How to make location scouting fun by geocaching with your kids

  • girl riding in red wagon photo by Mickie DeVries

How to make location scouting fun by geocaching with your kids

What is geocaching you might ask?

Well, in the simplest of terms, it’s a treasure hunt.

Yep, you heard me right, treasure! Who doesn’t love treasure?!

Let me tell you my children love treasure and they love the search for it almost as much. I love that I can get outside with my children for a fun activity that involves exercise, and an awesome opportunity to location scout while still incorporating fun.

Now let me tell you more about geocaching first.

geocaching jar photograph by Mickie DeVries

I had first heard about geocaching through some friends on Facebook. I wanted to learn more about it so I went to the official geocaching website and checked out their geocaching 101 page.

From there I learned that the only thing I needed to get started was a GPS device or a GPS app on my smartphone, and an account that was free to sign up for on the geocaching website. Since I did not have a GPS device, but I did have a smart phone, I decided to go with an app for my phone.

There are lots of geocaching apps available, and some are free, but through research it sounded like the official geocaching app for my iPhone would be the easiest for me to use, so I purchased this for a small fee.

After setting up my account and purchasing the app, I just searched for nearby caches on the app, which can also be done from the website. After choosing a cache you then use the app to navigate to the coordinates where you can search for a container in the general vicinity.

The containers can be all shapes and sizes and are often camouflaged. We have found caches in ammo boxes, snaplock containers, and even a pinecone that was hollowed out to include just the log to record your name.

Containers will often have items in it that you may trade with an item of your own that is of equal or greater value than the one you take out, which is where the treasure aspect comes in!

My children are always so excited to find a cache that contains “treasure”. My son recently found a cache that had a National Guard coin in it and he was so amazed that someone would leave such an awesome treasure in the cache!

National Guard coin picture by Mickie DeVries

I’m not sure how the other apps work, or how much details they give in the app, but the official app lists the approximate size of the cache, the difficulty of finding it, and the complexity of the terrain.

To start off, I recommend choosing a cache with an easier difficulty level, basic terrain, and a medium to large container size. My children like the ones that contain “treasure” the most, and the smallest ones do not usually include treasure due to size limitations.

As you gain experience though, these small ones are fun to find because they tend to be more difficult due to their small size.

My app also shows how recently the cache has been found, which is helpful in determining if the cache is still in the same coordinates as what is listed. I steer away from caches that haven’t been found recently as they may not still be intact. The app even has a hint feature that I have had to use on occasion to locate the cache.

compass app on iPhone photo by Mickie DeVries

My initial decision to start geocaching with my children was solely based on the fact that I knew they would love it. However, I quickly discovered that geocaching is also great for location scouting. By the nature of the activity you are exploring areas around you, and the cache locations frequently take you to places off the beaten path.

It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to not only photograph my children doing something that they love in beautiful surroundings, but also as an opportunity to return to these surroundings with a photo session in mind. Here are some locations I discovered while geocaching that I returned later to photograph my children or family/friends in:

girl riding in red wagon photo by Mickie DeVries
kids walking in field pic by Mickie DeVries
siblings playing in field of flowers picture by Mickie DeVries
family sihouette photo by Mickie DeVries

Tips to get you started:

  • Go to to create a free account and to learn more about geocaching.
  • Get a GPS enabled device or download an app to your smart phone.
  • Search for geocaches near you and in places you’d like to explore further with the app or website.
  • Gather small toys for trading. Some examples might be: superballs, McDonald toys, matchbox cars, bracelets, and quarters.
  • Camera for documenting the adventure, and to snap photos of possible future photo session locations.
  • Don’t find all the geocaches in one location on one day. Come back at different times of the year, as you will likely find that the location changes with the time of year. I often record what month I find the location, and note what is in bloom if applicable.
  • If at all possible, stay on an obvious path for as long as possible. The app will point you in the exact direction of the cache at all times, but this might not be the easiest way to get to the cache. We have learned to see if paths eventually wind in the direction the compass is pointing rather than to struggle through underbrush when the compass first starts pointing East or West.
  • If you have older children let them navigate. My nine year old loves to hold my phone and direct us to the cache locations! While at times he needs help, for the most part I can follow behind snapping photos while he learns compass skills!

Ready to jump in and try it?

If I can do it you can!

I had never used a compass before trying this but it’s super easy to get started. There are over 2 million caches worldwide so chances are you have several near you just waiting to be discovered!

About the Author:

Mickie DeVries resides in West Michigan close to the beauty of the Lake Michigan shoreline. She is married to her husband Luke and has two children. Mickie’s work is centered around documenting her children, and she also teaches Unlocking the Magic of Photoshop through Click Photo School. Visit Mickie DeVries online.


  1. Terri Jul 29 2014 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    This sounds like so much fun!! Thank you for all the great tips! What do you think is a good age to start doing this? I have a 2yr old and a 4yr old.

    • Mickie Jul 30 2014 at 7:27 am - Reply

      Hi Terri! I started when my youngest was 4, which worked out well. As long as your kids enjoy short hikes I would try one that is not too long of a walk. My 6 year old is still done way before her 9 year old brother that could do it for hours.

  2. Melissa Stottmann Jul 29 2014 at 4:08 pm - Reply

    I have been dying to do this!! Thanks for sharing all of these tips Mickie!

  3. Meredith Jul 29 2014 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    What a great idea, Mickie! 😀

  4. Marian Jul 29 2014 at 10:07 pm - Reply

    Love this idea and that I can location scout too!

  5. Sarah Harrigan Jul 30 2014 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    This is such a fun idea!! Thanks for the tips Mickie.

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