Caching with kids is super fun and rewarding. But you need a bit more preparation than a regular day of adult caching. Here are some ways to make it easier.
Plan for a lot more time than you used to take. Everything is interesting when you are just learning to walk. Plus with short legs, and wanting to walk instead of being in a stroller, it’s just going to take you longer. Walking around the block sometimes takes us an hour now, so many rocks to pick up, bugs to watch, rabbits to laugh at, or cars to point out. Plus if you see anything super fun, you could be there forever. Playgrounds, animals, anything new like bikes or other games they spot. But maybe don’t ditch the stroller or wagon right away. Long walks sometimes lead to a sleepy child being carried back to the car. It’s so much easier to stick them in a wagon or stroller if needed, and grab one more cache while they are sleeping. Plus you can carry all your TOTT easily.
It’s also impossible to explain the rewards of spending all day in the car to get a 100+ power trail or a cache machine done. Making it too long or boring makes it harder for the next caching adventure. When they are still in the ‘sleep all the time’ stage, power trails/cache machines can still be done, but once they are walking, they want to run and explore so you may have to put those on hold for a bit, or find time to do them without the kids. Once they are older you could always just set up a DVD player so they are entertained for a day in the car. Or make another game out of finding as many caches as possible with rewards set up. Just don’t make them hate caching, or you’ll be waiting until they move out to get smilies.
When out this past summer, we had fun exploring caches near parks so Bajapicker could run and play, then when it was nap time we’d hit the driving power trails while he slept in the truck. We would only get between 1-2 hours of power trails done, but that’s still pretty good (it’s not always about the numbers). We would have a plan and do what we could, then move on to the fun caches near parks, or ones that had high favorite points or great containers.
Snacks are a must. Nothing motivates anyone better than their favorite snack, and kids need energy to grab all those finds. They also get way more Hungry than adults and I can get pretty Hangry. I used pieces of banana to get Bajapicker from the APE cache to the Tunnel of light. He was happy to chase me back to the tunnel following that banana, which also helped to wear him out for the trip back through the tunnel and drive back to BC. I also make sure I take a few of his favorite treats on any caching trip, no matter the length. He loves oranges, bananas and fig bars.
Hydration. I know many adults don’t always think about this for shorter dash & grabs. Kids always need fluids, and don’t want to wait. We put a gallon of water in the car every day now. Between the boy and the dog, it all gets used. I also have a friend who’s daughter only gets to have a pop if they are out caching for the day.
Make a plan, and make it a fun plan. Check out favorites close by. I also make a to-do list and bookmark any super awesome caches I hear about (from Facebook, Instagram, the Geocache of the Month released by geocaching.com, and word of mouth). When I had friends that had kids between 3-10 and were just starting out, I gave them a list of caches built of lego, and ones that were large enough for trades. She also went out to find a few on her own so she would know if the kids would be interested or not. Nothing kills a kid’s motivation like going on a treasure hunt and only finding nanos & bison tubes, or a DNF. Although they do seem to like those bisons that are disguised as critters or other fun things. Once they know there are super fun caches as well as micros, they are more likely to keep going after finding a micro. Sometimes setting limits is good too. We’ll do 3 caches then go play at the park for an hour. Rewards and knowing that they don’t have to find all 3 million active caches makes the game even more fun. Once they are big enough, they really do like finding the containers themselves too. It may be frustrating, since you can see the cache yourself, but if the adult always makes the find, they become less motivated to continue caching. On long trips you may have to limit the amount of caches that you find, or put more of a plan into which ones you are going to find so the kids get to do something fun. Positive caching experiences will help them want to cache more. And caching with friends makes it even more fun! Go out with other local cachers, check out the facebook groups or associations for places you are travelling to get info on the best kid friendly caches in the area. And pack extra clothes & shoes, you never know what they are going to end up in. (In fact, I never know what I’m going to end up in either). Cold wet kids are miserable kids. And miserable kids aren’t fun to cache with.
Have them hide a cache. Help them pick a good spot, and let them enjoy reading online logs. They can do up the cache page, or tell you what they want on there. Some kids definitely like to see how many people find their cache, and they also see how much work goes into the hides that they find themselves.
Make a huge deal out of milestones. We carry construction paper and markers in the car now to make signs for the photo ops. It will be even more important when he’s older.
Go to events! Events are always fun, and they will make new geocaching friends too. Any hobby where you end up with new friends makes it more fun. There are many great events put on throughout our province. Bajapicker and I have walked planks, planted seeds, played games, watches movies, sat by a campfire, ridden a train, and eaten yummy donuts, and that’s just in this year! Bajapicker loves all his geocaching friends. He gets pretty excited seeing them all and having fun with them. Even cachers whose teenagers don’t really like caching much, still like some of the events. And watching adults act like kids makes them happy too.
When they are older, take them to lots of earthcaches and historical caches. They will learn so much more seeing these in person that just reading about them. All the Geotours in BC have lots of cool places to learn about, and have super high quality caches and cache pages. Plus the local history/geography is not something they would necessarily learn in school anyways. Learning is so much more fun when it’s outdoors. Earthcaches being interactive will also make the geography lesson so much more tangible.
And most importantly, remember they are kids. If they are getting upset or not listening, it is probably good to stop caching for the day (and give them a snack and some water). Play with them and have fun. They have shorter attention spans than adults, and don’t want to bypass something awesome without getting to check it out first. They will learn so much being outdoors, but it can be overwhelming for them. And when things get overwhelming, they aren’t going to have fun or want to do it again. Be prepared to change your plan. And be even more prepared to have fun geocaching with your kids. They will start telling you which caches are their favorites, so go with their interests. Who knows, you may have a future FTF hound on your hands, or someone who wants to complete all the challenge caches they can. Plus, they are short (for a while), so they can get those low down caches easier than you!
Here are a few more items you might want to have on hand when caching with kids – wet wipes or hand sanitizer, first aid kit, bug spray & anti-itch cream, any medications they might take, and Benadryl in case you find out about an allergy, toys or games, a bag for them to collect treasures they find on the trails, book for them to read, spare sunglasses, hat, mitts, blanket and stuffy for the ride home.