A while ago I started writing about things I’ve started to learn from watching my kids grow and how they see things. I’ve started to realise how much I take for granted. Or rather I’ve started seeing things through their eyes and realised that, for them, the world can be simpler, yet harder, than I thought.
Gamification is something I’ve used in my work (badges, progress indicators, social interactions, etc.) and i’ve used as part of my (old) social media activities. Remember FourSquare? However, the best way I’ve used it myself is at home, with my two boys aged 7 and 8. Whilst I’m sure there are some excellent ways to gamify the home for rewards for tidying up, being kind and compassionate, coming off screen-time quietly, etc. this one way I’m going to describe here has worked wonders … exercise. And by exercise I mean walking.
We’re not exactly an active family, in that we don’t play sport, but we are active in that we walk rather than drive if we can, we get the bikes out and go for cycle around our village, and we go for (longish) walks. While the ‘let’s get the bikes out’ is normally a good thing, in their eyes, we nearly always get a grumpy retort when we say something like ‘let’s go for a walk’. Even if we promise to stop off and get a snack on the way back, it’s not a very popular event.
Then we tried geocaching. Everything changed. In a nutshell, for us, geocaching is a means to make a country walk interesting, give the boys something to aim for and a small amount of competition between them on who finds the cache first.
“Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a GPS receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches”, at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world.” Wikipedia
We look for caches that are part of a series and follow the cache around using my phone and Geocache app. Each cache site can be used using the GPS and map within the app, and each cache has a clue to help identify exactly where it is when you reach the GZ (ground zero). Sometimes the cache is magnetic and small (I mean really small, so it can take a while to find) and sometimes it’s a box or container where you can leave ‘swaps’ for others to take. All caches are well hidden so they’re not interfered with or removed, and some are hidden so well we end up flagging them as DNF / ‘did not find’.
What has changed is that the kids don’t complain when we say we’re going out. Whereas a short walk of a mile or so would’ve been met with complaints and grumpy shoe-shuffling a few months ago, now we’re doing 4 and 5 mile walks and going from cache to cache, finding the GZ and then seeing which of us finds the cache first. Some are easier than others, some are a nightmare to find, especially if they’re hidden in the undergrowth and it’s the sort that stings.
Link this to another app I use called Map My Walk we can see how far we’ve walked … very important as these walks are also being used for the boys and their Beavers/Cubs hike badge! See, it’s all part of the larger plan.
Gamifying our walks has worked, and the kids don’t even realise we’ve done it. We’re slowly covering the areas immediately around where we live, but we’ve also met family members further afield and done some cache’s with them. We also found a few when in Austria a couple of weeks back, and it was the kids who wanted to try. The motivation is now there, they love what we do as they want to beat their friends, who are also geocachers, or compete with family members on who can reach the next milestone number of cache’s found.