Raising kids in Arizona affords many opportunities to spend time outdoors, especially during these beautiful winter months. But what outdoor activities help strengthen family relationships and promote values we deem important?
Here are three free technology-assisted treasure hunts that do both. We can set off on these adventures locally, but they also provide family fun when traveling.
Geocaching. Here’s a family-friendly hobby that’s high on both fun and fresh air. Decide where you want to start this modern treasure hunt. Geocaching offers a surprising number of hidden containers, called caches, and tips and clues for finding them in public spaces such as parks. Instead of using an actual map, your smartphone or other GPS-capable device will help you locate your treasure.
Start by creating a free account on geocaching.com or downloading the app from Apple or Google Play on your smartphone. Make sure to bring a pen to sign and date the logbook in each geocache you find before placing it back where you found it. Then, record your experience online. Geocache sites range from easy to challenging and list their level of difficulty. If it’s your first time out on the hunt, go after caches that have been logged most recently to ensure there’s still something there to find.
Geocaches come in different shapes and sizes. Some also contain small treasures and trackables, so you never know what you will find. It isn’t always easy to locate the geocaches, which is part of the adventure and will test your child’s problem-solving skills.
Letterboxing. Letterboxing is another form of outdoor treasure hunting that uses clues instead of coordinates. Letterboxers hide small, weatherproof boxes in publicly accessible places. Find hints for finding them at letterboxing.org. There are 50,000 letterboxes hidden in North America alone.
To get started, you’ll need a “trail name,” a rubber stamp, pencil or pen, small sketchbook, an ink pad and the online clues. Individual letterboxes usually contain a logbook and rubber stamp that is meant to remain in the box to record visits. Finders make an imprint of the letterbox’s stamp on their logbook and leave an imprint of their personal stamp on the letterbox’s logbook.
Book exchanges. Little Free Libraries are “take one, leave one” book stations, and are located all over the Valley. Visiting Little Free Library locations with your child both encourages a healthy habit of reading and helps kids learn to recycle books they’ve already read. Check out littlefreelibrary.org for a map of libraries in your community, and have your child gather books that they are ready to pass on to another child in exchange for a new read.
Southwest Human Development has supported the local Little Free Library movement by partnering with individuals, neighborhoods, local businesses and nonprofit organizations in Maricopa County to place as many Little Free Libraries as possible for children who need them most. The movement allows any individual to have easy access to books, regardless of their financial situation. You can even build your own family Little Free Library or donate toward the movement at swhd.org
Scottsdale Public Libraries has a Books2Go program with four micro-library locations featuring iconic structures built to reflect the area. They try to stock these libraries with books related to the site, such as the doghouse-themed library at Chaparral Dog Park that offers dog-themed books. (I noticed many books for adults at this location as well.) Visit scottsdalelibrary.org/books2go for micro-library locations, and donate books to help keep these little libraries stocked by dropping them off at your local Scottsdale Public Library branch stating that they are for the Books2Go project.
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