Friday, November 30, 2012

National park activities abound for children

Ranger-led campfire at Wind Cave National Park.
Photo courtesy of Wind Cave NPS.
Visiting a national park with kids means a lot of driving around between vistas and a quick stop at the gift shop for a toy, right? Wrong. Now the park service offers a variety of great, interactive programs aimed at teaching kids about nature through fun and adventurous:
g Junior Ranger program – Most parks now offer some version of the program, in which kids by filling out a self-guided booklet and sometimes performing volunteer work can earn a Junior Ranger patch or pin among other goodies.
g Ranger-led campfires – During the evening, kids can sit about a campfire and learn about the park’s geology, wildlife, ecology, history and other topics.
g Star parties – Kids will never see a sky so brilliantly lit with stars as they will at many of the national parks that point telescopes upward during evening viewings.
g Touch programs – Some parks offer kids the opportunity to meet live animals or to touch cool found objects, such as turtle shells, feathers and rocks. They usually are held at the park’s nature center.
g Webrangers – Before you even leave for a national park, get kids excited about the trip with a stop at the Webrangers website. Kids can play more than 50 online games that allow them to explore various national parks.

Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.