Geocaching is a modern, high-tech take on the treasure hunt and has become something of a worldwide phenomenon. Geocaching is a fun challenge for children (and adults) of all ages, and ticks plenty of family-friendly boxes:
- It gets kids out and about in the fresh air
- It provides great opportunities for exercise (especially for ‘walk-resistant’ children)
- It tests mental agility
- It enables kids to explore different environments
- It helps kids to learn about ecology
- It enhances team-building skills
- In its basic form, it’s free
There can’t be many parents who haven’t, on occasions, had to drag their children outside and force them to do some kind of outdoor activity ‘for their own good’. The futility of this is obvious, and it usually involves parting with money, and family members unhappily resisting each other. But now, thankfully, there’s geocaching – not just to save the day, but to make it a fun day out for all the family, wherever they happen to be.
Children of all ages love treasure hunts and the mystery of a message in a bottle – something, put somewhere by someone, just waiting to be found. Kids love figuring out puzzles, especially if they can discover a real box of secrets at the end. The treasures are containers of all sizes that may be camouflaged to blend into their surroundings. Inside the cache, there’s a logbook to sign. The larger caches (usually Army ammo boxes) are filled with inexpensive trinkets to trade (like bouncy balls, stickers, small toys, etc).
The ‘treasure’ is always hidden, rather than buried, so digging doesn’t form part of the geocaching experience. Geocaching uses GPS technology on smartphones to help participants locate ‘treasure’, hidden at a variety of locations – under rocks or hedges, in gaps in walls… high, low, tucked away in rural locations or cities, by the sea, in woodland, near modern buildings or ancient landmarks. Some are in locations you might pass every day, while others take you off the beaten path into a whole new world.
Many contain small, free or cheap items which can be swapped or added to. Once children have located their chosen geocache, they sign the online log-book and return the geocache to its original location. Adventurers can also share their stories, experiences and photos on the official site, geocaching.com.
Kids also get a real kick out of creating their own geocache and placing it in a secret, but accessible place, pinpointing its location using GPS and then sharing the GPS co-ordinates to the growing online community of geocachers. They can track its discovery timeline, which adds to the fun. And it’s increasingly popular. At the time of writing there are no less than 2,748,638 active geocaches in the UK waiting to be discovered. Kids love making caches on holiday and leaving them for others to discover. There’s something magical in knowing that someone has discovered your cache, in a favourite place, far away.
Stuff you should know
Because geocaching is for everyone, there are various degrees of challenges to be undertaken. For first-time geocachers it’s probably a good idea to start with an easy challenge (or in geocaching terms a ’1/1′ rated cache). Much will depend on the age of the young adventurers and any time constraints. Some caches will call for some pretty tough exploration, taking a great deal of time. Others will be much more achievable, so it’s important to consider the rating of the cache before embarking on a geocaching mission. Each cache has ‘attribute’ icons next to its listing providing important information: whether the cache is child-friendly, available 24 hours-a-day, and whether the terrain is easy, moderate or difficult, etc. In the UK, it’s a good idea to take a map. Map reading is a declining skill, and a good map (rather than a map app) will provide information about the terrain and provide back up if your phone runs out of juice.
In geocaching etiquette, you should always replace what you take with something of a similar value. Here’s some tips for parents wanting to give this activity a go.
- Put the kids in charge! Obviously, you need to keep an eye on the map, but children will relish the responsibility of being the leader.
- Don’t forget to take a pen to write your names on the list in the log book.
- It’s fun to take a small token item you can leave or swap (bouncy ball, pack of cards, compass keyring, round pebble…)
- Be comfortable so bring warm clothes, snacks and drinks.
- Set a manageable challenge.
- If there are a few geocaches close by, try doing two or three in the same outing.
GoMunkee recommends geocaching.com to help you find your nearest geocaching stash. The app is only £7.99 – a small investment for year round outdoor fun. Also contact Caching Box for more information.