Whether you are going camping or just looking for an activity for the day, these ideas for a treasure hunt will not only keep you and your kids active, they will teach you something about science and the natural world along the way. And none of these require any expert knowledge, although some trial and error may be part of the adventure.
If you just can’t leave the technology gadgets at home, even while camping with kids or just spending time outdoors, then geocaching may be just for you. With geocaching, you select caches from Geocaching.org, enter the coordinates into your GPS unit and head out to find the hidden cache. There are thousands of caches hidden around the world in both urban areas and the backcountry. Cache locations are usually places that remind someone of their childhood, set along trails, at locations only the locals know, or bring you to an out of the way historical spot. Many caches contain trinkets that you trade for, but the thrill of this adult and kids’ treasure hunt is in the hunt itself. If you can use your GPS, then you already know how to geocache. If you are in cell phone range, then you can also use the geocaching app for the Android or other smartphones.
Of all the ideas for a treasure hunt with kids, meteorite hunting will take more equipment, preparation, and knowledge of space rocks. However, you and the kids will certainly be talking about this trip for years to come. The basics information you need to know for how to find meteorites include using a metal detector, where a strewn field is (that’s where meteorites are scattered upon impact), and some basic knowledge about what meteorites look like. With this treasure hunt, kids will learn about a range of scientific disciplines from geology to astronomy and learn essential outdoor skills.
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Replace the GPS with written clues and you have letterboxing, an outdoor treasure hunt that started in England over 150 years ago. Pick out a set of clues at Letterboxing.org and involve the kids in deciphering and following the clues to the hide. When multiple hides are placed along a trail, this turns into treasure scavenger hunts as you seek out various landmarks and unusual features along the trail.
There are still a few places in states such as California and Washington where you can recreationally pan for gold. Usually these are found on federally owned land such as BLM land or Forestry Service land. You’ll need a location that’s known for having gold deposits and a gold panning pan. Scoop some sand, dirt, and rocks into the pan and gently swish the contents in water. Gold pieces will settle to the bottom of the pan and lighter debris will flow away in the water. For a successful panning for gold treasure hunt, you and the kids will have to learn about minerals (gold vs. iron pyrite the fool’s gold) and have a bit of luck.
Like geocaching, this idea for a treasure hunt does not require traveling great distances. Any place where people spent time can yield you interesting and sometimes valuable finds when using a metal detector. For a more adventurous kids treasure hunt, find old homesteads (with permission of course) to seek long forgotten buried treasure.
Use these ideas for treasure hunts as a way to get outdoors with your kids. While there’s no guarantee that you’ll find a big or valuable treasure, if you are open to the adventure and learning something new you will create long lasting memories for you and your kids.