Every Kid in a Park: Fourth Graders Get Free Admission!
Being a fourth grader has its privileges, and one of them is a pretty sweet deal from the White House’s Every Kid in a Park initiative. We know that outdoor experiences during childhood can foster a love for the outdoors and a stewardship to care for the environment that grows into adulthood. With Every Kid in a Park, families have the opportunity to see protected animals in their natural environment, explore a national park, or walk in a beautiful forest – all for free.
What’s so great about the great outdoors?
The Kaiser Family Foundation found that children ages 8 -18 spend a whopping 7 hours and 38 minutes a day using entertainment media. When you factor in school hours and sleep, that doesn’t leave much time for being outside. Athletics may take our children outside, but according to a study by Children & Nature, only 6% of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own.
When outdoor playtime and exploring is decreased it impacts our children’s mental and physical being. Childhood obesity has doubled, as well as a decrease in creativity, social skills, and attentiveness. Exploring parks and incorporating outdoor activities is a fun way to keep our children’s bodies and minds healthy.
What’s special about fourth grade?
At around 9 years of age, our children are beginning to learn about the world around them and are able to understand and be concerned with issues like poverty, human rights, and war. A social conscience is also emerging. You may notice a more active role in fundraising for the humane society, or recycling becoming more important to them. One thing is certain, they’re open to new ideas like exploring outdoors, and more likely to connect with it. At the same time, 9 year-olds are becoming more independent from the family, so it’s a good time to nurture a love for nature and explore and appreciate it together.
It’s good to be a fourth grader
You certainly don’t have to be a fourth grader to enjoy a park or wild refuge, but if your child is a fourth grader, Every Kid in a Park has some pretty nice perks – like a free pass for the entire school year of September through August! To get all the details, visit everykidinapark.gov. Once you apply for your unique pass, you can decide where you want to visit.
Is your child interested in animals? Visit fws.org to find a National Wildlife Refuge System to visit. Would they enjoy the challenge of a rocky terrain? Head over to discovertheforest.org to find a trail. How about a day of climbing sandy dunes with a refreshing swim after? Log onto findyourpark.com. What child would turn down the adventure of sleeping outdoors in a tent? Head over to recreation.gov to find your park and campsite.
Free for the whole family!
The pass covers the entrance fee, but it doesn’t cover things like canoe rental, camping, or special tours. Unless otherwise stated, the pass doesn’t cover fees for local, city, or state parks and recreation areas. Some parks may be managed by private owners who may not honor the pass. Check ahead of time before heading out.
Basically, just show your pass to the ranger (or stick it on the dashboard of the car if no ranger is present) and your child, and any other additional children 16 years and younger + 3 adults can visit for free. If vehicle fees apply, the pass will admit all children under 16 and all adults in one vehicle.
Making the most of it
Once your fourth grader decides where they want to visit, check the park’s calendar for events. Often there are free, family-friendly events like a star gazing night or a class conducted by a park ranger on rock collecting or leaf identification. If you plan to visit a park that requires longer travel distance, Amtrak is offering fourth graders a 75% discount when an accompanying adult buys a full-price ticket. Visit Amtrak.com for more info. One free day full of fun may elicit more interest in the great outdoors for the whole family.
Got a fourth grader at home? Will you be taking advantage of Every Kid in a Park? If so, which park would you visit first? Share with us!