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5 Tips For Visiting National Parks With Kids

Generally speaking, RVers spend a lot of time doing two things: traveling and hanging out outdoors. As you might imagine, this means spending a lot of time in parks across the country, and some of the best parks to visit are our country’s incredible National Parks.

Whether you travel in your RV full-time or just head out when you can, visiting as many National Parks as possible should be a part of your adventure plans.

That said, we know that spending extended amounts of quality time in nature can be difficult if you have kids in tow. The younger your kids are, the truer this is.

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National parks with kids
All photos by Wonder Wherever We Wander

If you’re like me and you worry about your kids getting bored and wandering into the woods—or just don’t want to listen to complaints the entire time you’re hiking through some of the most beautiful landscapes you’ve ever seen—this is the article for you.

Here we will discuss some great tips and tricks for taking your little ones to the US National Parks, which will help make your field trips more fun for everyone.

national kids

1. Hand your kids cameras

My first tip is also one of the most useful tips out there for taking kids on field trips of any kind. Invest in cameras just for the kids!

Kids love snapping photos, and doing so will help them really stop to look at the beauty all around them. It’ll also help get them more excited about the visit.

Best of all, giving your kids the freedom to take pictures of whatever they find interesting can help you see the world through their eyes, and may even lead to some fascinating discoveries if your kids are observant little people.

2. Discuss and engage

Part of what makes a camera work is that it helps your kids stay engaged in the experience. You can add to that engagement by discussing what you see with your children.

Read signage to them or have them read to you. Discuss a neat plant or animal you see along the way. Visit the on-site museum and encourage your kids to really look at what it has to offer by asking them questions about the content.


3. Study beforehand

If you find your little explorers are difficult to engage, it might be helpful to do a little preparation beforehand. Any time we are visiting a park with a rich history, my family makes a point of reading up on that history.

Headed to a park famous for its bats? Learn about bats before you go. Going to see some awesome caves? Learn about how caves are formed.

Doing this helps kids understand what they are seeing, and because they know something about it already, they get excited about making those connections.

national parks

4. Utilize the Junior Ranger Program

Another great tip for keeping the kids engaged and interested is to utilize the super cool in-park Junior Ranger programs.

These programs are offered at every National Park. Some involve attending ranger-led activities, while others simply require that you fill out an activity booklet while you explore on your own.

However, all of them result in the kids taking a pledge to protect the parks and earning an awesome badge. Some kids collect these badges and display them in their bedrooms or on a vest. We’ve met kids with over 50 of these badges!

5. Pack wisely

The last and most important tip is to pack wisely. Obviously, if you’re heading into a desert park you’re going to pack water, and if it’ll be cold where you’re going, you’ll bring warm outerwear. However, as a parent, you know very well that kids require a bit more than the average park goer, and packing the right stuff can make or break any park trip.

Here is a basic packing list that we like to stick to any time we are headed out for a National Park day:

  • Baby backpack carrier — If you have a tiny one, you’re going to want one of these.
  • Toddler leash — Yes, we have used these. Hiking near cliff edges is terrifying and this gives some security.
  • Snacks — A “hangry” kid is never fun to be around.
  • Water — This should always be on your packing list, whether or not the kids are tagging along.
  • Sunscreen — Children’s skin can be sensitive. Be sure to protect it, even if you don’t think it’s sunny.
  • Bug repellent — You never know when you’re going to end up in a mosquito-infested park.
  • Sunglasses or hats — Kids get grumpy when they have to squint for too long.
  • Extra clothes — My child has fallen in a pond before. I know the importance of extra clothes when visiting a park. Yes, even for big kids.
  • Regular baby stuff — Obviously, if you have a baby or toddler you will need all the usual baby stuff too. Don’t forget that diaper bag!

These tips should help you have some pretty amazing national parks visits. Have something to add? Tell us about it in the comments section!

Read more about the Junior Ranger program

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