Any parent can tell you that everything is a different ball game when you bring kids into the mix. Geocaching is no exception. This episode I talk about trying to geocaching with my young son, some mistakes that I made, and some tips for if you’re out caching with kids.
– “How to Choose the Best Caches for Kids“, by Annika, geocaching.com
– “Three Things to Avoid While Geocaching with Kids“, by Sonny and Sandy from PodCacher.com, geocaching.com
– “The Ultimate Treasure Hunt – Geocaching with Kids“, parentingchaos.com
Cache Highlight: “Girl Scout Puzzle Bug“
Welcome to Geocache Adventures with me, Shadowdragn1, where I talk about geocaching and my adventures with it.
One of the reasons I started geocaching was to try to find something new to do with my son. When we first started I didn’t really know much about caching or really what I should be looking for with my son. He was really big into telling me secretes that I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone else. These were always cute harmless things that would go something like this:
My son: “Mama, I have a secrete to tell you.”
Me: “Okay tell me.”
My son: “I love Daddy. But don’t tell him. Don’t tell anyone.”
Me: “Okay I won’t.”
My son: “But Mama you can tell Daddy but don’t tell anyone else.”
My son: “But Mama you can tell Daddy and Penny (our dog) but no one else.”
Me: “Okay I won’t”
My son: “But Mama you can tell Daddy and Penny and Milo (our other dog) but no one else.”
Me: “Okay I promise.”
And sometimes this would go on for a bit until he basically allowed me to tell our whole expended family and his friends but “no one else.” He obviously didn’t fully get the idea of a secrete or keeping one but he liked the idea of it. So when we started geocaching, I told him we were going to go find a secrete. I would really emphasize that it was a secrete and that would get him really excited about going to find it but I’m not really sure our first few finds were all that exciting for him beyond that. We had some difficulty finding the first couple even though they were rated difficulty 1 or 1.5 so he would get a little board sometimes while we looked. Once we found a few and had an idea of how it worked, that part got better and our finds typically got faster. But after the first few “secrets” we found he wasn’t that excited about going to do it. I just wasn’t sure how to make it more fun for him.
I’m signed up to get emails from geocaching.com and just happened to get one that highlighted an article about things to avoid when caching with kids. I read it and realized why my son probably wasn’t enjoying caching so much. The article said to avoid rushing (kids, especially younger ones, like to take their time), avoid micros, and avoid controlling the experience.
I felt like rushing wasn’t an issue. We didn’t go caching if we weren’t able to take our time to find the cache. Having enough time was important because we were still new at it and I didn’t want to be stressed about finding it fast because we needed to get somewhere.
I didn’t think controlling it was my problem. I often looked at the map with him and tried to let him help pick out the cache we went after and didn’t force him to go geocaching if he didn’t want to go.
But micros was a problem. Turns out when it comes to kids and caches, size does matter and bigger is better. Up to this point, we had found all micros. They were mostly lamp post park and grabs which we had been doing because they were quick and easy and after he had seen a few of them, he could pretty much find them on his own. But they also didn’t offer him anything once he found them.
I did a little more reading about cache sizes and the next time we went out caching I targeted a cache that was listed as a small. The cache description said it was a small lock and lock with room for trackables and small swag. It was in a near by baseball park a few feet back in the tree line. It was tucked in a hole until a fallen log. We pulled it out and opened it and when my son saw the small trinkets inside he got so excited. He asked if he could keep them and I told him he could pick out one but that we had to leave something in its place. He picked out a tiny little plastic duck about the size of a dime and I left a novelty coin in its place. When we got him he couldn’t wait to show my husband what he got from the cache.
Now when we go caching together, I try to target small or regular caches. My son refers to them as toy caches. He loves getting to pick out a toy to take home. I try to keep a Varity of things that we can leave in cashes and he even likes to help me decide what to leave behind. We’ve even had an instance where he liked what we were going to leave better than what was in the cache so he kept that instead. If I’m out caching without him and find a cache with toys, I’ll pick something out to take home to him and he always gets so excited. I love seeing him light up because of it. He has a little basket at home where he keeps his geocache toys. He’ll get them out and play with them and then put them back in the basket because he wants to keep his geocache toys separate so he can find them because they are special treasures to him.
