Posted by: Kirsten | Sunday, 19 August 2007

Learning Without Realizing It

Frommer's National Parks with Kids

“It surely must be a scientifically proven fact: Kids learn more when they’re having fun. That’s part of the beauty of ranger-led hikes and programs where kids have someone other than their parents to bounce questions up against. And where those rangers fire back with their own set of questions that force kids to learn all the while that they’re having a great time. Check out any park’s supporting nonprofit foundation and you’ll find a slew of programs that range from a few hours to a week or more of family-oriented activities that will help you bond with your kids while you all learn something.”

— Frommer’s National Parks with Kids, p.11


Sure, there are lots of books out there on how to make the most of your vacation, what to see and what to do, how much it will cost for a cheeseburger at the Seattle airport, or how far in advance to make your reservations for the most popular spots.  But how many of them focus on the interests of your kids… and then again, how many of them ALSO focus on our wonderful National Parks?  Not many, so when I saw this book at the bookstore I stopped dead in my tracks and snatched one up.

Being a seasoned National Park visitor I’m usually skeptical about such books being able to add value to my trip planning, but this book surprised me in many ways.  It answers plenty of questions I hadn’t even thought of asking myself, such as:

  • What are some interesting places to stop on the way to (or from) the National Park?
  • What are the local museums and attractions outside the park that might be great alternatives on a rainy or otherwise miserable day?

While only fourteen National Parks are highlighted in this guide book, they are essentially a list of parks you should visit with your kids while there’s still time.  The amount of information for each park is incredible, and covers such topics as History, Orientation/Getting Around, Planning, Family-Friendly Accommodations and Dining, Exploring the Park, Active Family Ideas, Kid-Friendly Programs, and Entertainment Outside the Park.  Whew. 

Add in the three additional chapters on Becoming a National Parks Family, Planning a Family Trip to a National Park, and the closing chapter — A Little Field Guide, and even if you only plan to visit one of the parks inside, you’ll get more than your money’s worth, and realize you probably saved yourself a week or more of online and telephone research.

One of my favorite sections is the Places for Learning subsection found under Exploring the Park with Your Kids. In it, you’ll find a list of nearby museums, national and state historic sites, and other worthwhile diversions.

My only complaint about the book is that it’s actually too much information to use in a reasonable amount of time.  For someone who’s not sure what National Parks vacation to plan for next summer, that might not be a problem. Read and learn about a variety of parks and decide which one fits your family’s budget, interests, and time.  For me however, I intend to see them all, and a lot of the information here will most likely be out of date by the time I make use of it.  But hey, them’s the breaks, right?  Besides, I think I’m just trying to present an objective review here and it’s tough when you like most everything about the book.  Guess I’ll just have to pick up the 2nd Edition when it comes out in the future.

— Jon

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