I set out to visit several National Parks with my son over Spring Break. I was unaware of their Junior Ranger programs. I seriously think this is one of the coolest things you can do with a kid (did I mention it’s free)?
I am an avid hiker and love the outdoors. I was hoping this is something that my son would like as well. Not sure how he would react to a week of hiking and outdoors I was a little apprehensive. As soon as we discovered the Junior Ranger Program at the National Parks, my worries were instantly put at ease.
Upon arriving at a National Park my first stop is always the Visitor Center. My son and I were repeatedly asked, “Do you want to do the Junior Ranger program?” I had no idea what it was. A Park Ranger explained that it was free program. By completing several activities, your child can earn a junior ranger badge at each park (very similar to boy scouts). Once my son completed his first set of activities and was sworn in as a junior ranger, he proudly wore his badge.
We bought him a junior ranger vest to display each badge as he earned them. Activities include things like picking up litter, hiking certain trails and getting pencil rubbings or trail markers, and watching an educational video and answering questions.
This is brilliant. Free entertainment that’s educational and keeps him focused. He has a purpose (which eliminates boredom) and I get to be in the great outdoors learning right along with my son.
My son is a very literal child and takes most things very seriously. This is one of the things that he got excited about. His sincerity and seriousness while taking his oath left one Park Ranger in tears. At another park, he got an ovation from everyone in the visitor center for receiving his badge. Many people stopped on the trail to congratulate him on his badges while hiking.
What a great way to get him involved, teach him about the outdoors (disguised as entertainment), boost self-esteem, and help him understand and respect the great outdoors. Did I mention it’s free?