Sometimes even when I have the best intentions to spend quality time with my kids I just can't think of something to do. The kids have their quick ideas which in my home generally includes a few of the kids board games (candy land) or playing Jedi or Super Hero related pretend game. Those things thrill my kids but they get old for me.
I was first introduced to the world of Geocaching about 12 years ago. Geocaching is a worldwide treasure hunt game that can be played by anyone. Participants in the game can hide hidden containers called geocaches in most rural and urban public areas (with a few exceptions like near airports or other high security areas). Other participants (called geocachers) seek out to find these hidden containers. Geocaches are published to an online directory and community with their GPS coordinates. There are a few popular websites but the premeir of these is geocaching.com.
With a free account and a decent app on your smartphone you can quickly identify geocaches that are hidden near you. Start moving toward the coordinates and search the 5-10 meter area for the hidden container. These containers are often only big enough to hold a paper log for finders to sign (called micros) or can be small (traditional) enough to hold small toys or other objects. The best caches are large and are generally found in more rural areas outside of the hustle and bustle of a busy street.
My kids LOVE looking for treasure. We'll be in a new area or park and a quick check on my phone and I tell the kids, “There is a treasure somewhere over there.” They jump right out of whatever they are doing and want to go look for it right away. They understand that we aren't always going to find anything fun and we can't take anything out of the cache unless we contribute something in it's place. They don't care. They love the thrill of looking and finding something.
For me the benefits to my family are huge. We get outside into the outdoors which I think is always a very healthy thing. We are forced to collaborate and work together. The activity is enjoyable for all ages. From 2 to 72 years old I've never found anyone who didn't enjoy geocaching. It can be done anywhere. At or near home, on vacation, or while visiting Aunt Ruth you can always find some caches near by.
You can also hide a travel bug or other trackable item in a cache and follow its progress around the world from the website. Its fun to see how something you hid in a cache near your home has made its way to France or Australia.
Give it a shot. On your next Saturday afternoon or Tuesday evening give up the TV or board games and tell the kids to get in the car or hit the sidewalk to find some hidden stuff near the house. Visit geocaching.com to learn more and setup your free account.