I like to imagine a reality where my kids are overwhelmed with a sense of wonder about the natural world. In many ways, that reality is true. My preschooler loves bugs and climbing trees and my toddler adores dirt and water.
However my preschooler, like most modern kids, is also obsessed with glowing rectangles—you know, anything that has a screen. Computers, televisions, iPads or anything else that can provide streaming entertainment. We regulate her use, but I still find myself constantly trying to find creative ways to make the real sunshine more appealing than the one on "Sesame Street."
Luckily, there's an app for that.
Geocaching, known as a high-tech treasure hunt, is a fun way to turn family walks in to an interactive experience. The concept: Ordinary folks stash containers known as “caches” in their favorite local parks or areas of interest and then register them at www.geocaching.com, with geo-coordinates and fun hints. With the help of a GPS-enabled smartphone or other device, others hunt for the cache while exploring a unique spot or learning something new and help the community by practicing “cache in, trash out.”
Next time you’re at the farmers market, consider a side excursion to to find the “St. Osage” cache.
I used to occasionally hunt for caches hidden in Crystal City during my lunch breaks. It gave me a fun reason to go outside, stretch and get fresh air. Similarly, our family has used geocaching to explore new areas when we travel.
Almost all Virginia state parks have geocaches and GPS handsets for rent. At these parks, you can participate in the Geocaching Wildlife Adventure game, which this year is focused on exploring wildflowers.
There are currently more than 1.7 million active caches worldwide, ranging from here in Del Ray to the far reaches of Mongolia and even Antarctica (SANAE-IV … as of this article found last Monday), and more than 5 million registered geocachers worldwide.
Sound intriguing? Just remember: Don't draw attention to yourself, sign the logbook (bring a pen), and leave the area better than you found it (if you see trash, pick it up).
Rally your kids, grab that glowing rectangle of yours and head outside.