Geocaching with Kids
My favorite thing to do is go hiking with my kids. But if I’m being honest, it’s not always my kids’ favorite thing to do with me. If forced to choose between playing at a playground and trudging up a mountain, they’re not really sure why anyone would “go on a boring walk.”
But they do love exploring and being outdoors, so we’ve found a compromise – geocaching.
What is geocaching?
Participants from all over the world hide caches, and log their locations on websites such as www.geocaching.com. Geocaches are hidden all over the world, and vary from small to large, easy-to-find to challenging.
Why go geocaching with kids?
Geocaching is a great way to shake up your hiking routine with kids. My kids love the idea of a scavenger hunt, and are always thrilled by the idea of the chase.
For me, it’s an easy, free activity that motivates us to get outdoors. The kid in me also loves the idea of following clues to find a secret, and I appreciate all the new places geocaching has taken us.
How to chose the best caches for kids
Before you start geocaching, you are going to need to download the app on your phone. There is a free version and a paid one as well. The free version lets you see easy to find caches with a terrain difficulty of “1” or “2.”
Geocaching is a mix of exploring, treasure hunting, and (yes) hiking. In order to find the hidden “treasure” (a ‘cache’), you use a GPS-enabled device, such as a smart phone, to find your way to the specified location.
If you’re geocaching with kids, and not sure if you want to pay for a premium membership, the free version is perfect. They are easy to get to, and just as fun to find.
You will also want to make sure a cache was found recently. Life happens, and occasionally a cache will disappear. Check the “activity” tab in the app to see the last time a cache was found. If it’s been years, or other users commented they could not find it, you risk a big disappointment for your kids (trust me, I’ve been there!).
Also make sure to check the size of a cache. Geocaches can be microcaches (ones that just hold a log book) or large enough to hold a few toys. While microcaches are still fun for adults to find, your kids might be more interested in the toy swap larger ones have the potential for.
How to find a geocache
Now that you’ve picked a good cache (one with accessible terrain, that is still available, and is the right size for your family), you’re going to need a strategy to find it.
The geocaching app makes the location easy to find – simply select the cache and follow the arrow to the location.
Of course, you can’t always head straight there. Seeing where we need to go, what trails to take to get there, and what obstacles we need to cross has helped give my kids a mini-introduction into thoughtfully navigating terrain.
It’s also helped get a lot better about estimating distances, and allowed me to squeeze in some mini math lessons with the kids.
Once you’re within 30 feet of the cache, your phone will buzz. The coordinates are only accurate within 30 feet, so after that you may be on your own. If you’re in a canyon, the GPS signal might be off by even more.
My kids love to know what the “hint” on the app says. Not every cache includes one, but it will often give you a more specific description of what you’re looking for: “under a log,” or “three rocks in a row.”
When you find the cache, make sure you log the find on your phone and thank the cache owner. Afterwards, be sure to return the cache to the exact same spot (even if your kids have ideas of ‘better’ places to hide it.)
Best things to hide geocaching
Small to large caches often have little trinkets that you can exchange. For my kids, finding the cache is half the fun – the rest is deciding what treasure to pick.
If you take something, you have to leave things as well. Some of our favorite things to leave behind have been:
- Trinkets from doctor’s office prize boxes
- Sea shells
- Small plastic animals
- Hot wheels
Don’t leave anything broken, dirty, or that wouldn’t be fun for another kid to find.
Prepare for disappointment when geocaching with kids
When you’re taking your kids geocaching, there’s always a chance for some disappointment.
Maybe you can’t find the cahce, the toys aren’t any good, your phone battery dies before you make it there, or (worst of all) a sibling finds the cache first.
If your kids don’t take disappointment well, it’s best to prepare them for the possibility of things not going the way they planned.
I’ve found that making sure the cache was found recently has headed off a lot of disappointment, but occasionally there are still letdowns. We’ve started working through these potential scenarios before we leave, and the kids are able to handle them a bit better.
Head to cool locations
If we are already out and about hiking or playing at a playground, I will often check to see if there is a geocache nearby.
But there is something about setting off on adventure to see what you can find that really can’t be beat. Geocaching has taken us to some pretty cool views that we would have just driven by or overlooked, unless we had known to stop.
A few weeks ago, we drove to a geocache (this one was an earth cache that tells you geological facts). The cache description pointed out the volcanic features that formed the landscape.
My oldest kept saying, “there’s just something so cool about knowing that this was a bubbling volcano millions of years ago!”
Which is part of the reason I love geocaching. I love the idea of being connected to other people in a global game. And I love appreciating hidden gems I would’ve passed over before.
If you’re looking for something new to do with your kids outdoors, geocaching is an easy and fun option. Happy exploring!
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Geocaching with kids
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