Geocaching with kids is such a fun activity to do as a family as part of our DIY summer camp activities! It combines the best of hiking and enjoying the outdoors with treasure hunting- and a little bit of technology thrown in too!
What exactly is geocaching you ask? Well, according to Geocaching.com:
“Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.”
Some Tips for Geocaching with Kids!
I have always enjoyed hiking, but my kids' enthusiasm usually dies out before I feel that I have even gotten going yet- which is why including a geocache hunt as part of our hiking adventure gets my kids excited about the outing, and makes it fun for all of us.
And there are millions of geocaches hidden throughout the world! So how do you get started?
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Download the Geocaching App!
There are two levels of membership on the website- a free basic membership which gets you started with easy caches, and an upgraded premium level of membership available for $30/year which gives you access to all levels of difficulty (perfect for tweens and teens), as well as the ability to find caches along a route, as well as save cache information and maps offline (a feature we have found to be helpful as their isn't always cell access along a trail!) .
Once you are registered, you can start using the website to look up caches- searching by zip code or even by the name of a hiking location such as “Rockefeller State Park, NY.” Press enter and you will be presented with a list of caches, and important details such as the level of difficulty and challenge of the terrain. Click on the name of the cache and you can find the description of the cache as well as the clues to help you find it. And of course, the all-important GPS coordinates.
Use Your Smartphone to Find The Cache!
A few years ago, most people who were into geocaching did so with a hand-held GPS device, but these days there is really no need to buy an additional piece of equipment since you likely have a GPS enabled smartphone.
One thing to know about using GPS (global positioning system) to look for a cache- because GPS is using the references of three or more satellites to pinpoint where you are as well as the cache's coordinates- it is only accurate to 10-50 feet, and sometimes by an even larger margin depending on how well the cache owner's system captured the coordinates on a given day with given obstructions such as tall trees or structures.
So once you get close to the cache, you need to put the GPS in your pocket and focus on looking according to the cache's clues.
Take Along Some Trade-Out Treasure
When you find your geocache container and open it up, you'll be thrilled to find it brimming with fabulous treasures (or if you are a bit more on the cynical side- a bunch of worthless junk that your kids will be thrilled by)!
You'll be amazed at how long it will take your kids to sort through all of the plastic doo-dads to decide which one they want to take home, and you'll need to be prepared to replace the captured treasure with some new goodies for the next finder. I recommend using this as an opportunity to do some decluttering in the kids' rooms, basement, or playroom- specifically looking for small items such as matchbox cars, bouncy balls, and other small plastic toys.
Make Sure That You Have a Hiking Map of the Trail
Stop at the information station or download it from the web before you leave- but don't get yourself out on a hiking trail looking for a cache without a trail map! In fact, I have found that many of the geocaching clues include references to the trails- such as “cache is hidden 50 feet beyond where the red meets the yellow trail”. But without a hiking map, you may not realize that the two trails intersect in two different locations!
Remember To Hike With The Essentials
You'll need sturdy shoes and socks, bug repellent, sunscreen, water, and snacks. And don't forget the first aid kit! (And of course- your phone with the geocaching app loaded!)
Looking for some more great ideas for your DIY Summer Camp?
- Why We Hold Our Own Kids Summer Camp at Home
- 10 Ideas to Make This Your Family's Best Summer EVER!
- Free Printable Family Summer Bucket List
- Free Printable Summer Schedule
- 50 Fun Summer Camp at Home Activities, Crafts, and Feld Trips (From Pre-K to Teens!)
- 10 Awesome Backyard Games for Tweens!