A junior ranger searches a stream bed for critters.
flickr, National Park Service
Adults aren't the only ones with a need to escape from daily stress - kids have a burning desire to stretch their legs in wild places too.
By taking kids to wild places we offer them everything they are seeking in this world - fun, surprise, adventure and challenge. They are bound to experience what all wilderness lovers appreciate: the opportunity to deeply delight in the natural world around them.
For those looking to venture beyond their backyard, America's national parks, forests and monuments are sure to inspire all ages. Here are some ideas on how your kids can make the most of exploring these wild places:
Find a new place to explore! You can check out recreation.gov for information on places to recreate near you. Or try out the Oh, Ranger! Parkfinder app for reviews of these places and activities. Don't forget May 18th is National Kids to Parks Day so that could be a perfect day to get your kid outdoors.
Recruit a ranger-in-training. You may have already heard about the National Parks Service's junior ranger program, but did you know they also have scout ranger programs as well as a youth conservation corps for teenagers? These opportunities allow kids to get outside - and to learn the importance of caring for these special places.
Don't forget the forests. America's national forests are ideal stomping grounds for those who yearn to escape urban life. The forest service also has a junior forest ranger program that teaches kids about forest health.
Seek out wildlife. The Fish and Wildlife Service's "Let's Go Outside" program highlights volunteer opportunities and events at wildlife refuges. These unique places aren't seen by kids enough, especially given that they offer such rich wildlife viewing opportunities.
Go West. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) cares for many spectacular lands in what has fittingly been called the "wild" West. If you live in a Western state or plan to travel there, be sure to look into the BLM's junior explorer program. Their "Take It Outside" program also provides educational adventures.
Join other families. If your family loves to be outdoors, consider joining a nature club for families. You will meet others who share your interests and who may have more ideas on other family-friendly places and activities in your area.
- When in doubt, just get out! Even if you can't get to a place designated as public land, you can still lend a hand. National Park Service rangers and biologists have created a "citizen science" app called What's Invasive. Kids can identify and map weeds and pests in their area, providing information that can aid scientists in locating, studying and trying to remove the species.
Watch the video "Boys in the Wild" below for further information and motivation on why exploring wild lands is so crucial for those coming of age: