Our past week…. AWESOME!
We made a major road trip – 10 days – 7 states – 5 Junior Ranger programs – 3 days at Colonial Williamsburg – 2 friends we haven’t seen (one in 14 years, one in a few months)… It was fabulous. By the end of the week I was pretty ranger-ed out, as was DH, and Little. Big LOVES Junior Ranger programs and could have done 10 more.
If you haven’t done a Junior Ranger program- I highly recommend them. Most National Parks have them, though the vary in their difficulty and time commitment. Basically, you check in with the rangers when you get to a park and pick up a workbook or worksheet. Most are free, though some parks charge $1.
When you get the program, you’ll see that there are a number of age appropriate activities for the kids to complete. Some are crosswords, some word searches, etc. They usually require the kids to watch the intro movie (available at 99% of parks) or attend a ranger program to learn the material for the puzzles, and read a bunch of the wall displays. If there are trails or hikes, the kids usually have to complete one or two of those. Some parks take an hour or so, some much longer (Vicksburg nearly killed me! LOL!!). Make sure your kids read the directions, or you may end up doing a lot more work than you are required to do. (Though sometimes that’s a good thing!) Some programs are available to download online, so it’s a great way to prep for a trip or to save time if you’re in a rush.
When the kids finish up the workbook they report to a Ranger to be “sworn in” as a Junior Ranger (“I will pick up my trash” kind of thing), and get a badge. Some parks give out patches, though most have a plastic gold ranger badge. Some parks have a pretty elaborate system of badges and patches. For example, if you get 3 civil war park badges, you earn a civil war patch, too. Pretty sweet.
I highly recommend integrating the Junior Ranger program into any travel you do with kids. It’s a great way to get out of the car, stretch your legs, and learn some fun history. We have an annual National Park pass, so our fees are covered, but even if you have to pay to get into a park – it’s usually still a frugal and fun side trip! I would guess we’ve completed about 40 Junior Ranger programs, and I am sure we’ll do more as soon as Big can drag us out to another park!
How about you? Are you a Junior Ranger family?