If your family has visited a National Park, State Park or even some County and City Parks, you may have heard about Junior Ranger Programs. These are a great way for kids to connect more to the park they are visiting. Many National Parks offer a Junior Ranger Program for kids 4 – 12 years old, when you arrive at the Park, take time to stop at the Visitor Center and inquire if they have a program (or check ahead by visiting the National Parks website: https://www.nps.gov/kids/jrRangers.cfm). If they have a Junior Ranger program, they will provide a workbook for your child that is specific to that park, and there will be age appropriate activities. You will want to have this at the beginning of your visit to have time to complete the activities. Usually part of the program requires that you attend at least one Ranger led program. If they complete the workbook, at the end they are sworn in as a Junior Ranger, and receive a pin. The workbooks involve some detailed questions and answers and the challenge level is dependent on the child’s age. It helps to review the workbook before heading out on the trail that way you know what to look for and your child can be successful in completing the book.
Our family recently visited The Grand Canyon North Rim and Zion National Parks. Both had Junior Ranger Programs and my daughter enjoyed doing the workbook, being sworn in and receiving the pins. It was not super easy, and required some effort on her part, but I think the visit to the park was more meaningful to her because the workbook coordinates with the unique points of interest and characteristics of each park. It was free to participate and the park provided the workbook and the pin. Her aunt bought her a vest as a souvenir that she could use to put her pins on. We came across a lot of kids proudly wearing pins from multiple National Parks! My daughter is looking forward to visiting more National Parks and collecting pins. I already did some research, and there is an opportunity here is Los Angeles to earn a pin at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
In addition to the National Parks program, California State Parks also are offering Junior Ranger Programs, and you can visit http://kids.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=22783 for more details.
Finally, if you have a child in fourth grade, be sure and check out the Every Kid In A Park program! Our daughter applied online for her Every Kid In A Park Pass earlier in the school year, and when we entered Grand Canyon National Park, we presented the paperwork we had downloaded ahead of time, and she was given her permanent pass which she had to sign and which could be used through August 2016. It was fun, because every time we used it, the Ranger at the gate would ask where our fourth grader was and would talk directly to her!! She felt very important (and it saved us the $30 car entrance fee for each park!) To find out more about this program and to have your fourth grader apply visit: https://www.everykidinapark.gov/.