In this post, you’ll learn why we don’t participate in the Junior Ranger program in National Parks and what we do instead.
The Junior Ranger program is a terrific program the National Parks system has for it’s younger visitors typically ages 5-13. Children can receive a notebook full of information about the park with questions that they answer while visiting. It’s a great learning tool for roadschooling or homeschooling etc. After your kiddos complete the book, they turn it into the park ranger and receive their Junior Ranger badge and certificate. It’s full-on pomp and circumstance, and it’s quite cute and a big deal for the little ones.
Our experience with the Junior Ranger program
A few years ago, while visiting Yellowstone and Grand Teton, I pushed my kids to participate for the first time. Their interest level was very low, so I let it go- we weren’t traveling fulltime back then. But when we went fulltime, it seemed everyone did the Junior Ranger program complete with the Junior Ranger vest (kids wear their badges on these vests.)
My kids still prefer not to participate. Other fulltime moms told me how important it would be, and so I pushed the whole thing. The problem is, I didn’t want to participate either. While the program is excellent, I find it a distraction from just enjoying the park. Especially since I felt I was having to answer all the questions since my kids weren’t paying any attention!
What we do instead
My kids are also a little older at 9 and 13. Kyle especially found the program annoying. So after a few months, I decided to bag the whole thing. Now we look around the visitor center, read most of the informational signs, and enjoy the park without feeling distracted. Sometimes though, we will pick up the Junior Ranger booklet and browse through it for information.
So my point is this if you find yourself at a National Park and feeling like you need to participate in the Junior Ranger program but don’t want to, don’t. It’s okay. National Parks are an enormous treasure, and there are many wonderful exhibits in the visitor’s center to look at as well as outside in the park itself. Just enjoy- your kids will learn regardless if they participate in the Junior Ranger program.
COVID-19 and National Parks
Many National Park visitor centers are currently closed due to COVID-19. If you want to participate in the Junior Ranger program, many parks are leaving the booklets outside the door as well as offering online programs. Even with the visitor’s centers closed, you can still see and do a lot in the parks!
Tell me what you like to do when visiting National Parks!