Questing and Geocaching with Kids

Child outdoors searching

Treasure hunting, orienteering, puzzle solving, and building community. That’s questing. What a great way to create engaging and educational summer activities for children.

As I’ve been looking for summer activities that can spark a child’s imagination and turn into a child-lead summer project, my model has been the wonderful children’s summer activity book Weslandia.

Mapmaking close to home is great for 3-6 year olds since it focuses on what they know.

Elementary age children, 6-11 years old, may be ready for activities with more planning, investigating, solving, and reporting. Depending on their age and interest, they may even be ready to try such activities on their own.


The Quest Tradition

Questing is a North American version of the British activity Letterboxing, which started in the 19th century. The steps are easy: put a weather-proof box in a public place then spread clues to potential finders. The box usually includes at least a notebook and a stamp. Finders will stamp their own notebooks and leave their personal stamp in the box notebook. It’s a fun way to create a subtle connection with others in or passing through a community.

Letterboxing itself has come to North America and the rest of the world, as have similar activities of geo-caching (using GPS) and questing.

Questing as it has developed is more about a community and sense of place education. The Valley Quest program in Vermont is a beautiful example of community-building and education through this long tradition of hunting for clues and connections. Over two decades, they have built a program that connects history, environment, education, and citizen engagement. It takes a long time and a lot of people to build questing into a community the way they have, but everyone starts small.

Everyone starts questing or letterboxing with a first treasure hunt.


The First Quest

You as the parent may have to set up the first quest or treasure hunt in order to give your child the experience of being the finder, or your child might enjoy creating a quest for others. It may help to have a group of neighbors, a play group, or a circle of friends who are interested in questing with you so you can try out one another’s quests.

Valley Quest have very easy to follow instructions for making a quest, making a simple quest journal (one for the quest box and one for each finder), and making a stamp (one for the box and one for the finder).

If you are ready to embrace questing, one book stands above all other resources: Questing: A Guide to Creating Community Treasure Hunts by Delia Clark and Steven Glazer. The foreword is written by David Sobel, whose Mapmaking with Children I’ve suggested often. Sobel writes about his own ten-year-old son exploring then returning to say:

I’m a good explorer because I really look at all the details, all the little places you can go, all the crannies you can find. I don’t just look at it and go, I spend a lot of time on it, make forts and stuff and traps.

Quests, he writes, are about getting into those crannies.

If your child becomes interested in questing, this could become a local movement. Questing can be a way to build a sense of place and draw closer to local history, environment, and people. Elements of mystery and suspense add to the fun for children, but I think adults appreciate building a community of curious children who love to get outdoors and explore.

Image © Pro777 | Dreamstime.com

Wild Gardens for Busy Parents: Early Harvest

My wild garden at the beginning of August

Late summer brings an early harvest. Suddenly our little garden is growing out of control, giving us small, daily gifts of salad and berries.

August Garden Protecting the Harvest

I’m not the only one who notices raspberries in my garden. The robins seem to find one in ten berries, and I’m fine with that ratio.

I’m not, however, fine with the snails eating my lettuce and kale. Most of my time this past month has been spent on snail patrol.

Because I really am not much of a cultivator, I assumed my garden would go wild. This month is the proof that neglect can still result in an explosion of green. This is why I am convinced that you can grow a garden, too. Other than putting a couple of plants and seeds into the ground, I haven’t done much. Nevertheless, look what abundant my garden brings.

Garden wall of grapes and hops

I love the architectural feel of our garden. The hops are the pillars; the grapes and berries are the canopy; and the tomatoes are the overwhelmingly dominant presence at ground level. They all frame the lettuce and kale, which we are eating regularly.

Harvest so far has given:

  • about 2 dozen raspberries
  • kale for dinner twice
  • 4 big salads

Coming up I see:

  • more raspberries
  • many blackberries starting to develop
  • grape leaves for dolmathes (though, sadly, no grapes again this year)
  • more kale
  • more lettuce, if I can fight off the snails
  • a few dozen tomatoes
  • possibly a few chili peppers

Out of the photo in another very small patch we also have cucumbers, zucchini, and summer squash that are all growing well.

Tomatoes are taking over. They are so heavy that they are pulling down their wire frames. If I were a better gardener, I would probably be keeping them under control, but I’m curious to see what they do on their own. Under that mass of tomato growth I am finally seeing fruit. Tomatoes won’t grow in extreme heat, and much of the past month has been over 100 degree Fahrenheit for us. Our recent cooler weather (80s and 90s) gives the tomatoes the signal to set fruit.

Most important, since this garden is supposed to be about hops, we have little hop flowers. It does look like my husband will have hops this year.

