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Letterboxing with Kids: A natural adventure

November 14, 2009

Letterboxing mixes treasure hunting, art, and navigation while exploring the great outdoors and out-of-the-way places.

letterboxHere's the basic idea: Someone hides a waterproof box somewhere outside; it should contain at least a notebook and a carved rubber stamp (it may also include a pen, stamp pad or other small treasures). The hider writes directions to the box (called "clues" or "the map") and gives them to the finder in person, by mail or online. Clues range from easy to challenging. The hike may be short or long, geared towards novices or advanced hikers of any age.

Find a list of letterboxes online here, organized by state or region, including how long and how difficult the hike is.

Letterboxing with children is a fun way to discover new places and to explore nature close to home. Being outdoors is always good for kids and having clues turns a hike into an adventure. Once you find the letterbox, make an imprint of the letterbox's stamp in your own notebook, and leave an impression of the stamp (or your own personal stamp) on the letterbox's "logbook" – as proof of having found the box and letting subsequent letterboxers see who's visited and when.

Our family has done a number of letterboxes. We thought it would be fun to create our own:

Harry Potter Letterbox: Hagrid's Hut
(Now posted on the letterboxing.org website, here.)

Location: Woods near Swan Point Cemetery on Blackstone Boulevard, East Side Providence, RI
Level of difficulty: Easy to moderate
Distance: Approximately .5 miles, roundtrip to/from starting point (trolley shelter).

Clues:

Start at "Hagrid's Hut" (actually an old historic trolley shelter) on Blackstone Boulevard across from Swan Point Cemetery. Street parking is available on Blacktsone.

Cross Blackstone Boulevard towards cemetery side. Cemetery will be on your right.

Find the large tree to left of the Blackstone street sign. Stand with your back to the sign and take 13 steps towards the stone wall.

Climb the stone wall.

Walk to the left along the stone wall until you come to path into the "Enchanted Forest." (Path is located across from Lippitt Park Playground.)

Walk into forest about 200 paces until the path is joined by another path from the left. Be kind to unicorns if you see any. Walk forward until the road splits in front of you.

Take the path leading to the right. On the right corner you will find a large tree. (Do not fear, it is not the Whomping Willow Tree.) There is a small cave at the base of the tree. You will find our letterbox under the rock and a piece of bark. Please sign and stamp the logbook. Please reseal box and replace in hiding spot under the rock and bark so it stays dry for future letterboxers.tree

Make your own letterbox with your children:

What you need:

1) Stamp and stamp pad. Optional: make your own stamp to place inside your letterbox and/or to bring along when you find and stamp other boxes.

2) Small notebook (the "logbook") that you leave in the letterbox for visitors to stamp and leave a message.

3) Waterproof container (such as Rubbermaid) with a lid. Place contents inside container and into plastic bag to ensure the letterbox stays dry outside no matter the weather for years to come.

Pick your place:

Decide where you want to hide your letterbox. Remember to be respectful of nature and and place your letterbox on public property. Find details regarding where you can place a letterbox here. Design the route and make up clues for how to get there. Doublecheck your directions with others to be sure they are clear and make sense before posting on the letterboxing.org website.

Read more about how to get started here.

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