Going geocaching with kids? Here are 15 tips for ensuring that everyone stays safe and has a great time out on the trail.
Geocaching is a fun, free activity for families. It helps children learn to appreciate nature, and they get some exercise in the process. I know my kids will balk at the idea of going on a hike. Yet when I tell them we are going geocaching, they don’t mind all the walking. In fact, they are eager to do it because they love the treasure hunting aspect of the game. We have gone as far as 7 miles in a single day with no complaints from our children. Here are 15 tips for geocaching with children to help ensure your entire family has fun on your outing
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Let your kids pick out an appropriate geocaching trail name to use to sign the logs in all the caches your family finds. (Just be sure that their trail name isn’t their real name and doesn’t include any identifying information.) If your child is old enough, let them sign up at geocaching.com with their own account so they can log their own finds. It is fun to read your child’s logs and get their perspective on each cache.
If you can afford it, get your kids their own GPS. Before we all had our own GPS units, we shared and let the kids take turns navigating to each cache. That led to a lot of squabbling over whose turn it was. It became a lot more fun for our family when everyone had their own GPS.
There are inexpensive units like the Geomate Jr. that make a perfect kids geocaching GPS. The nice thing about the Geomate is that it comes pre-loaded with 250,000 caches. So you can just grab it and go – without the hassle of loading cache information.
When you are trying to determine what caches to hunt for, pay attention to difficulty and terrain ratings on the cache descriptions to rule out the ones that may be too difficult for your kids to complete. A good rule of thumb is to stay below a 3 difficulty rating and 3 terrain when you are geocaching with older children. If you are geocaching with younger children, you probably want to stick with 1 or 2 ratings.
Also be sure to check the hints for each geocache you plan to find. Take a moment to read through the past logs to make sure the cache has been found recently and for clues as to whether or not your child can handle the cache. Geocaching is no fun for kids if they can’t find the cache because it was too difficult or the cache has gone missing.
While micro caches certainly can be fun due to the challenge of finding something so small, kids probably won’t enjoy them as much because they don’t have room for trade items. When geocaching with kids, choose to find the regular size caches to ensure your children can enjoy the trading aspect of the game.
Explain to your children that geocaching is a secretive game and they shouldn’t call attention to it if there are other people around. Muggles, (non-geocachers) can be suspicious of your activities if they see you hunting around and they may automatically think you are up to no good.
Urban caches should probably be avoided until the kids are older. Stick to caches in parks and wooded areas. We have 4 kids and almost never do any urban caching. It’s too difficult to be inconspicuous.
Children tend to walk slower and tire more easily than adults. You may have to take breaks if they get tired. In addition, you may not get to every cache that you had planned to and that’s alright. It’s the journey that matters, not the numbers.
If each child has a small backpack with their own trade items, there is less likely to be bickering, which makes for a more pleasant experience for everyone. Good geocaching trade items are Happy Meal toy, bouncy balls, sticker sheets, and small toys that you find at the dollar store. Regardless of what you leave, be sure that all your trade items are in well-sealed plastic bags in case the cache becomes wet.
Because geocaching typically involves a lot of hiking, you want to ensure that everyone has enough water to drink. It is important to stay hydrated, even on cooler days. It is a good idea to purchase a reusable water bottle for all family members for use each time you go out geocaching. A carabineer clip is helpful to attach the water bottles to backpacks, especially if younger family members get tired of carrying theirs around.
Long hikes can make for cranky children. Having a healthy snack along the trail can give everyone the energy to keep going. Granola bars and drink boxes are portable snacks that are easy to stow in backpacks.
We have a lightweight First Aid Kit that is made for hiking and camping. A First Aid Kit like this one is great for geocaching. At the very least, you need some bandages, hand sanitizer, tweezers, and first aid cream.
Scratches and scrapes are inevitable when you are out geocaching with kids, especially if you are in a heavily wooded area. With a first aid kit, you will be able to take care of minor injuries on the trail.
Depending on where in the country you are caching, you might encounter ticks. I highly recommend that you include a tick removal tool or a pair of tweezers in your first aid kit so you can quickly remove any ticks that you pick up along your adventure.
Explain to your kids that geocaching travel bugs are not typical trade items. Each one should have a tag attached that contains a code that is trackable. Travel bugs are not meant to be kept – they are meant to travel from cache to cache.
Some travel bugs may have specific goals, like making it to a specific destination, while others may just want to accumulate miles. Be sure to log the travel bug on the geocaching website using the code on the tag. Then move it along to another cache as soon as possible.
Using trackable tags from the Geocaching Website, you can make a travel bug out of nearly anything that is small enough to fit into a cache. We have seen many travel bugs made from mini stuffed animals, plastic figurines, and even Happy Meal toys.
One fun thing you can do with a travel bug is track how many states it has visited. Find a black and white map of the US and let your kids color in each state it visits. It’s really fun to see how far your travel bug ends up going.
This can be something as simple as a small stuffed animal or plastic figurine. Take your mascot and a camera along to all caches you visit. Take a picture of the mascot with the cache and any scenic views you discover along the journey. You could even make a scrapbook with your kids to document all your fun adventures.
Here is our geocaching mascot. Since our trail name is Viktor Viking, we picked up a Veggie Tales viking figurine to take along with us when we go geocaching. We used to take a picture of him with every cache we found, but now we just take pictures at the really neat caches or in places that are really scenic.
Geocaching signature items are something to leave behind as a “calling card” to let future visitors know you were at the cache. Good signature items for beginners are wooden nickels stamped with your trail name. Our kids all have their own wooden nickels. We had custom rubber stamps made from iPrint with a graphic and our trail name. It was around $20 a stamp, but we have been using them for years. They are self-inking, so the only thing we have to do is occasionally refill the ink.
You could also search for simple crafts online that could be made for signature items. Try to choose crafts that have something to do with your trail name. My oldest daughter’s trail name is Funky Monkey so she makes cute little monkeys out of Perler beads and leaves those in each cache she finds.
Many people leave behind signature items in caches they visit. You can trade for these just like the regular trinkets. Have your child start a collection of all the signature items they find. Your kids will enjoy the tangible reminders of all the fun they had on their geocaching adventures.
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With a little advance planning, geocaching with kids can be a wonderful experience for the entire family. Children grow up so quickly, but geocaching can help create treasured memories that will last forever. So tell me, do you have anything to add to this list? What are your best tips for geocaching with children?