Virtual Junior Ranger Program

Many of our family's favorite vacations have been to national parks. We've hiked and toured parks from Maine (Acadia) to Florida (Everglades), from Wyoming (Tetons and Yellowstone) to Arizona (Grand Canyon). We've even visited several of Canada's national parks. One of the things I love about American parks is that they are so family-friendly. This became especially evident after spending time in British Columbia and Alberta parks, which though stunningly gorgeous, are not as well adapted for children. One of the things American parks do is provide numerous educational programs for children and adults, from ranger-led hikes to talks about the history of an area. My favorite way the NPS includes children is by offering Junior Ranger badge programs at all of the parks and many of the History Monuments.

But even the Smokies, our favorite "near" park, is a good 6-7 hours drive away, and we have no plans to travel to any parks within the foreseeable future. But we recently discovered that the National Park Service has an online ranger program for kids, WebRangers. By playing around 50 games developed on historical and nature themes, your children can earn a ranger badge, if parents allow. (When the child completes enough activities, the website asks for a parent's email address to which they send a message asking for a post office address to mail a very nice cloth badge.) I have not previewed all of the different games, so as with anything online,  young children ought to be supervised.

Our nine sitting atop the rim of the Grand Canyon a few years ago.
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