Now that the weather is getting colder, it’s even harder than usual to get your kids outside — especially those who are always glued to some sort of glowing screen. But what if your kids discovered that there are secret stashes all around your community that they could only find by going outdoors and using a smartphone? That’s exactly the concept behind geocaching: using GPS coordinates posted on a website to find hidden treasures left by others. With geocaching, you can join technology with the outdoors as your kids track hidden “caches” in the parks and natural areas in your community. They won’t even realize they’ve been outside for an hour once they’re done looking.
As of 2013, there were two million geocaches worldwide, and the number keeps growing, which means the odds are good that there are some in your town. And you’d never know they were there if you weren’t looking for them. All you need to do is make a free geocaching account (https://www.geocaching.com/play), and then using your phone or GPS, pick a geocache near you and navigate to it. It’s a high-tech version of a treasure map.
Geocaches come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and difficulties. You may spot one right away when you get close, or you may have to look under rocks or in a hole in a tree. Part of the fun is narrowing down where the geocache is supposed to be and then searching to find where it’s hidden. Once you find it, you can sign the log book. Many geocaches have little trinkets inside, including where else the geocache has been in the world — sometimes individual geocaches have made treks of hundreds or even thousands of miles! Your son or daughter can add his or her name, or bring a knick-knack to leave behind or trade.
A lot of geocaches can be found at local parks or hiking trails, making it a fun way to mix in getting your daily exercise. Your kids can hold the phone to hunt for the geocache and explore a trail at the same time. Between all the searching and tracking, your kids will want to get outside and find as many as they can. With the CDC’s recommendation that kids exercise for 60 minutes a day and the evidence of the benefits of playing outdoors, that excitement is something you’ll want to take advantage of.
So whether your kids are balking at going outside in the colder weather or you have a hard time pulling them away from their devices, geocaching is a great middle ground. Looking for geocaches is also a great way to discover new trails and parks. And, kids can make their geocaching adventures part of a school report or science project. The thrill of the chase is just as rewarding as finding the geocache, helping to teach patience and persistence.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and see what treasures you can find. And if you need more ideas for how to get your kids playing all year round, inside your home and out in your yard, stop by one of our Play N’ Learn showrooms to see the fun we can bring to your family.Tweet