Share a National Park With A Child

     When I heard that admission to all U.S. national parks will be free the weekend of August 15 and 16, I got to thinking.

     What a great opportunity to share one of these natural treasures with children.  And they need it!  We’ve all become aware that few children are playing outside these days, much less exploring our fabulous national parks.  Far too many children have never experienced the excitement of exploring a cave or a crater or a fumarole.  Many have no idea of the pleasure of hiking  amid wildflowers and snowy mountain vistas.  The delights offered by our national parks are just too great and too numerous for children to miss.

     So I’ve taken it on myself to declare Saturday and Sunday, August 15 and 16, ‘Take A Child to a National Park Days,’ in the tradition of the well-established Take a Child to Work Day.

     If you’re like most Americans, you live less than a day’s drive from one of our 391 national parks.  Why not consider inviting a young neighbor, a relative, or the child of a friend or colleague, to take a jaunt with you to your ‘local’ national park?  If you have children yourself, take them.  But do bring along another child who hasn’t had the opportunity to spend time in a national park before.  

     Sharing one of our country’s most splendid wild places with a child will likely prove memorable for both of you.  The child may recall for a lifetime the joy of discovering fascinating land formations, of observing animals living free and uncaged, of the many sights, sounds, and smells of natural places.  And the pleasure of being with you.  Don’t underestimate the thrill a child feels when an adult cares enough to share something special.  And I imagine you too will find such a day greatly satisfying.  After all, you will be doing something good for the child and for the planet, as well as nourishing yourself with natural beauty.      

     I have come to believe the best way to ensure that children will grow into adults who love the earth and who care what happens to it is not to focus on school programs to save the whales or the rain forests, but simply to get kids outdoors.  Get them out there playing, enjoying, discovering the glory of nature with its many faces. 

     Of course, saving animals and habitats is very important.  But kids can’t really do much to solve these problems that even adults are struggling with.  What kids can do, however, is get to know the natural world, to feel their need for the soothing comfort, for the fun and excitement the nature offers them.  Then when they are older and have more tools at their disposal, they will act, I hope, to protect the earth.  It will matter to them.

     I’ve also thought about the fact that a foray to a national park means more global warming emissions.  But I think the benefit of exposing a child to one of our spectacular wild places and helping to instill in that child a love of the natural world outweighs the downside.

     Even if you don’t live near a national park, there is no doubt some beautiful state park or other natural site nearby that can awaken a child’s love of nature.–April Moore  

     For a list of national parks and information about each one, just click on the link:       http://www.npca.org/parks/?adwords=1&gclid=CJXmk6iB-JsCFU1M5QodB2kmAg   

Joshua Tree National Park, near San Diego

Joshua Tree National Park, near San Diego

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Olympic National Park, near Seattle

Olympic National Park, near Seattle

 

                             

 

     

  

   

Everglades National Park, near Miami

Everglades National Park, near Miami

One Response to “Share a National Park With A Child”

  1. Judy Muller Says:

    Great idea, April.

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