Trips to National Parks and have been some of our favorite vacations as a family with young kids. While I’d love for the hiking, dark sky exploration and wildlife spotting to be enough for my kids to delight in, they need activities to truly appreciate these amazing areas of our country.
Enter the Junior Ranger program. Kids can pick up a Junior Ranger booklet to complete as they explore the park. Most sites have a book for younger kids and one for older kids with more challenge and information. The activities vary from scavenger hunts, finding answers to questions on exhibit signs and creative thinking activities.
How to Begin the Junior Ranger Program
Your first stop after entering the park should be the visitors center where Junior Ranger booklets are available at the information desk. The ranger will likely explain how many pages need to be completed to be awarded the park badge or patch. Sometimes kids are required to attend a live program, which often are just 15-minute talks at major points of interest within the park.
Explore the Site
We have completed Junior Ranger programs at Lewis and Clark’s first flight site, the Grand Canyon, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Abraham Lincoln’s home and so many more. One of my favorite assignments was when our kids had to interview a ranger at Carlsbad Caverns about their path to becoming a ranger. The activity is not limited to the major parks but double check online before you go to make sure your chosen national site participates.
Take the Junior Ranger Oath
Once kids have completed the required pages, go back to the ranger station. They will check the kids’ work, sometimes asking questions. I have always appreciated the time and attention the rangers give the kids, which only gives them more pride in receiving their badge. If their work is approved, the ranger will ask them to raise their right hand and repeat a national park oath — vowing to be a good citizen and protect the future of the parks.
Display Your Badges
We display our badges on a ribbon, and hang in their rooms. It is fun to watch these badges pile up and remember all the amazing things they have seen.
Find Your Park today and enlist the newest Junior Rangers!