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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

Childhood Obesity: A Mom’s Perspective

By Cathy Wilson, PCC, BCC

As a concerned mom, I am very aware of the challenges of childhood obesity with my own kids. I’ve struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember and it wasn’t until my adult life that I’ve been successfully able to keep off 147 pounds. My husband has had the same challenges as well. Studies have shown that kids whose parents are overweight or obese are at much higher risk for becoming obese themselves. A study in the Journal of Pediatrics found five risk factors for childhood obesity. The main risk factor was parental obesity. Thankfully, I read these statistics when my kids were babies. I was aware and determined to do everything I could to make sure to introduce healthy eating and activity into our family.

Many kids today spend hours in front of a screen. Their screen time often includes watching television, playing video games, interacting with social media, and cruising the Internet. During this sedentary time, kids are also seeing unhealthy food and drink advertisements. The combination of the sedentary behavior and the increased likelihood of unhealthy snacking during that time is a very concerning risk factor for obesity.

In a company, leaders are the examples and establish the standards for staff. The same dynamic exists for families. Parents are the role models, the example for their children, and set the standards. As parents, if we eat healthy and incorporate activity into our regular routine, our children see that and it becomes the norm for them too. Our parental influence has a huge impact for behavior and habits in our kids.

Activity with your family is a double bonus for quality family time and building healthy habits that will last your children a lifetime. Here’s a few ways you can do just that: Continue reading

Zamzee, My Family, and Making Exercise Fun

By Virna McKinney

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One day last April I walked my son William to his classroom on the second floor of his school. By the time we got to the top of the stairs, we were both out of breath. In that moment I really felt like a failure as a mom. Walking to his classroom on the second floor was a struggle that William had to face five days a week, at least three times a day. I knew I needed to do something to help both of us, and that’s why I started looking for a way to make exercising fun.

I found Zamzee by doing a Google search for a child’s activity monitor. Since I had just joined Weight Watchers a few days before, I decided to get one for myself and both my kids. William was eight and Taylor was five at the time. They were both really excited to get started. When their Zamzees were fully charged, they started doing jumping jacks. My kids and I set challenges and ran in the backyard, or took walks around the block. During the summer break we spent hours in the backyard kicking and chasing the soccer ball. We also bounced on the trampoline, hula hooped, and jumped rope.

Pretty soon, Taylor joined a cheer squad and William joined a basketball team. Because they had their sports practice on two different nights of the week, I decided to take advantage of this time by walking around the track for an hour. But the surprise occurred when each child opted not to watch their sibling practice, but instead walk the track with me. Taylor didn’t actually walk. She ran. FAST. So that made me run too, to keep up with her. On one of our walks I set a challenge for William, without knowing he wasn’t wearing his Zamzee. When we got home I told him to plug it in to see if he had met the challenge. He said, “I forgot to put it on it but that’s ok. It’s not about the points anyway. I needed to walk.” That was a proud mama moment for me.

Continue reading

My Kids Before and After Zamzee

By Andrew Kardon, from Mommy’s Busy… Go Ask Daddy

Zamzee_FamilyI have pretty well rounded kids. They spend equal time playing Mario, Sonic, Minecraft and Plants vs. Zombies.

Yep, before I discovered Zamzee, my kids were videogame-oholics. My wife and I would occasionally drag the kids outside to play, take a walk or go for a bike ride. And every time, it was as painful as taking them to the dentist. All that whining, kicking and screaming. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to encourage them to stop hating anything that involved physical activity.

And then I introduced them to Zamzee.

This thing was apparently created for kids just like mine. They already were big fans of websites like Club Penguin, where you get to customize characters, earn points and “buy” all sorts of virtual items for your character. So when I showed my boys what Zamzee can do, they didn’t miss a beat.

“Look, daddy. I can get a dog for my guy!” Ryan said enthusiastically.

The avatars, badges and points you earn (and can spend) got both my boys hooked immediately. I swear, the first time we said we’d try it out, I never saw my kids get their shoes on so fast. Continue reading

Getting Kids that Love Videogames to Love Exercise

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By Andrew Kardon from Mommy’s Busy… Go Ask Daddy

My kids love videogames. They will sit and stare at a screen for hours upon hours. Thanks to the Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360 Kinect, at least some of this game play is active. You should see the sweat I work up playing Boxing on the Wii! But I struggle to get my kids engaged in other types of physical activity, especially activity outside the house.

Recently I’ve started to incorporate video game themes into outside playtime. I’ve noticed that the more I do it, the longer my kids stay engaged in outdoor physical activity.

Take baseball for example. They love playing Mario Sluggers on the Wii. (Okay, fine. I love it too!) When I suggest we practice baseball on the driveway, Jason usually responds with, “I know how to play baseball. I play Mario Sluggers and I’m really good at it!”

Not exactly the same thing, Sport. But Jason will be a bit more amenable to playing outside if we can somehow relate it to Mario. Granted, it results in some rather… odd parts of the game.

Ryan likes to pitch a “special,” which means he pretends to throw a fireball at Jason. In reality, a “special” is a large kickball instead of a baseball. It’s not exactly America’s traditional pastime, but if it keeps them engaged and outside, I don’t care what type of balls they throw.

We use the Mario approach on neighborhood walks, too. Inevitably there is some point in the walk where Ryan’s legs will start to hurt. He’ll ask, “Are we done yet?” That’s when I pull out the video game card. Continue reading

Can Adults Use Zamzee?

Jeff and his kids taking a walk last weekend.

Jeff and his kids taking a walk last weekend.

Hi Team Zamzee,

I just wanted to take a moment to tell you how much Zamzee has helped me change my life. A few minutes ago I ordered the Xbox reward after the last few months of busting my butt to earn the Zamz for it. It was a great motivator for me, and Zamzee will continue to be a great source of motivation for me and my family.

As of this morning, I’ve lost 39.8 pounds since getting my meter. I still have a long way to go to be “fit,” but I’m well on my way…and it’s largely thanks to you and that little blue meter. I spend the better part of 2-3 hours per day walking now. Time that I used to spend in front of the TV or computer is now spent doing challenges. I have more energy, my fat clothes don’t fit any more, and my wife is finding me more handsome every day! 🙂 Continue reading