers. Another tip would be to look at the comments and photos that people leave on the online logbooks. In many instances, you’ll see pictures of people trading their trinkets!
I always found that giving the GPS to the kids allowed them to take ownership of the device. This meant that they were in charge of the expedition. If we got lost or took the wrong path then they had to work out how we got back on track. Ok, I’ll be honest, sometimes they may need a little prodding and a couple of clues, but by and large, they were well able to navigate the geocaching app.
As the kids got used to using the GPS in the park they also obtained an understanding of how coordinates work. Finding out that GPS coordinates were different if you were standing in a different spot from your brother was mind-blowing to my youngest daughter! As my wife said, I’m either a really cool Dad or I’m a total geek in being so pleased that my kids like coordinates! (I’ll leave it to you kind readers to decide!)
The GPS device that we use for geocaching is the Garmin eTrex 32X. I didn’t fancy giving the kids my smartphone to run around the forest as they have a tendency to either drop things or worse to lose them! Geocaching with kids is after all meant to be a fun pastime 😉
The Garmin is pretty easy to use and the kids are able to use it to navigate without any issues. Perhaps most importantly of all though, it’s a tough and robust little unit. It has been dropped a few times by the kids and as if by magic it just keeps on working!
Once you have successfully found I let the children sign the logbook. This meant they took ownership of the game almost in its entirety. They wrote our cool new username into the book along with the requisite smiley faces 😉
Once they had signed the logbook we ensured that everything was put back in its original place. I then left a comment on the online logbook to tell the cache owner that we had found the cache. Do bear in mind that you’re not going to find all the caches you set out to find and these will, unfortunately, need to be logged as DNFs (Did Not Find) If there’s an issue with the cache you find and it needs maintenance then you can also let the cache owner know here.
Geocaching with Kids
At the outset, my plan was to get my children outside for a family outing and a bit of an adventure. If I could throw in a pretty cool game that involves a digital treasure hunt then the chances were looking good for a great family experience. And one I was hoping that would be repeated in the future.
So, how did it geocaching with kids go for our family?
Honestly, as a family day trip, it went fantastically well.
Yes, it helped that we had done a little bit of planning before heading out of the door. It also hugely helped that we had plenty of snacks and nut bars in our backpacks. The kids had a great time searching in the woods and were successful in finding 5 different geocaches.
The main question, however, is whether or not we have continued our family geocaching adventures?
You bet we have! Not only that but the kids themselves have now also taken ownership of planning where we go geocaching. Yes, I’ve set some parameters but they are now in charge of searching for and planning most of our day trips. And guess what? It works pretty well and we are now closing in on around 120 geocache finds. Interestingly I’ve also noticed that we are now finding these caches much faster than before so I guess there is a knack to it after all!
In writing down these tips my hope is that other families get outside to enjoy playing this modern treasure hunt. It really is fantastic fun.
All that’s left for me to do is to wish you a great time geocaching with kids!