My family loves the outdoors. We’re always visiting one playground or another, and we’re blessed with a wide variety of parks to explore in our area. One thing that always makes the walk or hike more exciting is looking for a geocache! It’s like treasure hunting, except you don’t get rich from it—but you will get a sense of achievement and a story to tell. Plus, you can find ways to blend this summer activity with a review of skills like logic, map-reading, math, and deductive reasoning.
What Is a Geocache?
It could be anything, really. It’s an object that someone hides on purpose, recording its presence and coordinates so others can find it. Sometimes the geocache is a film canister or an empty pill bottle; other times it may be a plastic container or an ammo box. Inside, you’ll always find a log listing the names of all the other geocachers who have discovered that particular cache. You may also find some small items that people have left behind!
How to Start
Ask your older children to use their computer skills to look up Geocaching.com or Opencaching.us. Create an account and view maps of geocaches near you. Together, plan an outing to find one. You can ask your kids to record the coordinates and use a GPS to locate the geocache, or you can download the geocaching app to your phone.
The Hunt for the Geocache
Finding the “treasure” isn’t always easy. You’ll notice that caches have different ratings, depending on how difficult they are to find. Be sure that you begin with caches that are rated easy to locate, so your kids can have the experience of discovering one. You may want to have your oldest carry the phone with the geocaching app. Other kids can take turns reading the clues. Sometimes the clues or hints come in the form of puzzles to solve! As you walk, explain the concept of coordinates and how they can help a person find a specific point on the globe.
Discovery . . . or Not
The first time our family hunted for a geocache, we found a delightful one nestled in a birdhouse in the forest. Our most recent trip was disappointing; we never did locate the ammo box with the log in it. If you have small kids who might become discouraged by this, it may help to bring along a small reward for their efforts, or have another fun activity planned after your treasure hunt.
Take One, Leave One
In many cases, the only thing inside the geocache will be the log. Have your children practice their handwriting skills by neatly signing the paper, right below the name of the last discoverer. Sometimes, there are also small items in the cache. The rule of geocaching is that you may take one item if you leave an item in its place. We have found or left coins, bracelets, and tiny plastic toys.
Geocaching is an excellent way to get outdoors together as a family. If some of your kids are reluctant to hike or walk in nature, the idea of a treasure hunt may inspire a different attitude. Check out some geocaches this summer, and use the experience to hone your kids’ skills in map-reading, observation, puzzle-solving, and reading. Ready, set, treasure hunt!
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Rebecca is a work-at-home freelance writer, novelist, wife, and the mom of two bright-eyed little ones. She credits her success in writing and her love of books to her own mom, who homeschooled three kids from pre-K through high school.