Kids and geocaching go together like unicorns and glitter, but before you trek out with your little ones, you need to make sure you’re prepared. As with pretty much everything, geocaching with children is not the same as doing so with just adults. Here are a few things to consider:
Get the right GPS device
If you’re like me, you have your geocaching app on your phone and just hand it off to the kids when they want to take a look at the cache’s location. If you want something a little bit more specifically kid-friendly, however, you might want to try the Geomate Jr. Handheld Geocaching GPS by Apisphere. It is rugged and built for little hands, and the interface has been greatly simplified. Basically, geocaches registered on the website are preloaded into the GPS, which finds the closest one and then tells you how far you are from it. Its streamlined functionality is great for young kids, who just need to know which direction to walk in, but I recommend also having an idea of where the cache is, what’s in it and how difficult the terrain is. You can determine this either by looking at the geocaching.com website beforehand or by using a geocaching app on your phone while you’re out. More on that in a moment.
Check difficulty level of terrain
You may have some tough kids, but even the toughest kids are kind of wusses compared to grownups. I mean, face it: They’ve got little short legs (which make it difficult to keep up with us tall people) and you’re probably not going to want to carry them up a mountain when they get tired. (I mean, maybe you want to. I don’t though.) I recommend checking
the terrain description online before you go out to make sure that it matches your child’s abilities. If you look at a cache on the website (take this one, for example) you will see a rating for terrain difficulty (the one I linked to is 1 1/2 stars out of 5, meaning it is not that difficult to traverse). There are also a series of icons on the right side which describe various attributes of the cache (e.g. whether there are dogs allowed, whether there are bathrooms, etc.) If you look, there is an icon of a little girl, which means that the cache is kid-friendly. This can help you make your decision as to whether or not to attempt the cache.
Check difficulty of cache itself
Another thing worth considering is how difficult the cache is to locate, once you’ve gotten to the general area. Some caches are hidden in devilishly difficult spots, sometimes in tiny containers. Since I realized that caches can be hidden in containers made to resemble rusty bolts, I have been checking the difficulty of the cache before bringing the kids out looking for it. So how can you tell whether a cache will be difficult or easy to find?
- Look at the comments about the cache on the geocaching website or on your Smartphone app. Do people say it was easy or are they like “Wandered around for hours, never did find it. Now I think I may have wandered into the arctic circle, but I’m not sure. Please send help.” ? You want caches that people haven’t had much difficulty finding.
- Check the size of the cache. This is something that is displayed on the website/app listing for each cache. You might want to avoid ones that are described as being “nano” or “micro” because these are really tiny and therefore kind of hard to find (and they are also generally too small to have any goodies in them, which can be disappointing to kids looking to find “treasure.”)
- Help interpret hints. My boyfriend (JP) and I once went geocaching with my kids. In the cache’s description, there was a tongue-in-cheek warning to “watch out for snakes.” We noticed that some of the trees had snake-like vines wrapped around them, so we were able to subtly hint to my eight-year-old son that he should look near those trees. Thanks to our help in interpreting the hint, he was able to be the first to find the cache near the base of one of the trees with the biggest “snake” on it, an achievement he was very proud of. Sometimes the information is “coded” like that and kids can just need a little nudge to figure it out.
Bring items to trade
Not all caches have items (like small toys, pins, stickers, etc) in them, but many do. The general rule is that you can take things out of the cache to keep, but only if you leave something behind of similar value. I always make sure we bring a few small items along in case the kids find something in the cache that they want to keep (and they usually do.)
The usual other considerations…
Of course, geocaching with kids means a lot of the same things as plain old hiking with kids does. Before you go out, make sure…
- You have snacks and drinks packed (or at least money and a place you can go to buy snacks and drinks)
- You’re mindful of bathrooms (where they are, making sure everyone goes when you’re near one)
- Everyone has appropriate clothes and shoes (layers are always good)
- You do a tick check when you’re all done.