Supports. If you built physical supports for the heaviest of your plants, they may still need more support this month. We’ve continued to guide grapes and hops along the wires we set up for structure.
Goal: adjust to the changing needs of your plants

Pests. Check for pests. I have snails. Rather than leaving snail traps (beer in lids works well, but I don’t want to deal with a beer swimming pool full of dead snails), I just pick them off and toss them far away. Depending on what you find, you can probably find a non-chemical way to either rid your garden of pests or share your garden with them (as I’ve decided to do with the robins).
Goal: find your own balance in sharing the garden space

Total Cost So Far

  • String – $0 (on hand)
  • Tomato cages – $3 for 2
  • Total for August – $0 (nada!)
  • Total for July – $3.00 (supports)
  • Total for June – $16.50 (plants)
  • Total for May – $34.00 (manure, top soil, peat moss)
  • Total for April – $18.00 (hops)
  • Total for the year – $71.50

Total Time So Far

Obviously, gardening takes a lot more time up front than it does during the height of the summer. Right now, the plants are doing all of the work

  • Pest patrol – 20 minutes
  • Building supports – 10 minutes
  • Shopping – 1 hour
  • Digging & planting – 30 minutes
  • Previous time spent (research, prep, building raised bed, digging) – 9 hours
  • Total so far = 11 hours

I cruise my garden daily, but it doesn’t need me much at this point. Most of my garden time is spent on pest control, but your garden may need different care—water, stronger supports, more vigorous pest control. You can probably still get away with a lot less than 30 minutes in the garden this month.

  • Pest control – 20 minutes
  • Harvest – 5 minutes
  • Gaze – 5 minutes

The Tomato Takeover

This is meant to be a hop garden, but the tomatoes are asserting themselves. The tomatoes were added at the last-minute when one of the hops didn’t grow this year. Next year we will have a third hop plant where the tomatoes are now.

Garden growth month by month

Camping with Baby Round-up

Father and baby hiking

Wish you could go camping but worried about your baby? Worry no more. Many families continue camping even with a baby. You definitely need to prepare more than you would for adults only, but you can certainly have a successful great outdoors experience and a happy baby.

Read the articles below for a few of our tips to make your camping trip go smoothly for the whole family.

Camping with Baby Checklist

This is our must-have packing list for camping with babies. If you are already confident and ready to go, start here.

Camping with Cloth Diapers

How many diapers? Which diapers are easiest to clean? There are a lot of ways to make cloth diapers work while camping, so we gathered some personal experience resources as well as providing a general guide.

Hiking with Baby

Many of us combine camping and hiking. Here are a few safety, gear, and other considerations to make before you head out.

7 Tips for a Successful Picnic with Kids

If you aren’t quite up for the overnight experience yet, try a picnic. Once you see that the key to success is in the preparation, you might be ready for camping.

Cool Summer Babywearing

If you will be hanging out a lot in camp, be sure to have a baby carrier that fits the climate. We help you figure out which carrier works for the way you plan to wear your baby on your camping trip.

6 Questions about Sunscreen That We Hear Daily

If you are camping, you will be in the sun. So, grab the natural sunscreen. We’ve answered some of the common questions we hear about sunscreen.

Summer in Nature for Your Children

What will you do with your children once you are in camp? Explore nature. Learning about the area where you are going and knowing about plants and environment before you arrive will make it easier for you to talk to a young child about what they see around them. When you understand how your child’s interest will grow through different child development stages, you can feed the future interests now. This post will help if you want to dig deeper into the reasons children need to play in nature.

Have a great camping trip!

Image © Ilhaformosa | Dreamstime.com

Summer Water Games for Children

Child playing in the sprinkler

Every day in summer for my kids has to include water outdoors. When they were little, I tried to keep it interesting by suggesting water adventures and games. These are a few of the summer water games my children love.


Tips Before You Start

Have your child wear a swimsuit or swim diaper. It’s going to be wet and probably dirty, so just keep it simple.

Remember the sunscreen and sun hat. If your child is particularly sun sensitive, you might even consider a sun protection suit.

Before you start, talk together about the rules of play and make sure your child understands. With any water games, always supervise. Don’t leave young children alone in the water even for a minute.


Water Games and Adventures

Bucket Splashing
My daughter’s absolute favorite summertime activity during her first year was sitting in front of a bucket of water and splashing. No extra structure required. The anticipation of a cold splash in the face was irresistible. As your child gets older, you can expand on this activity to experiment with cupping hands and creating rhythms. Since my children and I saw Vanuatu water music in a documentary on volcanoes, we always start pool activities with water drumming.

