Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Letterboxing with Kids

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I have been looking for more outdoor activities to do with Noodlebug.  I recently finished reading LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS by Richard Louv and it convinced me that we need to get out in nature more.  I had heard things about geocaching before and started researching that as an activity possibility.  In my research about geocaching, I came across letterboxing.  Letterboxing felt like a better place to begin.

Letterboxing is sort of an outdoor treasure hunt. You follow clues to discover little hidden boxes. The boxes usually contain a small logbook and a hand-carved stamp.  Letterboxes can be found just about anywhere.  When we are heading out of our area for a day, we look up local letterboxes that we can search for while we are gone.  My favorite sites for letterboxing are AtlasQuest and Letterboxing.  I think AtlasQuest seems to have the best database of boxes.

What is a Letterbox?
A letterbox is usually a small plastic container such as tupperware or a disposable style food container. It can also be a sturdy plastic pouch.   The letterbox will hold a small logbook and a stamp.  If you are lucky, there may also be a small stamp pad.

What do I do when I find a letterbox?
Take out the logbook and stamp.  Stamp YOUR personal stamp in the letterbox logbook. We usually add a note such as our trail name (you can register an anonymous trail name on AtlasQuest), where we are from, and the date.  Then, take the stamp from the letterbox and stamp it in YOUR notebook.  In our personal logbook, we usually put the date we found the box, where we found it, and the name of the letterbox.  Once you are done, carefully put everything back where you found it.  It is nice to come back and log on to one of the websites after you are done and to record your find. This lets everyone know if the box is still active.  Sometimes, these boxes can be mistaken for trash.  If a box hasn't been found in over a year, chances are good that it is gone.

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Putting Together Your Letterboxing Kit

At the bare minimum, you will need a notebook, a stamp, a stamp pad, and a pen or pencil.  Noodlebug and I used a composition book for our logbook.  We decorated the front and then I sealed it with Mod Podge.  It is best if your personal stamp is hand-carved but you can use a store-bought stamp in the interim.  We started letterboxing back in February and have since added to our kit.  We now also include a pair of work gloves, a long sturdy stick, and a compass. 

Some letterboxes are in urban environments and are easy to get to. Some can be off the beaten path.  There have been a few that require some bushwhacking and digging through foliage.  We usually wear long pants and sturdy shoes when looking for letterboxes. Especially when we know we will be looking in regional parks or other wild spaces.  It's a good opportunity to teach Noodlebug about watching for animals like snakes, plants like poison ivy and various other trail hazards.

My husband was skeptical about letterboxing at first but now he is a big fan. I keep the kit in my car along with a set of printed clues so that we are always ready to go at a moment's notice.  We have just about found all of the letterboxes in our town and we are now branching out into other areas of the county.  We may even plant our own letterbox by the end of the year! Geocaching is similar but it more driven by trinkets.  I prefer the novelty and fun of handcarved stamps.  I think this is a great activity for families.  It's a good excuse to get out and explore!


Studio Susie said...

Great job summing it all up!

Jen Birmingham said...

I never knew about this! Thanks for sharing, Amy.