A fun thing for kids to do when exploring the Rocky Mountains is to become a Junior Ranger at one of the National Parks in the area.
If you are planning to visit any of the National Parks in the Rocky Mountains with your kids then you should think about stopping into the Visitor Center and talking to a ranger about the Junior Ranger program.
There are so many fun ways to explore and experience the Rocky Mountains, from hiking, camping, fishing, stargazing, biking, and even just relaxing and picnicking. You can’t really go wrong as the number one thing is to just get out and experience the natural world of the Rocky Mountains in some way. Junior Rangers is a way that kids can learn more about the natural world while they are exploring.
What is the Junior Ranger Program?
Many of the National Parks have a great program for kids, called Junior Rangers. This program is a little bit different at each National Park, but overall it is similar. By completing different activities and learning about the National Park the kids can earn a Junior Ranger badge, which can be a patch or pin to clip on.
Kids can check in at the visitor center and talk to a Ranger who will give them a Junior Ranger booklet. The booklet is full of fun activities for the kids to work on while they are visiting the National Park. The activities teach them about different aspects of the park, such as the wildlife, plants, stars, or how people are impacting the park.
Some of the activities that they may get to work on include word searches, a bingo game where they mark off animals or plants that they see while visiting the park, or listening to a Ranger program and writing down what they learned from it and then having the Ranger sign off on their booklet.
The Junior Ranger booklets and program are designed with different aged children in mind – as the older children have to complete all of the activities and use more detail then the younger children. These booklets and activities are really put together well and will help your children learn more about the National Parks you are visiting.
How Do You Become a Junior Ranger?
After your children have completed all of the activities in their books then it is time to return to the visitor center. At the visitor center they need to return their activity books to one of the rangers, who will review it with them. The rangers may ask the kids questions abbot the different stuff they saw while visiting the park and others may just double check their work.
If the ranger is satisfied that the kids have done all the work and learned about the park then they will sign off on the book and get the badge. I have seen some of the rangers just tell the kids good job and hand them their badge, but I have seen others make it more serious and ‘swear in’ the kids while they give them their Junior Ranger badges. The end result is that the kids will have earned themselves a badge from that National Park.
Our Kids Love it!
Our kids love to do the Junior Ranger booklets because they learn a little bit more about the area and the natural world then if we were to just visit ourselves without any guidance about what we were seeing. Also, the kids love to collect their Junior Ranger badge at the end if they are able to successfully complete all of their activities.
They now have themselves a nice collection of badges from the different National Parks we have visited. Every now and then they come across their badges at home and I can see them looking through the different ones. I hope that while they are doing this they remember those amazing places.
Keep in Mind
Just make sure that you are taking your time and enjoying the National Park and not just rushing as fast as you can to complete the Junior Ranger booklets in a short visit to the Park. The Junior Ranger program should be thought of as a supplement to enjoying and learning more about the natural world and not just as another badge to add to the collection.