I can still hear my son’s little voice begging me to play “Grandma’s Treasure” just one more time. Over and over we played it until I started to dread it, like when your favorite song gets played out on the radio . This game would keep him enthralled for hours – the deck of cards enable you to set up a treasure hunt with a prize at the end. At three and four years old, this game supplied a way to teach him first to recognize objects around the house by looking at the pictures on the cards. Later, as he learned to read, he was able to treasure hunt by reading the words to find the next item. This extra reading practice supplemented our homeschooling but to be honest, if I never saw “Grandma’s Treasure” cards again, it would be too soon.
As he has grown, my son’s love of treasure hunts has only intensified and“Grandma’s Treasure” no longer holds his interest (insert sigh of relief here!). After a few months of coming up with handwritten clues to facilitate his hunts at home, I quickly drained my creativity. One day, while sharing my frustration with my husband, he commented he had read about a Geocaching event at the local state park taking place that weekend. So off we went.
Geocaching is a game, a sport and a hobby all in one currently played in 192 countries. It combines the love of treasure hunting with the love of outdoors and technology. The name combines “geo” for geography and “cache,” a term used for hidden provisions or treasure. The goal of the sport is to locate a hidden treasure from latitude/longitude coordinates and clues found online by using detailed local maps or preferably a GPS system. Caches are hidden in the wilderness, parks and even urban locations. The treasure can be anything- books, CDs, toys, games, tools, and even cash. You take something and leave something, sometimes just signing a logbook. The coordinates and maps can be found online, in websites such as www.geocaching.com and www.topozone.com. You can also share your personal experience Geocaching on these websites.
My son was ecstatic to find a sport we could use our, to use his word, “cool” GPS device, honing in on his burgeoning detective, navigation and outdoor skills. I saw right away that it not only provided him with reading and vocabulary skill building but also problem and riddle solving, map reading, and increasing his attention span, among others. After he completed his first hunt, my son was hooked. Without making a production of it, he learned how to read a map, how to navigate to a location and how to be persistent with the hunt as some of them can be very difficult. One if particular had him stumped. He understood from the clues that the cache would be on a bridge in a little known park in our town. We walked around, looking over, in and around every possible surface on the bridge. As we walked away thinking we had failed, our son exclaimed, “what if its under the bridge?” and so he climbed down and there it was! Each hunt after that has been an adventure we have all taken a part in as a family.
If you own a GPS device and have access to the internet, this activity will simply cost you the gas it takes to get to the location. If you ride your bike there, it is truly free! A quick search online shows GPS devices can cost anywhere from $60 to $300. If you own one of today’s smart phones, it may be GPS ready. For those families that have an IPhone, ITouch or IPad, there is a Geocaching application to find caches near your location, making impromptu hunts possible.
Article By Nuria Almeida
Picture By Joe Crawford (artlung)