junior ranger

“What do you smell?” I read the first question to my five-year old daughter.

She took a deep breath and paused. “I smell fresh air.”

“What do you see?”

“All that water,” she responded.

We were at the southern tip of Point Loma, Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego, and she was completing activities in her Junior Ranger workbook. This one, obviously, was about engaging the senses–a wonderful thing for any of us to do when surrounded by nature and stunning vistas.

The Junior Ranger program is one of my kids’ favorite things when traveling to national parks and monuments close to home or around the country. Walking toward the visitor center, I just mentioned the words “junior ranger,” and they ran towards the front desk. Each was handed their own newspaper chocked full of activities, and off they went.

Their activities became our guide as we walked throughout the park. We searched for different native animals (and circled them accordingly). We visited the child’s bedroom in the old light house (and imagined what it felt like to live there). We watched people dress up in play armor (and pretended we were in the presence of the sixteenth century explorer Cabrillo).

The Junior Ranger program makes national park visits more interactive and fun for kids. My favorite part of the day was when they anxiously turned in their completed activities. After taking a pledge to protect the environment and it’s inhabitants, they proudly became a Cabrillo National Monument Junior Ranger and prominently placed the badge where all could see.

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