Some articles will recommend that, if you are caching with kids, that you shouldn’t go for anything smaller than a regular size cache. I have found that smalls typically have small toys or coins or stickers, some kind of small treasure that kids would love. I just make sure to keep swag with me that would fit in the small caches so my son can take a treasure home.
We still sometimes target a micro but those are usually ones that we grab while out running errands. Most of the time, my husband will be with us in the car so my son has the choose to stay in the car with dad or go grab a cache with mom. Usually he’ll ask me if its a “toy cache” before he makes his decision. If I tell him no, he’ll sometimes stay in the car but sometimes he still wants to go just so he can get out of the car.
Some other advise for caching with kids is to make sure you’re targeting one in the appropriate difficulty and terrain rating for them. A kid who is 14 is most like going to be able to enjoy a higher difficulty and terrain level than a 5 year old.
Keep snacks and something to drink on hand. I think this is a good general tip if you’re going to be out caching for a while but especially if you have small kids with you. They usually aren’t able to hold out as long for food or drink.
Consider looking up caches with the name of their favorite character or super hero in the cache title. Kids get excited about their favorite characters and finding a cache named after them can add some additional fun to the find.
Don’t forget to take swag to swap out. Remember, if you take something leave something. It’s an important rule to follow to ensure that there is something there for the next cacher to find. It can also be fun for kids to let them help pick out the swag you plan to leave. It can be a way to clean out the little toys from Happy Meals they no longer play with or you can let them help pick out something from the party favor section at the store.
Warning: This part of the show contains spoilers for the cache that is about to be discussed.
The cache was called “Girl Scout Puzzle Bug”
Cache ID: GC80KRM
Difficulty rating 2.0, Terrain rating 1.5
The description read:
Clear container, hidden by Troop 3683 as part of the Junior level Geocacher badge. There is a travel bug starting it’s journey in this cache and the girls have made SWAPS (Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewheres) for you to take when you find this cache. The box will be replenished as needed!
Hint: No hint was given
I was at 99 finds and was looking for a good cache I could do with my son for find 100. I had been out caching earlier that day getting up to 99 and was supposed to meet my husband and son near by for a picnic dinner but we hadn’t decided where we were meeting yet. I had some time to kill before meeting up with them so I pulled up the geocache app and looked to see what was around. I noticed a couple of caches near by. I zoomed in and realized they were at a park. I looked over each one to see if any of them would be good to do with my son. I knew I wanted something that was an easier find that would be large enough to contain swag for him to pick from. One of them fit perfectly. I was right near the parking lot and was listed as regular for the size. I called my husband and told him I had found a park to meet at. We had decided on Taco Bell for dinner, so I hit up the drive through and meet them at the park. The playgrounds were closed because of Covid-19 and there were no picnic tables around, so we sat on the bleachers for the soccer field and had our picnic. After we were done eating, my son and I went to find the cache.
It was a very quick find. There was a brick enclosure where dumpsters were kept and in front of the enclosure was a small row of pine trees. The pin location showed the cache between the two. We walked over between the two and my son find it instantly. It was a small to mid size tuperware container against the wall of the enclosure. I had thought it might take a little longer to find since it was listed as a difficulty of 2. I’m not sure if the last cacher had placed it against the wall instead of it’s original location or if the wall was the original location. But in the location we found it at least, I would have given the cache a difficulty of 1.
Before leaving the house that morning I had made a sign with construction paper for our 100th find. It was just a simple sign with the number 100 underlined and stars in the corners but when I pulled it out of my bag and showed it to my son he was so excited. He had no idea that I had made it. He told me how cool it was and how much he liked it. He held the sign as I snapped a selfie of us with the cache.
There was a handful of swag inside and my son picked out a small rubber finger puppet and we left a bouncy ball in it’s place. My son was very excited about his new toy as he always is when he gets to take one from a cache. He played with it the whole ride home. Even though I don’t always cache with my fun, I always enjoy when we do and I love to share milestones and digital souvenir captures together.
You have been listening to Geocache Adventures with me, Shadowdrag1. Feel free to reach out to me and my geocache profile page, Shadowdrag1, or at GeocacheAdventures.org. I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. Thank you for listening.