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Why Geocaching Should Be Your Family’s Next Hobby

By: Emily Schnipper, Zamzee Operations + Customer Support 

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From the @Geocaching official Instagram

At Zamzee, when we’ve talked about ways to get kids more engaged in playing outside, Geocacaching tends to pops into my mind. While caching appeals to people of all ages (or at least those who like to collect things and solve puzzles), parents with kids are always a mainstay of the game. My own mom introduced me to the hobby, which uses GPS to find hidden containers all around the world. As a never-ending game, rather than a sport, Geocaching is as compelling as a video game, and is a great way for families to have fun together, create memories, and appreciate each other’s unique talents.

Although Geocaching can be as simple or complex as you want it to be, it does require a few tools. What you’ll need is a GPS device or a GPS-enabled cell phone, a Geocaching app (if you’re using a phone instead of a GPS), and the instructions on Geocaching.com. The advent of phones with GPS has increased the popularity and reach of the game, and makes it more compelling to kids who are hard to drag away from their phones. While the most popular app for iPhone seems to be the “official” Geocaching app, Android users like the free C-Geo. You also may want a few small toys or other trinkets to place in larger cache containers.

To help you get started, I’ve enlisted some committed caching parents to share advice and experiences. Emilie, a mom of two boys, started caching in 2011 when her sons were 11 and 13. She told me that her whole family enjoyed caching, but in different ways. Emilie says, “We all have different relationships with [caching], which is why it’s part of our family dynamic. I am the most compulsive about it. My older son enjoys the adventure and the search the most. My younger son likes to hide caches. My husband tolerates it but enjoys the camaraderie.” I agree with Emilie that the “something for everyone” aspect is one of the coolest parts of this game.

Caching is the “go-to activity” wherever Doug goes with his son and daughter, aged 13 and 10. “It’s always a struggle to get them outside as they’d prefer to hole up in their room on a screen,” he told me. At the same time, it didn’t take much convincing to get his kids to try caching. They liked the idea of finding caches, as well as the small trinkets that are sometimes hidden inside.

More than one parent advised that even though caching can become addictive, it’s important to leave everyone wanting more. Ken, who caches with his five and eight-year-old sons, says “Don’t overdo the amount of time spent caching, no matter how obsessed you might be with it personally, because family members may become burned out and not want to continue.  It’s also important to keep caching fresh and fun. I try to do this by going on lots of road trips and exploring places that we would not otherwise have visited had we not been lured there by a cache.”

I asked Ken if caching has had any effect on his sons’ physical, mental, or emotional health. He answered,“It definitely has made them into powerful hiking machines. I think hiking as a form of exercise has positive benefits for all three aspects of their health.  In addition, our participation in numerous CITO (Cache In Trash Out) events have instilled in both boys a healthy respect for Mother Nature, earth, and beyond.”

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The innards of a medium-sized cache found on a hiking trail.

While many Geocaches can be found on hiking trails, they are also in cities, suburbs, and small towns. If possible, start by checking out any caches within walking distance of your home, then try expanding your search. Since I started caching two years ago, I’ve racked up tens of thousands of Zamzee Pointz, passed quite a few Challengez, and found lost villages, hidden gardens, and some very interesting facts about blimps. Geocaching often takes me on long walks, where my attempt to find all the caches in an area leaves me barely noticing the distance. If you incorporate walking from one cache to another, you’ll gain all the benefits of physical activity (and the satisfaction of solving a challenge), without ever having to enter a gym that smells like feet.

You’ll notice that like a semi-secret club, Geocaching does have a culture, a language, and an etiquette all its own. As you get into the field, explore the website, and meet other cachers, you’ll catch on quickly. Pretty soon your family will be FTFing, TFTCing, and avoiding Muggles like pros. Are you a seasoned cacher, or are you trying it out for the first time? Let us know in a comment, or by sharing your experience on our Facebook page. I’m wishing you many safe and happy finds!

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Before Picking a Youth Sports Team, Consider These 3 Things

By Brandon Capaletti

With summer now here, many parents’ thoughts are changing from school and spelling tests toward soccer games and T-ball practice. If you are looking to enroll your child in a sport, here are some important considerations to help you choose the right sport, team and coach. youthfootball

Choosing the Right Sport

The first step in choosing a sports team is choosing the sport itself. Some considerations to make include:

  • Your child’s interest, temperament and physical abilities
  • Your schedule
  • The cost of equipment and participation

As you look at these basic factors, strive to find a sport that balances your child’s abilities, goals and needs, as well as the needs of your family. Often, parents will choose a sport based on their child’s interests and physical capabilities, and this is a great way to introduce a child to athletic events. Just make sure to consider other factors, like cost. Some sports, such as football, come with a significant cost because of the gear required. Volleyball, track and field, and swimming or diving are some of the cheapest sports, with football, baseball and hockey topping out the list of expensive sports. Parents pay an average of $671 per year on the fees, equipment and other costs of youth sports.

Another consideration to make is whether your child is best suited for a team sport or an individual sport. Team sports teach children the value of teamwork and encourage them to work with others to reach a particular goal. Individual sports, like gymnastics or swimming, may be better for children who are driven to push themselves or who have a hard time with the winning and losing aspect of sports. With individual sports, however, the social benefit of playing sports is diminished, as is some of the learning to work as a team.

