Geocaching with Kids in the DC Metro Area
If you're looking for a fun new activity to do with your kids, you should try Geocaching as a family.
It's like the ultimate treasure hunt for kids! It's a free activity that you can do pretty much any where you are, it gets the family out of the house and into nature. Plus, all you need is a phone.
This is a great activity to discover more around you and have more fun as a family.
What is Geocaching?
Geocaching use an app to find hidden caches in different areas. The caches themselves are containers of various sizes that is hidden or camouflaged into the surroundings. Inside the cache is a logbook to sign to keep track of who has found the cache and often times there are small trinkets that are available to be traded.
HOW DO THE KIDS BENEFIT?
Math and Mapping Skills: kids will explore the map, follow directions, and learn distances. You can also have them map out ones that would be close to each other to find multiple in one day.
Technology: kids will need to use a smartphone and the geocaching app in order to find caches and log their entries.
Creative Thinking: kids are required to use nothing more than an open location and zero or possibly one clue to track down the cache. Some of the caches have something inside that requires problem solving or even how to open the cache.
Sense of accomplishment: kids love to find the caches and also enjoy seeing how many they have found overtime.
History: some caches includes pictures and even a story with history on where the cache is. Some history is about the location itself and others include history of the family or why the specific location was selected.
Exercise: while some caches are more of a 'park and go' taking only a few minutes, other caches require longer walks and exploration.
How to Start Geocaching
The first step to Geocaching is to download the app which will help you hunt down millions of active geocaches worldwide. The app will find your location and show you geocaches right around you.
You can also type in locations and it will show you available caches near that location. We like to search for places we're going anyway and then see which caches pop-up right along the route we're taking so we can.
When we have more time we search for caches that take more effort to get to or get us out into nature more.
With kids, the best caches to start with have a "1 star" difficulty rating (out of 5) so they'll be easier to access and find. If you have older children, you can go for more difficult stars.
Some Fun Cache Locations in the DC Metro Area
The map highlights all the caches in the area. You can zoom in or at as you'd like. As you can see, there are no shortage of locations! Here are a couple of fun...
- Tree Root Tunnel is located in Maryland and the cache is hidden in a tree root tunnel / cave next to Rock Creek Trail.
- The 'Hike through Wakefield' cache says it is a good place to introduce children to hiking in the woods. There are areas to practice crossing a stream and how to navigate around thorns.
Whether you're looking for an easy cache close to the side of the road or are looking to be a little more adventurous, in a few minutes of searching, you'll see lots of new opportunities and can read about what the cache has to offer.
What to Bring?
The two things you will need are:
- Your smartphone with the Geocaching app downloaded and your free account created.
- A pen sign the logbook (some have a pen inside but the small ones don't have room!)
- And optionally some small trinkets to trade
If you want to have more caches availability and you want caches that are harder to find, you can sign-up for the premium version for $30 a year but...
Even if you stick with the free version there are TONS of caches to find.
How to Find the Cache
Some caches are quite easy to find and literally only take a minute while others you'll really have to search for.
In the app, you'll find a description of the cache. Some provide helpful details in order to be able to track down the cache. Some will also provide you with a needed hint.
If after searching, you're having trouble finding the cache, click on the 'Activity' section of the location in the app to see what others have said who found it. Often times you'll find a helpful note or two that will help you track it down.
The app also shows the size of the cache which will help you determine if you're looking for something quite small or something quite large. So far we've found caches that range in size from 1/2 inch to a foot long.
What to Do Once You Found the Cache
Sign the logbook! And then have fun seeing who else has signed the logbook!
Next you want to 'log' the find in the Geocaching app so it can track which caches you've found. You'll also be prompted to leave a note where you can thank the cache owner or leave anything you'd like to say.
If the cache has any trinkets in it, you can swap any for any trinkets you have as well.
Then return the cache to it's hiding place just as you found it so it's ready for the next Geocacher!
Another fun part of geocaching can be to hide your own family geocache and see how many people find it and swap out trinkets (if you choose to add some).
Making It Fun for the whole family
Let the kids take control and have fun. Most kids love to hold the phone and let it direct them to the cache. Some will love the trinkets and want to swap while others simply enjoy the challenge of finding the cache and don't really care what's inside.