Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Puzzle Cache for Kids

Creative Caches & Containers isn't just about the containers.  It's about how the caches are done too.  This next design is more about how the cache is done instead of how the container is built.  And the best's a great design for kids.

Puzzle caches can often be the bane of many geocachers.  Some are easy, many are hard.  The difficulty is usually dependant on the geocacher.  If you like puzzles and do them regularly enough, you'll learn some tricks and can often see things others may not.  Despite how puzzle caches are defined in one category, there are different types of puzzle caches of varying degrees.  The automatic lumping of all puzzle caches into an ignore list often results in overlooking puzzles that can be both easy and fun to do.  If you really want to hear my thoughts on this one, check out my post about puzzle caches called Ahhh...the Dreaded Mystery Cache, where you can find my own list of the different types of puzzles out there.  Today's idea is a great example of what can be overlooked by ignoring puzzles.

Before explaining the idea, let's look at the materials list:
  • 1- small or regular sized cache container
  • 1- cache container of any desired size (since this is a kid friendly cache, aim for this one to hold some swag)
  • 1- ziploc baggie, or a small tupperware container (must fit into the first cache container listed above)
  • 1- 50 piece puzzle, small (preferably one small enough that the finished puzzle is smaller than the side of an ammo can).
  • 1- log sheet or log book
  • Random swag (if desired)
  • 1 sharpie
Now, it's important to point out what I wrote in parenthesis and why.  Today's design is meant to involve two stages.  Because of this, it's important that the first container in the list is at least a small container.  It's actually better if you can use an ammo can, and you'll see why soon.  The second container is whatever you want.  But if you want to aim for this to be a kid friendly cache (read on), don't use micro's or nano's.  The ziploc baggie or small tupperware mentioned is for holding the pieces of the puzzle.  For the puzzle, go to a toy story or a toy department and look for small puzzles.  For the one I have, the box is about the size of a thick deck of cards and when put together, can easily fit on the large side of an ammo can.

Now for the design.  Before you can truly make this puzzle, you need to have found where you want to place the final cache and have collected the coordinates for that location.  If designing with kids in mind, try to pick a place that parents will feel comfortable taking kids.  The side of a cliff overhanging a creek or stream is probably not a good spot.

Once you have the coordinates, now you can begin making the cache.  First, open up and put the puzzle together.  If using an ammo can for the first stage, put it together on the side of the ammo can.  This will help you visualize how geocachers will do the cache out in the field.  Once you have it put together, carefully pick it up and flip it over.  I used a small cutting board to slide it off the surface I was working on and flip it over all in one piece.  Here is an example of where you should be at this point:

Now for the part where you turn this into a puzzle.  In large letters, use the sharpie to write a message on the back of the puzzle.  You can include what the geocacher is looking for, but make sure to include the final coordinates.  Make sure to spread out your writing.  You want as many pieces as possible to including writing.  You can do this by using a single letter for each puzzle piece, or by writing across multiple pieces so that the letters are only visible when they are joined together.  The more pieces with some form of writing on them the better.  I've prepared a picture of what this might look like (disclaimer: the coordinates listed are false coordinates and do not belong to an actual geocache):
Once the writing dries (which shouldn't be more than a minute or two if using a sharpie), then go ahead and take apart the puzzle.  Now, using a ziploc baggie or a small tupperware container (if your first stage is an ammo can), package up the collection of puzzle pieces.  At this point, I would recommend typing up a small sheet to put into the container with the puzzle, containing instructions for the cache.  For example:
Puzzle Instructions:
 Welcome to _________ cache.  To solve this puzzle, you will need to put together the following puzzle.  The puzzle is small enough that you can use the ammo can as your surface.  On the back of the puzzle are the coordinates to the final cache.  Please make sure to be careful with the pieces and that all pieces get back into the puzzle so that the next geocacher can have the same experience.  There are fifty pieces.  If any pieces are missing, please notify the cache owner.  Enjoy.
As you can see, this not only helps let the cacher know how to get the final coordinates, but it is also a reminder to carefully put all puzzle pieces back.  I'd recommend putting this in an easily visible spot, such as with the puzzle pieces.
At this point, your puzzle is ready to go.  Just put the puzzle pieces' container inside whatever you are using for stage one.  Get your final stage ready to go with the log book and whatever swag you want to use.  Go out and place your final and find a nice spot somewhere else in the area for stage two.  If designed for kids, try to not make cachers walk large distances, a half mile round trip is probably the maximum you want to make this...a quarter mile round trip is great for kids.  Try to avoid making the kids go through heavy bushwhacking.  If there's a trail nearby, even better.  This might not work great for an urban environment, but parks, especially if it's a larger park that has trails and a playground is great for parents taking their kids geocaching.  Get the coordinates for stage one and you are ready to go home and submit your cache.
Whether you want to explain how the cache works on the cache page or not is your own choice.  You might want to try and at least mention that this is a kid friendly cache.  If you want to put a reminder about being careful that all elements of stage one get back into the container, go ahead.  Don't forget, this is a puzzle cache.  Make sure you submit an additional waypoint for the final location for the reviewer, just make sure you select the option to keep it hidden from the public.  Many puzzle caches will often state that the starting coordinates are bogus.  You don't have to, but putting a note at the beginning of the description that informs cachers that the starting coordinates are NOT bogus might help those cachers who are a little bit more hesitant to go after puzzle caches.  You can even add that it is an on site, kid friendly puzzle cache.  Even experienced puzzle cache ignorers are likely to say "Hmmm...let's check this out".
There you go.  You've just made a puzzle cache for kids.  While many caches can be found by kids, going that extra step to make a cache specifically designed for kids will earn you a notch among those cachers that take their kids out with them. I should also point out that this design could also fit into the category of a multi-cache.  I'd probably consider it a puzzle because you have to put together a puzzle to get the coordinates, instead of just having a piece of paper inside the first stage with the coordintes written on it.
I am currently working on using this design myself, but if any of you decide to put one of these out, let me know how it goes.  Do you have another idea for a kid friendly cache?  Scroll down to the bottom of this blog to see how you can send me your idea.

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