With schools closed in nearly every state as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, parents around the country are scrambling to find ways to keep their kids engaged at home. In an effort to help ease some of the pressures currently facing parents — and connect kids to nature and wildlife — the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has moved to make all digital issues of its Ranger Rick magazines free for kids amid the coronavirus pandemic. Families can access every digital issue of the NWF's three Ranger Rick magazine titles for free for the next three months.
"We understand that this may be a scary, uncertain time for families," Ranger Rick editor Hannah Schardt said. "The most important thing right now is to stay healthy and do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19."
"We also want to help families stay engaged with wildlife and the natural world, so we are removing the paywall from rangerrick.org and making all the digital editions of our magazines free to the public through the end of June," Schardt said.
Ranger Rick has also made access to the Ranger Rick Educator's Guides and Ranger Rick Jr. Parent Reading Guides that accompany each month's issue complimentary as well. Parents will also find a range of games, activity ideas, and student pages available for free.
"Whether parents are looking to supplement what our amazing teacher and educator communities are doing to set up distant learning opportunities ... or parents are just looking for fun ways to keep their kids engaged that they know are good quality and obviously have a connection to nature and animals, we wanted to make sure that we were helping to support that effort," NWF naturalist David Mizejewski tells Romper of the nonprofit conservation education and advocacy organization's decision to drop its Ranger Rick paywall.
As a former Ranger Rick reader himself, Mizejewski knows just how beneficial connecting with and learning about the natural world around us can be for kids. But how can parents cultivate an interest in the outdoors in children who are cooped up at home due to stay home orders and recommendations for social distancing? According to Mizejewski, "One of the ways that kids can experience and learn about nature virtually is this online [Ranger Rick] content. That’s a really great first step."
"But we also always remind parents and families that nature is literally all around us," he says. "For most of us, we can just step outside our door, and even if you live in the middle of the city, there's still really cool stuff going on right in your own space, in your own yard or garden."
One way Mizejewski recommends parents get their kids engaged with nature while still following all recommended guidance for social distancing is with a nature scavenger hunt. "It's really simple," he says. "Make a list of things you're going to be on the look out for — a red leaf, a round rock, hearing a bird call — and you make that part of the activity of going on a walk [or roaming around the backyard]." Once back home, families can take the experience further by researching the different birds, animals, plants, foliage, and insects they saw.
Additionally, parents can find even more games, activities, and suggestions on the Ranger Rick website and social media channels, like this Spring Detective activity. "We've got all sorts of fun games and activities that can be done by your kids or with your kids right in your own yard," Mizejewski tells Romper.
While the NWF's main Ranger Rick magazine title is recommended for kids age 7 to 12, the organization also produces age-appropriate content for younger kids. The Ranger Rick Jr. title, for example, is geared toward children aged 4 to 7, while Ranger Rick Cub is put together for kids age 0 to 4. "In every magazine there's a whole series of articles about animals and about wildlife written in age-appropriate ways," Mizejewski says.
To access any of Ranger Rick's now-free content, parents will need to sign up for a free account at rangerrick.org by providing their email and address.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.