Letterboxing for Kids: Treasure Hunt Adventures Outside
Letterboxing brings treasure seekers through outdoor adventure by using clues to find a hidden container! Containers are hidden all over, in the most common or bizarre locations, from local parks and cemeteries to a walk inside national parks and forests! Each container holds a stamp and a log book.
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What is letterboxing and why is it great for kids?
Letterboxing is a hobby in which individuals follow a set of clues leading to a hidden container or series of containers, within many local locations. The clues can be straight forward, or sometimes clues are riddles that need to be decoded to help find the accurate location.
This hobby is similar to Geocaching, however, letterboxing does not require GPS for exact destination, rather hints to get you to the right spot. Additionally, unlike geocaching, letterboxing doesn’t have trinkets, or “geoswag” to take and keep; instead, the letterbox is just a stamp and log book, which stays in the container after you’ve found it.
There are some hybrid containers that are both geocaches and letterboxes, together. Both hobbies also have “travel bugs,” or “travelers,” that if found, can be moved from container to container. The travelers can be searched online to track down all of the places it has gone!
How do I get started letterboxing with kids?
Find letterboxes near you
You can look up hidden letterboxes in your area, by searching on either Letterboxing.org or atlasquest.com. For both sites, you need to create a free account and come up with a “trail name”. Your trail name is how you identify yourself when you find a letterbox, or communicate with other letterboxers via the two online communities. Some examples of trailnames might be; “OutdoorMama,” “Doglover,” or “Iliketoletterbox1234.”
Finding a letterbox: Follow the clues
After you decide on which letterbox you want to find, you follow a set of clues to uncover the hidden treasure! Inside each letterbox is a log book and a stamp, often hand carved!
You use the included stamp to mark in your own notebook that you found it, and you bring your own stamp to add to the logbook in the container. You can sign your trailname and add a note and date when you found it; who you were with or any other comments to remember.
The log book becomes a running souvenir of different adventures you’ve had and the log book in each container becomes a story to share of those who have discovered it.
What to pack when letterboxing:
Once you decide on a hidden letterbox to find, you will need:
- Compass (Either a handheld compass, or you can download a free Compass app)
- Stamp (Either store bought or hand carved)
- Ink pad, pen & log book (notebook or sketch pad)
- Your printed clues (if desired, otherwise you may purchase the app or look up clues online)
- Bug spray, sunscreen and snacks/water
- A backpack to carry everything
What happens if I don’t find the letterbox?
Unfortunately, there might be times where the hidden treasure isn’t found. Sometimes, boxes run off, either by accident or someone may have stumbled upon the container and didn’t know what it was. There are some hidden letterboxes that have been hidden for decades! However, some can turn up missing.
If this happens, you can always reach out to the person that planted it to let them know and ask if you’re in the right spot. Some letterboxers make their own unique stamp for when they don’t find the hidden box, so they can still mark their log book. For example, carving a red X stamp, or carving a skunk on the days you aren’t so lucky. This is all part of the adventure!
How do I carve my own letterboxing stamp?
Believe it or not, carving a stamp is easier that it sounds! You can purchase a beginner carving kit, which are relatively inexpensive, at your local craft store or online. Speedball makes a beginner kit, which retails for $26. This is a great artistic outlet to do as a family!
How did I discover letterboxing?
Almost a year ago, my family and I put up a Little Free Library in our yard, and in joining the stewards of the LFL Community, a fellow steward shared letterboxing. Many Little Free Library stewards share different ideas to help attract patrons to their libraries, and geocaching and letterboxing is one of them!
I started letterboxing by hiding a Geocache/Letterbox Hybrid inside my Little Free Library and have enjoyed the hobby with my children ever since. The neat thing about this hobby is that it’s international and an easy, free thing to do while on vacation or anywhere! Our log book shares a story about some really fun adventures!
A friend of mine and I took our children to a state park last summer, suited everyone up in rain gear and letterboxed for an entire morning in pouring rain! We found 5 or 6 hidden letterboxes that hadn’t been found in years, and the kids had a blast.
Letterboxing is something that gets our kids outside and creates memorable adventures, all year long. I hope you will give letterboxing a try!
Other things to know about letterboxing for kids
Please remember when letterboxing, to return everything the way you found it. People who are not “letterboxers,” are often referred to as “muggles,” and when hunting a hidden container in an open, public space, please be cautious! Unfortunately, this is one of the ways that containers go missing, when fallen onto the hands of someone who doesn’t understand the hobby.
Also, be aware of the environment where the box may be hidden. If it looks like it could be in a tree, possibly use a stick to scoop it out, in case there is an animal or critter inside. Most importantly, have fun!!!
Letterboxing may bring you to a new place, park or location you never knew existed. Once you find one letterbox, it’s hard to stop. It becomes a really fun hobby, because there are literally hidden letterboxes everywhere, in all sorts of locations and many types of containers!
It’s also fun to carve and plant your own letterbox and check the log book to see the stamps of those who discovered it. Happy letterboxing! I hope you will enjoy this hobby as much as my family does.
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Letterboxing for Kids: Treasure Hunt Adventures Outside
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