A trip to a national park makes a great vacation for families. I have wonderful memories of my family trips to Yellowstone and Mount Rainier National Park as a kid. And now D and I started our own quest to explore more of the natural beauty in the United States with our own children. Here are a few tips to help families get the most of their trips to the United States most beautiful landmarks.
Give the kids plenty of playtime
The great thing about a trip to a national park is that the pace is very much up to the traveler (or travelers, as the case may be). Kids need lots of time for free play and activity. What better place is there for free play than in nature? Instead of just going from one site to the next, your kids will love having time to play and run around in the great outdoors. Give them opportunities to use their imagination. Let them explore the woods. Or run around looking for dandelions. Or pretend they are on a mission to find the lost treasure. Let them go to whatever place their minds take them. To make your free time even more fun, play along with them.
Mix historical experiences with recreational activities
Our kids are three and one. Although D and I love learning about the history behind the places we travel, our kids’ attention spans can only handle so much. While at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, we kept the historical experiences to a minimum, only visiting one visitor’s center for about 20 minutes. The rest of our trip was spent outside, hiking, exploring and playing.
Let the kids lead
D and I have been blessed with a daughter with very strong opinions. We joke that she is 3 going on 16. Although at times her strong will creates tension between she and I, I love that she’s old enough to express her preferences. Ladybug thrives when we give her opportunities to make some decisions. It was so fun giving her a few activity choices and then letting her decide what we did. We didn’t do this all the time, but when we did, she had more fun because she felt included.
Purchase a national parks passport
During our stop in the visitor’s center, we picked up a national parks passport and a kids’ passport companion. Like a real passport, this little blue book offers pages to mark where you have been with an official park stamp. The book separates each park into regions so it is easy to find where to put each stamp.
The kid’s companion lists every national park, historic site, monument, etc in the country so kids can check them off as they visit. It also gives useful facts and information to help kids understand and learn about the importance of these landmarks. The passport and passport companion is a great way for kids to get involved and to teach them about the beautiful world in which we live.
National parks are great places to take the kids. With these four tips, your kids are sure to love their time exploring all the breathtaking places the United States has to offer.
Do you have any tips for taking kids to national parks? Let’s hear them!
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