Friday, May 27, 2011

Geocache Party Printables

I recently had a client request party printables for her child's 14th birthday party. She wanted to host a Geocaching party, which luckily I knew a little bit about! Geocaching is a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS-enabled devices.

If you keep reading below, there is a lot of great information on what a Geocache party is and how to throw it. If you are looking for a party that no one in your area has thrown...this just might be the party for you! It is great for girls, boys, any age young or old and doesn't require that you spend a ton of money.

Below are a few party printables to help make your party a success. If you are interested in purchasing the pdf party printable files, the Geocache invitation is for sell for $8 and the Geocache party printable collection is available for $20. You can also purchase the invitation and party collection together for $25 or individual items if you don't want the entire collection. Contact Paper Perfection at jtanddolly@yahoo.com to have a paypal request emailed to you. Once your payment is received, your items will be personalized and the printable pdf files will be emailed to you within 48 hours.





Here are some additional Geocache party printables in "neon" colors that I made for a client. You can click on the image, then click the magnifying glass on a specific area to get a larger view of the pictures. If you use these printables, glow in the dark necklaces, bracelets, etc. would be fun to hide in one of the cache boxes.



Here is another image of a "Geocache" label. You will definitely want something fun and bright to label your boxes so that your guests will know they have located one of your caches.



Finally, I made this welcome sign and cake image for Kaisa's birthday party. The welcome sign is 11x14 inches, can be printed at print shops and hung on the front door. The second image was made for a bakery to print and put on a round cake, but it can also be used as a "spinner" and hung from a chandelier, the ceiling or used as a welcome sign.



First, go to http://www.geocaching.com/ for all the information you will need to better understand geocaching. The short answer is, it is a modern scavenger hunt using a GPS to track down boxes all over the world filled with coins and small trinkets. The goal is to find a box, write your information in a log found in the box, take a trinket and leave a trinket. You will be amazed to find that there are probably lots of geocache boxes within 25-50 miles of your home.

A geocaching-themed birthday party is an inexpensive alternate to party games, where kids of all ages can enjoy learning to geocache in a park or backyard. A great thing about this party is you can incorporate party favors into cache containers, have your cake, and eat it too! Like most things with kids, parties keep getting more and more complicated the older they get. Some families are already familiar with geocaching, but how does that translate for kids who have no idea what geocaching is? Luckily, geocaching is addictive. It’s fun, easy to learn and kids are natural born seekers. You’ll need to customize the party to suit the location, age of the birthday child and their friends as well as your budget, but here are a few basic tips:

Location:

Pick a location for the party with natural hiding spots. These caches won’t be entered into the geocaching system, so you need to make them easy to find without doing damage to the area but at the same time keeping them concealed for the hunt. Visit the location with geocaching in mind, and remember you want to keep the kids visible at all times, so ideally the area will be big enough for them to roam but with not too many obstacles for easy supervision.

A local park that is naturally landscaped and makes a great location for a geocaching party. The best location would be a park with hiking trail heads, so that you will have lots of options for hiding the caches.

Cache Containers:

You can purchase a wide variety of cache containers to include the party favors in. I’d suggest pencil cases with screw-on lids, plastic containers about the size of a sandwich with the clip on lids, and a couple of larger containers. You will want to set out about five to a dozen caches total. You can find lots of inexpensive containers at discount stores. Make sure you save the containers for future parties or sleep overs.

To fill the caches use items that the kids could use to start geocaching on their own. For the first cache use a larger container and put some type of bag or drawstring backpack that the kids can use for their cache prizes. After that, you can put fun things like pencils, erasers, fruit snacks, marbles, and other items you’d typically find in caches or at birthday parties. If it is a warm or hot time of year make sure you don't put anything in the cache that will melt. Don't wait until the last minute to look for filler items, start looking for them right now and stash them for the party as you find them. You can spend about $5+ per kid on containers and filler items by stocking up on big packs of things like erasers and party favors during after holiday sells.

Hiding the Caches:

Go early before the party to hide the caches. You will want to fill them at home and take a couple of shopping bags with the containers to the park or your party location. You will have to be very stealthy because muggles abound and when people see you hiding stuff in the bushes they get pretty excited and snoopy. I am not sure if broad daylight or after hours would attract more attention. Be sure to check with the park and make sure it’s okay to hide/retrieve the caches, it would be catastrophic to have to move the party at the last minute or have the location staff confiscate the caches while you sort it all out.

There are multiple ways to do this, but one way is to use the GPS on your phone to give you the coordinates of where you hide the caches and write down the numbers on a piece of paper. Make sure to write a note of what was in the cache and some basic info on where/how you hid it in case the kids can't find it later.

Then, make a “guide” for the kids to follow. If you hide the caches by walking in a giant circle, make sure that you mix up the order so the kids don’t get the giant circle theme. For example, start them at coordinate #5. Then go to #8 and then to #1, and so on. You will want to pick a different child to control the GPS for each cache.

How it Works:

Explain what geocaching is, and show everyone the GPS app on the phone or your handheld GPS if you have one. Since only one kid can really be taught at a time, randomly pick a child to lead the hunt. Give that child the phone and work with them to understand how to use the coordinates to determine if they should walk right or left, etc. You will get a LOT of exercise. Try not to intervene if the kids go off course and let them use problem solving to figure it out. Older or younger kids will require different levels of assistance. It is very interesting to see how fast some kids “get it” and others really struggle.

The leader child will hold the phone and direct the group and then when the group gets close everyone will look for the cache. After three or four caches, some kids will start looking ahead and running to search trees in your route, etc. About 30% of the kids will get the concepts quickly and will be natural geocachers. About 15% of them will never figure out anything and just enjoyed the walk and hunting for the cache when they get close.

Be prepared to keep the kids together, especially in a busy area or if you have a lot of kids that run off from the pack. You might need as many as three or four other adults to help. If you have a location that doesn’t have line of sight, you could break the pack into mini-packs of kids, each with an adult, and vary the order that they look for the caches so they don’t reveal the locations accidentally to another pack.




Note: remove the cache containers as you find them (if you are using your own cache containers for the party and not official geocache containers that you have located online). If you have mini packs of kids, make sure you have the last group collect the containers.

Tips from one mom:

We used a dozen caches and it was probably too many. It was a warm day and the kids were running around and they got pretty tired. I’d probably do 8-10 if I had to do it over again in the same location.

I think next year I’ll pick a circular nature trail. Staying on the trail to cover ground, we can still hunt for a cache once we get close, but less running back and forth across the park will make me happier and we can get more creative with better hides for the caches.

We had kids ranging in age from 2-12 and they were all girls. Your group may necessitate different logistics. All the kids liked the “prizes” equally and they all have raved about the party to their parents.

Some of the parents got out GPS apps and followed along with us. Be prepared to explain how to geocache, and if possible, stock a registered cache with something special to find as the grand finale. That way the kids can bring back their families to that cache and explain the system to them.

We followed the CITO (cache in trash out) rules and the kids loved it. They looked for trash between the birthday caches and the nature of the hunting kept them from grouping up too much.

Just Do It!

This is an inexpensive and great birthday party! You will spend so much time geocaching that you won't need to pay for anything besides hot dogs or food for lunch at the park. Your child will love introducing their friends to a new sport and you will be able to go geocaching with other families after the party. You might set out a registered cache in honor of the birthday child as the grand finale if your group would enjoy learning about cache management.

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