Sunday, February 13, 2011

Geocaching with Children

As a compliment to my post about Fishing with kids, I figured I would write a similar one about Geocaching with kids.  If you've already read my posts describing geocaching and geocaching definitions you will know that there are many different places you can find caches.  Some are easy  and some are very difficult, maybe even requiring specialized equipment or skills.  How do you take your kids caching and ensure everyone has a good time?

First off, I think geocaching is a great fit for kids.  The very idea of a treasure hunt is something that your kids will most likely get very excited about.  From there you just need to tailor the experience to help them enjoy it.  For example, a four year old may not appreciate a five mile hike to get to the cache, but a short walk through your local park might be something they really enjoy.

If you haven't already I would suggest joining http://www.geocaching.com/.  With a free account you can access over a million caches located all over the world.  You can search for caches near you or near a destination you are going to.  Once you locate some nearby caches pay attention to the terrain and difficulty rating to decide what you want to look for.  The younger your kids are, the easier you will want the caches to be. 

Another thing you will want to pay attention to is the size of the cache.  I like to find any and all caches I can, but your kids might enjoy larger caches that give them the chance to trade items.  If you see a "micro" description for the size you will most likely only find a log.  If you see medium or large for the size you are more likely to have room to trade items.

So what do you trade?  Some people like to pick something that means something special to them, or maybe it is always the same, sort of like a calling card.  When I thought about the kids trading items I figured that they would probably not want to leave many of their toys.  The answer?  The dollar store!  My wife took the kids to the dollar store to pick out items to trade.  As most of the items in caches tend to have a low monetary value this was a great idea.  My son, for example, found a bunch of small rubber snakes.  He was very excited to be able to leave these small snakes for other kids to find.

Just before you start out for the day try to organize your caches to make your trip more efficient.  There have been times that my wife and I have been able to find multiple caches within a larger park.  Being able to find multiple caches without getting back in the car helps keep the kids interested and if there is a playground nearby they can take a break if they want. 

As we approach the cache I direct the kids to the location that the GPS indicates, but stand back at first.  I still look closely to try and locate the cache, but I don't say anything for a few minutes to give them a chance to find it themselves.  If they are having a hard time locating it I may start giving some hints of where I think it might be, then I will look for it with them just before they tire of the search.  Then we sign the log, trade items if we can and one of them gets to hide it where we found it.  We then check that cache off our list and look to see which one is next according the GPS distance.

Make sure you bring snacks and water for the kids.  You want to make sure they maintain their energy during your outing.  Plus a hungry kids is not usually a happy kid.  Also remember to bring sunblock and jackets if it is cold, windy or rainy.  You'll also want to bring a camera to capture the memories and views you are likely to encounter.

I hope this has given you some ideas about taking your kids geocaching.  Let me know how it works out and enjoy!

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