Choosing the Right Team Continue reading

How Play Changes from Toddlers to Teenagers

By David Reeves

toddler_playOne of the most interesting aspects of raising or caring for children is the opportunity to watch the way they change and develop, and much of this is seen in the way they play. Young toddlers spend time learning fine and gross motor skills while playing in tandem, but not necessarily with, their peers. This gradually progresses until pre-teens and teens are more interested in the social aspects of their play, having mastered the motor skills long before. When considering playground equipment, an understanding of these changes is crucial.

The Evolution of Play

How does play evolve? It seems to develop alongside the child’s physical and emotional growth. Children begin truly playing, rather than just exploring playthings, in their toddler years. From around the time they start walking until they hit the preschool, children are spending most of their time perfecting their gross motor skills. Walking, climbing, dancing and jumping are all favorite activities. Throwing and kicking balls are also popular playtime. Children this age may play with other children to the point of dancing at the same time or mimicking movements, but you will observe little in the way of cooperative play.

kid_playThat begins to change around age three. During the preschool years, children begin to “pretend play” in earnest. They enjoy playing with other children and engaging in pretend activities together. While the motor skills are fairly well developed at this point, children can still be a bit unsteady on their feet, so they prefer smaller items to climb on.

Once children hit the elementary school ages, from six to nine years old, they become increasingly social, yet are still fine-tuning those gross and fine motor skills. During these years, risk-taking behavior is common. Children want to jump higher, run faster and climb higher than they have in the past. Their play is largely group-oriented, even if the group is somewhat small.

Once children hit the pre-teen years, from nine to 12 years old, they start to develop some independence in their play, yet still enjoy playing with other children. These are the years when children may begin to outgrow some childhood pastimes, like dressing up or playing pretend fantasy games, in favor of more strategic play activities and games, like organized sports or more difficult board games. Once they hit teenage years, play is almost entirely social, although some kids still enjoy physical challenge. Organized sports are quite popular with teens. Continue reading

Every BODY, Let’s Move in Dayton

In September Zamzee was contacted by the National Park Service in Dayton, Ohio about a “Let’s Move” event the community was planning. The park service asked if we could donate a few Zamzee meters to inspire participation, and we were happy to help! Leisa Ling, a park guide at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park coordinated the event, and she gave us a recap of how it went.

September 28, 2013 was a beautiful day. Not only was it the 20th anniversary of National Public Lands Day, it was also the day of our event dubbed “Every BODY, Let’s Move!”, a family-friendly event to promote First Lady Michele Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign.

Held at Huffman Prairie Interpretive Center which is one of the units of Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park in Dayton, OH, the site offers the perfect spot for an outdoor event with its scenic position at the top of a hill under big, old shady trees. The goal was to create an event to draw people of differing interests and ages and fitness levels to come together at the park and do something active.

With five rangers and seven volunteers we offered many different activities, including…

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….a dog walk, a 3 hour hike… Continue reading

Walking to School with Safe Routes and Zamzee

Safe Routes to School education event - August 24th, 2013 - Adam Brant (28)

“Back in my day, we had to walk ten miles back and forth to school. In the snow! Uphill both ways!”

It’s probably been a long time since you fell for that classic joke. But even though your grandfather probably didn’t walk uphill both ways to school, there is a good chance he did walk to school. Unfortunately, many kids these days don’t have a chance to say the same.

Back in 1969, 48 percent of K-8th grade students walked or bicycled to school. By 2009, only 13 percent of K-8th grade students were walking or biking to school. This uptick in students driving to school has had a big impact on communities. For example, did you know that 10-14 percent of all vehicular traffic between 7 and 9 A.M. is school-related?[1] Moreover, many communities lack the urban infrastructure that would make walking or biking to school safe for children. For all these reasons and more, Congress passed federal legislation in 2005 establishing the National Safe Routes to School program. The new program would fund projects to improve the safety of children walking and biking to school, and encourage families to travel between home and school using these modes. Continue reading

Zamzee Builds a KaBOOM! Playground

On Thursday, we joined forces with KaBOOM! for our first playground build.

On Thursday, we joined forces with KaBOOM! for our first playground build.

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We were pretty excited, and the school was, too!

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And there was a lot of work to do…

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It’s a good thing we had coffee!

Continue reading

The Importance of the Playground: recent research

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By David Reeves

Some of the most important learning in childhood takes place outside the classroom, on the playground. Recent research shows that children develop important cognitive and social skills while playing, to say the least of improving their physical health. Here are just a few interesting examples of skills developing in the background while children are having fun playing.

Longer Attention Spans: In 2009, the journal Pediatrics found that students who were given more than 15 minutes of recess time on a daily basis were better behaved than those who had no recess period. When children in school take a break from learning lessons and are given the chance to play with one another, they are better able to focus on the subjects they are studying. Rather than looking at “play” as something that will take away from “study,” research shows that the two are actually mutually beneficial.

IQ Growth: Playing helps children grow their brains. In a study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who were exposed to enriched, play-oriented childhood programs and social interaction had higher IQs at the age of five, as opposed to children who were not given the same play-oriented opportunities. Play is so important to child development that it is even recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a fundamental right of every child. Continue reading