Young hiker looking out to the landscape
National Parks Stay Home Activities


April 22, 2020

There are times when you want to be outdoors, exploring our beautiful public lands but for a myriad of reasons, you can’t be outside. Maybe it’s the weather that’s keeping you at home? Or, maybe there is a global pandemic that requires of all of us to work together in order to protect each other and the ones we love from becoming ill. It would require that we practice social distancing and that our public lands are temporarily closed to protect employees, guests and the residents of the small towns that often surround them. But that couldn’t happen, right? Wrong.

So, like you, we’ve been staying home and trying to find balance between work and our new role of being our childrens’ teachers. Not to take away from all the amazing work their actual teachers are still doing, but teaching your own kids can be tough! We’ve spent more time simultaneously appreciating and cursing the technology that we’re all relying on more than ever. Along with those challenges, we’ve been trying to stay physically active and engage in various forms of self-improvement. It’s not just hard on the adults, it’s difficult for the kids who are also used to more variety in their daily lives. We are however very grateful that we’re able to spend more time together as a family and are able to work and learn from home. We know everyone doesn’t have that luxury.

Given all that, we figured we’d share some obvious and not-so-obvious activities for when you’re stuck at home. Some of these are great ways to stay virtually connected to the great outdoors and our National Parks that we’re missing big time right now! Please let us know in the comments what you’re doing right now while staying home to keep the kids and yourself sane.

Photo of Kids completing an online Junior Ranger program
Junior Rangers watching an online Ranger talk

1. NPS Virtual Ranger programs

Several parks are providing LIVE Ranger chats for Junior Rangers of ALL ages.  It is a really fantastic way to have some interaction with others and see your favorite parks.  Personally, our family is also using these to supplement the science portion of homeschool agenda. Here are a few of the ones we’ve been watching but there are so many more. Also, don’t worry if you’ve missed some of these events, many of the parks are archiving them on their websites.

Santa Monica Mountains NRA

Backyard Junior Ranger program, Reading with a Ranger, and even live animal chats!

Yosemite National Park

Ranger chats for kids, Meet the Animals, and videos from around the park! Check their schedule.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park has a Distance Learning initiative with great online classes.

Yosemite NP and Joshua Tree NP are also offering Draw with a Ranger drawing tutorials on Facebook.

This one is a favorite of our first grade daughter.  It’s a slide by slide tutorial on how to draw animals!  A particular favorite of ours is the marmot drawing lesson. We had a cute little marmot family living at our campsite last summer so they hold a special place in our hearts!  The Rangers encourage you to snap a photo of your drawings and post them to their site.

Parks team up with Center for Interactive Learning

The Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration has teamed up with several National Parks, zoos, museums and animal centers to offer many spectacular online classes for your children!  

2. Build a tent out of blankets and furniture

An age old favorite, find the biggest blankets in your house and a large space to drape them.  We have an enormous and heavy family sized blanket from Costco – because everything from there is huge!  The kids worked together, quietly and nicely (amazingly!) and created a cozy, indoor haven. They used all our dining chairs – thankfully we still have use of the bench – to create their tent.  They furnished the tent with a bunch of comfy sofa pillows making it a really warm and inviting spot to chill. For the finishing touch, they strung our outdoor camping twinkle lights inside and strategically placed some battery operated candles. The glow brings a feeling of being fireside at the campground and the twinkle lights feel like you’re laying under the stars.

Photo of kids in a homemade tent
Make a cozy tent from chairs and blankets

3. Setup your tent in your living room, backyard or garage

If you have enough space to pull out your gear, this can be a really fun way to create a new experience!  You definitely won’t get as dirty and setup should be far quicker since you’re not having to stake anything in.  Make it feel nice and cozy. You could put in air mattresses and the pillows from your bed and you can even use your sleeping bags!

Get creative and think of all the ways you can simulate camping at your favorite campground. You can even pay some neighbors to play loud music into the night past quiet hours…. just kidding but you get the idea!

 4. Make S’mores on the stove or firepit

This classic camping dessert can be easily made and enjoyed at home.  While the warmth of a cozy campfire, the crackling of the wood and the heat of the embers underneath make for an amazing experience, you should still definitely make these at home!  If you have a fire pit, it makes it really easy and is most like being at the campsite. But for those who don’t, you can always heat up the marshmallows over your stove fire or even your microwave! We’ve never tried the microwave but there are recipes online that you can checkout beforehand. Be careful – they get bigger with heat, don’t let them explode in there! Place your toasty warm marshmallows between your graham crackers and chocolate and enjoy! Be sure that little ones have adult supervision at all times.

5. Download our word searches and crossword puzzles

Kid tested and Parkseekers approved!  Our kids have really enjoyed our park-themed word searches and crossword puzzles!!  Check them out on our Downloads page. That will definitely help to work through some of the boredom and get everyone dreaming about your next park visit!

Image of kids doing a national park word search
Junior Rangers doing the Parkseekers Mega Word Search

6. Self-improvement

This might be more for us adults than it is for the kids. Many of us have a rare opportunity to invest some time in our own personal development. We should seize this moment as much as possible and perhaps learn that new skill we’ve been thinking of or create some new, good habits around physical activity or even cooking more homemade meals.

We’ve been following an Italian cooking school on Instagram who gives you ideas for what to cook based on the somewhat random ingredients you might have in your fridge. It’s been great to get the whole family involved in making meals, everyone is learning something new.

Self-improvement is different for everyone but with a little thought, you can probably identify what you’d like to improve on right now. We’ve been doing Linkedin Learning tutorials and watching Youtube videos to learn a variety of skills. We’ve really enjoyed watching our 10-year old son make home movies and learn video editing on the computer. Our daughter is continuing to develop her drawings skills by watching Youtube drawing tutorials. You can learn virtually anything online. Now is the time to do it!

Hang in there

These are difficult times but together, we’ll get through this. We hope this list of activities for when you’re stuck at home gives you some ideas about how to fill in the gaps throughout the day. Sometimes, though, just forget the activities and hang out with your crew. We often find that is the best way to pass the time.



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Los Angeles, CA

We're a typical family of four that enjoys being outdoors and exploring all the amazing natural places that surround us. When life allows, we road trip, we camp, we hike. We're helping other families get outdoors by sharing our experiences because if we can do it, so can you! As we develop our blog this year, we'll be moving more into advocacy and generating support for the parks we love. We hope you'll join us and lend a hand.

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