Summer is here and a lot of people are embarking on vacations. Many of these vacations are to National Parks, which are ideal destinations when traveling with children. We’re here to help you level up your National Park Service vacation by sharing how to use the NPS Jr. Ranger Badge and Passport Programs.

With the National Park Service, there are several different passport programs to choose from for kids, teens and adults alike. You’ll want to take a few minutes and decide which program is best suited for your family. You can find full details on their website NPS eParks. After perusing the various options, you can choose the passport program that is going to work best for you and your family. Choose from the geographic region, collectors editions, explorer edition or even the Junior Ranger. The different passports offer a range of things for the children to do while you’re traveling.

There are rubber stamp options at all National Park manned visitor centers, along with several collectible stamps options. Some stamps are location specific while some are date specific or region specific. You can purchase an NPS passport book ahead of time or at the visitor center to apply your rubber stamps or adhere your collectible stamps to. The passport is sectioned off into regions, which helps organize your stamp collection. If you choose not to have an NPS passport book, there are typically slips of paper there, so you can still use the rubber stamps to record the date of your visit.

Children can also participate in the Jr. Ranger program which offers them an opportunity to complete age specific activities for the goal of being “sworn in” as a Jr. Ranger and receiving an NPS Jr. Ranger badge and, typically, other goodies like pencils, paper hats, etc. Most parks with manned visitor centers participate in the NPS Jr. Ranger Program, but you’ll want to check ahead of time to be sure the park you’re planning to visit participates. Once you’ve arrived at the park, plan to check in at the ranger desk to receive instructions for the program; instructions and activities vary from park to park. Also, allow plenty of time for kids to spend in the park to ensure that they have plenty of time to earn their badges and stamps. The activities often will entail them going on an adventure or a quest to find specific things or learn specific things about the park you’re visiting. Upon completion, they will be able to turn their information into the ranger’s desk and attend a swearing-in ceremony where they will raise their right hand and vow to take care of the Nation Parks just as if they worked there. After the swear in, they will receive their Jr. Ranger badge and usually a goodie bag to go along with it.

While the children are busy earning their badges and exploring, parents can enjoy some downtime as they either follow along or leave the children with qualified rangers or older siblings. There is much to explore in the National Parks and there is never a dull moment. Children will have even more fun if the passports are ordered earlier, before embarking on the trip and allowed to help plan out what they want to do.

As children receive their badges and stamps for accomplishing the various tasks or learning and attending various exploratory walks, they will have a sense of achievement and accomplishment. There’s a wide array of age specific children’s activities for them to enjoy and learn from at the various National Parks. Each park is slightly different so it’s important to plan ahead and find out what your destination park has to offer. After participating in the NPS passport and Jr. Ranger programs, children will be well versed in how to help preserve and protect our National Parks in an effort to leave a legacy for their own children and generations to come.

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