Introducing Children to the Geocaching Adventure Game

High-tech treasure hunts gets kids outdoors

Geocoin example for Geocaching

Amaustan / Wikimedia Commons

Ask your children if they want to go outdoors for a hike, and you'll likely hear moans of protest as they turn back to their screens. Invite them on a high-tech treasure hunt for a geocache, and they'll start peppering you with questions as they put on their shoes and head for the door.

What Is Geocaching?

Geocaching combines cool technology with the thrill of finding a hidden box of mystery prizes — no wonder kids (and adults) find it irresistible. Advanced versions of the game include multistep puzzles and trackable traveling objects such as geocoins and travel bugs, so there are plenty of new challenges to keep kids interested in future outings.

Geocaching refers to finding hidden containers or objects by using a handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) device. There are more than 3 million registered geocaches hidden in more than 190 countries, and newcomers to the game are usually surprised by how many caches are located in their own locales.

Geocaching With Kids Combines Learning and Fun

Geocaching with kids can range from a simple outing that includes an easy-to-find cache to multistep lessons in GPS technology, geography, and map reading. Many caches are educational in nature — don't tell the kids — and are closely linked to regional history or geological features. Some caches are hidden by children for other children, making these finds especially appealing. Geocaching is an excellent scouting activity because it includes orienteering and other outdoor skills. It's also a terrific homeschooling activity.

How to Get Started in Geocaching

It's easy to get started in geocaching. You need a mapping handheld GPS receiver or a smartphone with GPS capabilities and an app. After you have a GPS device, geocaching is a free activity.

Learning how to use a GPS receiver with your children is part of the fun. Your next step toward finding your first geocache is visiting and registering for a free account. After you register, you and the kids can seek caches by many different parameters, including postal code and keyword.

Cache descriptions include a significant amount of information, including exact coordinates of the location, description of the cache, and type of cache (most consist of a waterproof container filled with items). You'll also find difficulty and terrain ratings (one through five, with one being easiest, and five being most difficult), clues, tips, and comments from others who have found the cache.

Kids are online-savvy, so they can take part in every part of this process. Select caches with easy difficulty and low terrain ratings for younger children. Move up to more advanced ratings as you and the children gain experience.

Caches often contain small gifts and toys that are of interest to children. Cache etiquette requires that you place something in the cache if you remove something, so plan to bring along some small items to put in the cache, at least one for each child. Caches also often contain logbooks, so the kids can sign in and leave comments.

Advanced Geocaching

Traveling trackable items such as geocoins and travel bugs add an interesting dimension to geocaching. These items have unique identifying numbers, and you may look them up on to find out where they have been. A cache may include a travel bug that originated in Australia and traveled via Hawaii and Quebec to your state. This information can be turned into a geography lesson, as the kids review the travel bug’s adventures on a map. Advanced geocaching includes multistep finds that include clues leading to the cache.

Geocaching has never failed to fascinate the kids, and it's a great way to get children out of the door and onto the trail.

A Few Tips for Geocaching With Kids

  • Engage kids in every step from learning to use the GPS to selecting and finding caches.
  • Bring water, bug repellent and hats on cache hunts.
  • Let kids find the cache after arriving at the coordinates.
  • Educate kids on the “take one, leave one” ethic of cache treasures.
  • Pick up your own trash, or better yet, show the kids a great example by picking up other trash you may find along the way.
  • Bring a camera and notepad and pen to write down numbers of trackable items.
  • Integrate science, history, geography or geology lessons into your outing.