Letterboxing: A Great Activity to do with Grandchildren

Letterboxing is a great family activity -- especially for older kids.   GranmdaIdeas.com

What do you get when you mix the intrigue of treasure hunting, a splash of art, some exploration of scenic sites, and possibly a compass or GPS for navigation?  Letterboxing, that’s what!

Letterboxing started in Dartmoor, England, in 1854 when James Perrott placed a bottle in a very isolated area along the boggy banks of Cranmere Pool. He left his calling card tucked inside so future visitors could contact him when they discovered his bottle.  They could also leave their own calling cards.  (You can click here to read more about the fascinating history.)

Letterboxing is in its infancy here in the United States.  It started in 1998 after the Smithsonian Magazine ran an article about letterboxing.  Now, there are over 9,000 letterboxes in the United States — and lots more hidden around the world (especially in England).

Just exactly what is letterboxing, you ask.  Well, here is a Reader’s Digest condensed explanation. First, make a personalized rubber stamp.  Get a stamp pad, too, while you are at it.  Then, get a small sketch book with blank white pages.  Get directions (otherwise known as clues) off the Internet to a locally hidden letterbox.  Jump in your car and head off to find the letterbox.  When you find it, stamp your log book with the stamp from inside the letterbox.  Then, enter your personalized stamp in the log book that is in the letterbox.  Jump back in your car.  Head home — or off to find another letterbox.  Warning, warning:  letterboxing can become addictive!

Once you feel comfortable with letterboxing, take it to the next level.  Create your own letterbox, hide it, and provide clues for others to find it.  My son and daughter-in-law told me about a letterbox hidden in a bookstore in New York City.  I’ve also read where a librarian hid one in a library.  There are some ‘rules’ (like not ruining the environment and not placing letterboxes in national parks) both to finding and hiding the boxes.  To learn more, check out these sites:

Haven’t got a clue as to how to make a personalized stamp?  Look here for directions:

There is also a rule about not posting pictures of stamps unless you have permission of the stamp owner.  I have seen remarkable stamps:  of an Indian face, of the Crazy Horse monument in South Dakota,  and of a Kokopelli golfer.  You can see some pictures of letterboxing stamps on Flickr:

Here are suggestioned times to have a letterboxing activity:

  • With a teen aged grandchild (because it’s hard to find activities that they would be interested in . . .)
  • With the young’uns too (the younger the grandchild, the more simple the rubber stamp you make . . .)
  • After a summer picnic (or a breakfast at iHop . . .)
  • As a 4th of July holiday activity (or ANY holiday . . .)
  • On a Saturday when nothing special is happening
  • During a road trip with a grandchild
  • At a family reunion
  • As a birthday party activity
  • As an end of summer activity before school starts for your grandchild
  • Just because it is fun to do!

Have any of you, Dear Readers, done any letterboxing?  If so, please post a comment and share your experience here!