It is not always easy to get kids excited about getting outdoors for a family outing or adventure. Our team pulled together these six activities and programs designed to do just that. We hope it sparks an interest for a lifetime of outdoor fun and connection with public land and water destinations.
Activities and programs to inspire and motivate outdoor exploration
Every Kid Outdoors
All fourth graders, or age equivalent, are eligible to receive an Every Kid Outdoors pass, which is valid at more than 2000 federally managed lands and water sites across the country between September 1 and August 31 each year. Here are a few tips to get started:
Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest (Mandy Ramsey, Share the Experience)
Explore. Learn. Protect. Chances are, your Junior Ranger can’t wait to recite this oath to protect parks, learn about parks, and share their own ranger story with friends and family. Many national parks offer kids the opportunity to join the National Park Service "family" as Junior Rangers, although people of all ages can participate! While your children explore the park, they will complete a series of activities during a park visit, share their answers with a park ranger, and receive an official Junior Ranger patch and Junior Ranger certificate.
If you’re visiting a national forest, be sure to check out the Junior Forest Ranger and Junior Snow Ranger programs! The Junior Snow Ranger program is a unique opportunity to step into the shoes of a real snow ranger and learn about winter safety, wildlife, ecology, recreation, and the joy of winter fun. The Bureau of Land Management also hosts Junior Ranger programs and activities across the country for kids to get to know their public lands.
Get ready, get set, go explore!
Nez Perce National Historic Trail (Kristine Komar, Bitter Root Cultural Heritage Trust)
Agents of Discovery is a mobile app that brings augmented reality gaming to the outdoors across the country, including national parks, forests, Bureau of Land Management lands, and many other outdoor spaces. The app allows people of all ages and abilities to learn about public land sites from home or on-site using their phone or tablet.
As a parent, if you can’t seem to get your kids excited about the outdoors, this is a great way to leverage their preference for technology in interactive and inspiring ways, at home or on their public lands. Get them started with the national at-home mission Smokey Bear 3.0, which has already taught thousands about wildfire prevention. Play Junior Ranger missions across your favorite BLM lands, learn about healthy forests on the Mark Twain National Forest, or take a virtual tour of Desert National Wildlife Refuge. With so many options to choose from, your kids are sure to find missions that pique their curiosity and get them excited about the outdoors.
When school is out for the summer, your kids are home and itching for new activities to keep them occupied. We’ve got you covered with our “Bring Home A Story – Outdoor Activity Summer Scorecard,” designed with parents in mind. Check out our list of recommended outdoor activities and locations and see how many your family can check off this summer. We challenge you to go for gold!
Kenai Fjords National Park (Heather Murphy, Share the Experience)
On your next road trip, bring the outdoor fun inside the car or outside the visitor center with these printable activities. A-B-C our public lands with a location search challenge on Recreation.gov, complete an outdoor activity word search, or color pictures of your favorite animals and locations (great for kids, and a good stress-reliever for adults). Links to download or print out these activities can be found below.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial (Anita Young, Share Your Story)
As you explore public lands with your children, the memories you make will last a lifetime. The stories you share about your family experiences in the outdoors are some of our favorites to read. We encourage parents to document these priceless family memories on public land and water destinations in the annual Share Your Story adventure writing contest. Over two thousand stories have been submitted so far, and we can’t wait to read yours.
Feel the sheer joy and excitement this Junior Ranger experienced at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the story “Junior Park Ranger Adventures”:
“Even though we had a marvelous time adventuring around Mt Rushmore, nothing compared to the moment Thomas was sworn in and became a junior ranger. We will always remember this moment. That one simple event made my son an explorer for life.”