Giant Bubbles
A yard full of bubbles is fun, but why only tiny bubbles from tiny wands? We like huge bubbles. We create our own bubble wands with string and sticks then we fill up a wash basin with bubble solution. You can sometimes create a giant bubble snake a dozen feet long chasing screaming children around the yard. This is a noisy activity.

Sponge Catch
Grab your biggest, wettest sponge and head outside. Soak it really well in water and play catch. With little kids, be sure that they know to put their hands out so they don’t just feel like they are a target. We practiced with the sponge dry before wetting it. If you get the sponge wet enough, it will spin and spit water everywhere with every throw. While you have the sponge out, you can play different games with sponges. Toss the wet sponge into a bucket for target practice. Experiment with transferring water from the full bucket to an empty bucket with just the sponge. Paint on the sidewalk with sponges and try to finish the painting before it dries up and goes away.

Jump Rope Splash
Add a splash to three-person jump rope by giving the jumper a (non-breakable) cup of water. The more gently they jump, the less water they lose. When they bounce hard on the ground, they get wet. You could make the object of the game to keep as much water as possible, to lose as much water as possible, or just to see what happens.

Adventure Course
Child's dragon costume
Does your child love dress up? If you have a little dragon or knight, set up the backyard with a castle (picnic table), woods, mud holes, waterfalls (a running hose over a wall), and any other fun hazards. Either plan an adventure or just set the dragon free to roam.

Mud Dancing
If you have an area of your yard that won’t be completely destroyed by creating a mud pit, add water until it is thick and sticky then turn on the music. If the mud is thick enough to suck the feet as you move around, it is perfect. The mud will add sound and sensation to the dance. If you child loves dirt, check out the book I Love Dirt for more dirty play ideas. Follow dirty play with a quick trip through the sprinkler, and you’re all set.

Sprinkler
Every kid I know loves the sprinkler, especially if the sprinkler moves. There is no structure necessary at all. Just turn on the water and see what happens. Leave a bunch of boats, balls, cups, buckets and sponges nearby, and your children might pull those into the fun.

For more summer fun ideas for children, see Let’s Go Outside.

Let's Go Outside book

Image © Sergey Mostovoy | Dreamstime.com

Questing with Kids

Child outdoors searching

Treasure hunting, orienteering, puzzle solving, and building community. That’s questing. What a great way to create engaging & educational summer activities for children.

As I’ve been looking for summer activities that can spark a child’s imagination and turn into a child-lead summer project, my model has been the wonderful children’s summer activity book Weslandia. Mapmaking close to home is great for 3-6 year olds since it focuses on what they know.

Elementary age children, 6-11 years old, may be ready for activities with more planning, investigating, solving, and reporting. Depending on their age and interest, they may even be ready to try such activities on their own.


The Quest Tradition

Questing is a North American version of the British activity Letterboxing, which started in the 19th century. The steps are easy: put a weather-proof box in a public place then spread clues to potential finders. The box usually includes at least a notebook and a stamp. Finders will stamp their own notebooks and leave their personal stamp in the box notebook. It’s a fun way to create a subtle connection with others in or passing through a community.

Letterboxing itself has come to North America and the rest of the world, as have similar activities of geo-caching (using GPS) and questing.

Questing as it has developed is more about a community and sense of place education. The Valley Quest program in Vermont is a beautiful example of community-building and education through this long tradition of hunting for clues and connections. Over two decades, they have built a program that connects history, environment, education, and citizen engagement. It takes a long time and a lot of people to build questing into a community the way they have, but everyone starts small.

Everyone starts questing or letterboxing with a first treasure hunt.


The First Quest

You as the parent may have to set up the first quest or treasure hunt in order to give your child the experience of being the finder, or your child might enjoy creating a quest for others. It may help to have a group of neighbors, a play group, or a circle of friends who are interested in questing with you so you can try out one another’s quests.

Valley Quest have very easy to follow instructions for making a quest, making a simple quest journal (one for the quest box and one for each finder), and making a stamp (one for the box, one for the finder).

If you are ready to embrace questing, one book stands above all other resources: Questing: A Guide to Creating Community Treasure Hunts by Delia Clark and Steven Glazer. The foreword is written by David Sobel, whose Mapmaking with Children I’ve suggested often. Sobel writes about his own ten-year-old son exploring then returning to say:

I’m a good explorer because I really look at all the details, all the little places you can go, all the crannies you can find. I don’t just look at it and go, I spend a lot of time on it, make forts and stuff and traps.

Quests, he writes, are about getting into those crannies.

If your child becomes interested in questing, this could become a local movement. Questing can be a way to build a sense of place and draw closer to local history, environment, and people. The elements of mystery and suspense add to the fun.

Image © Pro777 | Dreamstime.com