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Geocaching – Eco Activity For Entire Family

Have you ever heard of geocaching? Most people have heard of it but haven’t tried it. My first exposure to geocaching was reading a course description on my city’s parks board months ago. From that moment I was hooked.  If you are looking for ways to keep children entertained wouldn’t the following description be enticing? “A worldwide game of hiding and seeking treasure using technology.” Treasure hunting at any age ~ what’s not to like?

Unable to register my boys for the course – the wonderful geocaching duo behind Geocaching101 were introduced to me and spoiled myself and my boys to a personal introduction to Geocaching this afternoon. I wanted to share the experience immediately because it was so beneficial and rewarding. Literally, I’ve done nothing else but look up caches in my area since coming home from the outing. I can understand why there’s a warning on most geocaching sites about possible addictions. =)  I think I’ve caught the bug and it’s great this new activity will be relatively inexpensive and so healthy for my children and family. For anyone struggling with keeping older kids entertained and away from TV, computers, and video games this summer – learning how to geocache may just be your ticket to enjoying the next few months outdoors.

Before I start on my rant about boys and electronics I’ll remember I’ve already written about this. It’s a daily battle with all my kids to keep them focused on nature and activities rather than jumping onto the computer or firing up the Wii. With geocaching it’s two wonderful worlds colliding for children – electronic GPS system (or iphone app) and treasure hunting in nature. Really, what isn’t to like?  Only…in a child’s mind it gets better….they are hunting treasures. And this isn’t the point of geocaching and shouldn’t be an important part of your geocaching experience, but let’s just think like children for a moment ~ and once they are told they’ll be discovering treasure – they are very exited! Once you have loaded the coordinates into your GPS or iphone and located the cache – usually there is a log book so they can sign their name and swap trinkets. Yes, the trinkets are normally plastic because they need to be permeable to wet weather, but the children are simply thrilled by this aspect of geocaching. The thrill for many children and adults is the adrenaline rush of the ‘find’.  Getting close to the cache, resisting the need to check the clue, then searching around for that perfectly hidden cache is the true thrill of geocaching. And it’s so exciting to find the cache…but knowing there are treasures inside was exciting for my boys today and we even found a cache located at a park 2 blocks from our house after we got home…without the asssitance of a GPS. Just putting our postal code into the ‘hide and seek’ section of the www.geocaching.com site we found a cache very easily and will try this route because we don’t have a GPS system or iphone. My boys left hockey cards and even my girls were excited by the treasures.

If this information feels overwhelming, just post a comment to this article and we’ll help you out. I slightly begged Anthony and Gwen to further develop private geocaching tours because I’d love to take my boys and their buddies (and parents) on a geocaching expedition. If you ask around your friend base, hopefully you’ll be lucky enough to find someone that can show you the geocaching ropes. Once you discover the magic – it’s hard to go back to being a Muggle. Umm yes, the activity of geocaching even has reference to ‘Muggles’ which as we know from Harry Potter refers to people that are non-wizards or in this case, non-geocachers. In the log notes that are left after discovering a cache, nearby people that aren’t aware of geocaching, are referred to as Muggles and in our house right now, there isn’t a more cool topic that anything referencing Harry Potter and wizards.

I will be writing more over the next few months on geocaching. I strongly urge any mom looking for an activity for children to register for free at the geocaching site: www.geocaching.com. First you create a free account, then you click on the ‘hide & seek a cache’ tab and submit your postal code.  You’ll be surprised how close a cache may be to your home. Check it out by downloading to a GPS or using the iphone application or just try finding it on your own using Google Maps or the directions located within the cache. Here are some pictures and highlights of the fun we experienced this afternoon!

Locating our first cache. We were so lucky it was an official, large cache box – it had awesome clues and coordinates and funny enough – it was hidden near a spot my boys have played next to for years!

Another cache we found was hidden in the bottom of a 10 foot high tree stump and covered with a piece of bark. This type of coverage is referred to as geocaching bark – I’ll never look at carefully placed bark again without assuming there are treasures beneath it.

When I first read about geocaching I really assumed it was for older children. But after spending the day with Anthony & Gwen Floyd and @seanfunk’s family – I know that like anything…really fun activies that are discovered with an entire family are the best. We had toddlers on our geocaching tour today and they were incredibly well-behaved and excited by this activity. Read more about geocaching with toddlers here. The below picture is of Anthony with his little guy in the backpack  – both were happy as could be!

Our 2nd to last cache found was a magnet stuck under a park bench. The two muggles that were sitting on the bench as over 10 people excitedly approached was pretty funny. They had no idea what we were doing – but Angelo was super excited to find a very small cache stuck underneath the bench.

I feel so lucky to be introduced to so many fun activities in a quest to keep my kids engaged in nature. Thank you to Gwen, Anthony, and @seanfunk – it was a great day and launching pad for discovering caches with my kids.

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