I love visiting national parks and national historic sites.
Could I have said that years ago or even when I was growing up?
But I have come to love visiting them and seeing the amazing landscape that our country has as well as learning the history of our country <–nerd alert 🙂
Within the last year alone, we’ve been to 10 sites spanning 5 states. I’ve gotten so hooked that I even got myself a national park passport book.
Not only have I gotten bitten by the travel bug, but my family has to. Last year we went to the Black Hills and saw Mount Rushmore and the Badlands. As a result of this trip, any time we talked about our next vacation all the kids wanted to do was go camping in the badlands.
While our kids had a really good time going to the national park sites before, this year they found something to excited them even more.
The Junior Ranger Program.
The Junior Ranger Program is a free program that kids can participate in at most national park sites. They receive a booklet which they need to fill out and when the are done, they receive a badge with the name of the park on it.
The booklets are filled with activities and information pertaining to the site you are visiting, which makes it a great way for your kids to get an interactive experience when they go to these sites.
It can be hard for them to pay attention, and typically there is a lot of information that information overload can make it hard for them to stay excited.
The Junior Ranger Program allows your kids to engage with what they are seeing and remember more about the sites than if they just walked around and got a tour.
How Many Junior Ranger Badges Are There?
There are over 200 junior ranger programs right now in the national park system. To view the full list, check out this list.
Not every park/site has a junior ranger program, so if that is a deciding factor for where you want to visit make sure to check out the national park website to make sure the park you are visiting has a junior ranger program.
How Do You Become A Junior Ranger?
There are several ways you can participate in the Junior Ranger Program.
The first being that you go to the site, get the booklet and complete it and get the badge. You can also take the book home with you if you don’t finish it, mail it in and you will receive the badge in the mail.
Another way is to start at home. Some sites allow you to download the booklet on your computer, print it and complete the work, then you can bring it with you to the site to get your badge.
This is a great option if you have several kids who will be participating or who will need help filling the booklets out.
Junior Ranger Programs By Mail
There are a couple different ways to complete the junior ranger programs by mail.
- Pick up the booklet at park and mail in for badge. This is a great option if you will be near a park and don’t have a couple hours to devote to finding all the answers at the park. Most parks allow you to take the booklets home, complete, and mail in to receive your junior ranger badge.
- Complete programs that can be done at home. Some of the junior rangers badges can be completed entirely at home. You can print out and complete the booklet and then mail it in to receive your badge.
Specialty Junior Ranger Programs:
Specialty Junior Ranger Programs are programs that junior rangers can complete that aren’t affiliated with one single park. Some can be printed, completed, and mailed in to receive their badge. Others must be completed at certain sites.
You can check out this list of the specialty programs here.
Tips for completing the Junior Ranger Program.
On our last trip, our kids took part in 2 different ranger programs. It would have been more had we known more about it sooner. Here are some tips to help your family get the most out of it.
#1 Pick up your books right away.
If you decide to do the junior ranger program, head to the visitor’s center and get your books right away. The books have a page inside that says how many pages need to be completed based on age to get the badges, so you want to give your kids enough time to be able to work through them.
You may need to visit different parts of the sites to be able to fill out certain sections as well, so if you have them from the start you won’t have to backtrack.
#2 Plan extra time.
Doing the junior ranger program will take longer than if you were just visiting the site, taking a tour and look at the displays. Especially if your kids will need help with reading and writing, expect your trip to take longer as you help them complete the books.
This will also depend on how big and interactive the site you are at is. This is also something to keep in mind when you have a lot of kids to help. 🙂
#3 Pick and Choose
If you will be visiting multiple sites in one day, you should decide ahead of time if the Junior Ranger program is something you want to do at each site or possibly pick the one that the kids are most excited about.
If you know you will have a time crunch, check the park website to see if you can’t print the booklet out beforehand. This would allow you to have some of the work done before you get to the parks, saving time and sanity!
Junior Ranger Badge Display
Now you may be wondering. If your kids start collecting all these badges, what are thy doing to do with them?
There are a couple different ways you can display your junior rangers badges.
Junior Ranger Vest
Junior rangers can get this vest or one like it to attach all of their badges.
Junior Ranger Hat
Children can also attach their badges to a junior ranger hat. Attaching them to something they wear allows them to immediately attach them when they get them so they don’t get lost before you get home.
Junior Ranger Banner
If you don’t want your children to wear their badges, this banner is another great option.
A banner would be a great way to display all of their badges, plus it’s a great way to keep track of the badges. It’s a lot of time and work to go through just to have them get lost or broken, so I highly encourage you to find some way to help your children display their badges while also keeping out of harm’s way.
Junior Ranger Program
The Junior Ranger Program is a great way to get your kids involved and interested as you visit national parks and historic sites.
Most kids learn best through activity and being able to complete the tasks associated with earning the badge will make it an enjoyable experience that they are likely to remember.
If you are going to be heading to a national park or historic site, make sure to check the national park website to see if they have a junior ranger program and also to see if you can print out the book to get started. They make great activities on a road trip!
Theresa is a homeschooling mom of 7. An entrepreneur at heart, I started working from home while balancing the responsibilities of homeschooling. My mission is to help other large families moms balance their responsibilities while also living a life they love.