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Every Kid in a Park


Toad recently ended her run in 3rd grade. Every year is a battle and she certainly cannot wait until her prison, ugh make that school time, is ended. I keep reminding her not to wish her life away and enjoy being a little kid who’s worst problem is getting homework and household chores done. "Just wait till you have to work too" I try to tell her.

On a typical day Toad and I are pretty involved with electronics. Whether I am writing or researching a topic, or she is immersed in an online game or YouTube video, there is an electric device involved somewhere. I’ve started tracking how much time I spend scrolling through Facebook. I was quite alarmed to discover I had a day where I spent 10 hours on Facebook...ugh!

I enjoy using social media to keep up with friends and family, but I don’t want it to take over my life. So when I feel like we need to unplug I like taking a trip to a nearby park. Sometimes it's the neighborhood park with swings and a playground for Toad; other times it’s a state park where I can take her camping. We haven’t visited many of the National Parks, but they are absolutely on our summer list of things to do.

I like to research different things to do, especially if they are inexpensive. There are National Parks in every state. They offer a multitude of activities to encourage people to get out and enjoy nature. There are thousands of trails to explore all over the United States. Some even have hidden treasure! There are places to bike, hike, camp and even boat. You can snorkel reefs and explore homes to all kinds of flora and fauna. 

The National Parks Service wants to encourage people of all ages to get out and enjoy the parks. They even sweetened the deal by providing a free pass for those who are in 4th grade, or a home schooled equivalent. So finding this little gem couldn’t have come at a better time! I am now exploring the National Parks website to see what adventures we would like to go on. The pass allows for your 4th grader to bring friends and family into the parks with them for free. Here’s how it works:

  • Show your pass to a ranger when you enter. If there is no ranger, leave it on the dashboard of your car.
  • If you visit a site that charges entrance fees per person— The pass admits all children under 16 and up to three adults for free.
  • If your group visits a site that charges vehicle entrance fees - The pass admits all children under 16 and all adults in up to one passenger vehicle. Commercial vehicles can't use a pass to get in.
  • If you arrive at a site on bicycle — the pass admits all children under 16 and up to three adults on bicycles.
  • The pass doesn't cover things like parking fees, camping, boats, and special tours. Also, some sites are managed by private operators. They may not honor the pass. Check with the site ahead of time to find out.
  • The pass doesn’t cover fees for local, city, or state parks and recreation areas unless they say that they accept this pass.
  • Paper passes can be exchanged for plastic passes at certain sites. 

It appears the pass follows the school year, so passes expire August 31. So of course I am telling all of our friends and family with kids in the 4th grade all about this pass! Come and explore the National Parks with us this year. I look forward to reading about all of your adventures!

See you on the trails!

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