Park Ranger Playtime

Park Ranger holding an umbrella and jumping in a puddle.
Park Ranger jumping in a puddle.

NPS photo

There are numerous benefits for young children to play, especially outdoors. By encouraging play outside, it helps kids to learn and understand the world around them. A national park is the best place to play, even when you can't be here in person!

These videos are tools to better help engage children ages seven and under to play both inside and out. Check back often as there will be a variety of nature topics from sound to water to trees that feature special places and things in the park. Young children will play and learn with park rangers by doing hands-on activities such as conducting science experiments, making arts and crafts, and participating in dramatic play.

Videos also include closed captioning and audio description options. Below is a list of the stories to choose from:


Open Transcript


Oh, hello there, you caught me playing with my musical instruments. I have a tambourine here and I also have my egg shaker. My name is Ranger Melissa and I work at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Thanks for joining me today for Park Ranger Playtime. We are going to explore the world of sounds that can be found here in the park and all around us, wherever we are.

No matter what time of year you visit Pictured Rocks, there’s lots of amazing places to see but there is also lots of cool things to hear too. You can hear the quacking calls of wood frogs in a wet forest in spring, the crashing waves on a rocky shore along Lake Superior in summer, the honking calls of migrating geese in a blue sky in autumn, and water dripping from long melting icicles hanging from the cliffs in winter.

My favorite thing to listen to in the park is all the different ways water can sound. For instance, the sound of this moving creek rushing and bubbling over the rocks, going down the bends, around the turns, is music to my ears.

When I’m standing at one of our waterfalls, like Munising Falls behind me, all I can hear is the rushing sounds of the water tumbling down the cliff.

Since I love listening to water, rain is another sound that I enjoy hearing at the park or anywhere. Even when it isn’t raining outside, I sometimes use my rainstick. All I have to do is turn it over to hear the rain. Watch and listen.

It’s okay if you don’t have a rainstick. You can make the sounds of rain with just using your body. Want to try? Follow me and we’ll make a rainstorm together. If you have family or friends close by, have them join in. The more people, the louder your rainstorm will be. I have a few friends behind camera to help me.

First, I want you to imagine stormy gray clouds in the sky. They are heading your way. You know that rain is coming. You can feel it. Slowly, the rain begins to fall.

I want you to rub your hands together to make the sound of quiet rain. The rain begins to fall a little faster now, so, stop rubbing your hands and start softly clapping your hands. Uh oh, the rain is falling even harder, clap your hands loudly.

Oh my, listen to that rain! And here come the darkest clouds yet! Start stomping your feet on the floor and slapping your hands on your legs.

Wow! Can you even hear me over the loud rain? I think I can hear your rain stomping and slapping at home all the way from here. Nice job! Let’s slow it down.

The rain clouds are moving on and the rain is slowing down, let’s softly clap again. The clouds are getting further and further away from us, the rain becomes just a sprinkle so rub your hands together one more time.

Ah, here comes the sun above the rain clouds. The rain has stopped, and the storm has passed. You can see the dark clouds off in the distance. Look, there’s a rainbow!

Thanks friends, that was fun making a rainstorm with you. Now you know what to do if you ever want to hear the sound of rain. Try teaching this to a friend and play it with them.

Now I’d like to show you how to make a craft so that you can hear sounds even better, just like some animals do. Have you ever noticed some animals have really big ears?

Looking at this picture of a white-tailed deer up close, you’ll notice the ears are quite large when you compare it to the size of its head. This picture of an eastern cottontail rabbit also shows it has long, large ears on the top of its head. Another example is the bobcat, this picture shows the big triangle shaped ears on the top of its head too.

When animals have big ears, it means they can hear really well. So animals like the bobcat can hunt for food, or animals like the rabbit can avoid becoming food.

To make your animal ears craft, you’ll need a paper plate – it can be a large or small plate, it just needs to be bigger than your ears – you’ll need a pair of scissors, and some crayons. Start by taking the paper plate and cutting it right down the center so you have equal halves. Or a pair of ears or one, two animal ears.

In the center of each paper plate, take a crayon and draw a half circle. Then cut out that half circle. This is where you are going to tuck your human ears into your animal ears. It’s okay if you need an adult to help with this part.

Next, I want you to decide what animal you want your ears to be. Color each ear like that animal. Hmm, I’m think I’ll color red fox ears.

There’s no right or wrong way to color your animal ears. Feel free to color the whole plate or make animal ears inside the plate like I’m doing here. Have fun and be creative!

Once you’re done with your animal ears, you are ready to play and listen with them.

Well, friends, it’s time to wrap up Park Ranger Playtime but I hope you take your animal ears outside to listen for sounds in your backyard, your neighborhood, or your local parks. Make sure you’re with an adult, be safe, and have fun listening to all the sounds you can find. Hmmm, where should I go to listen with my animal ears? I know!

This is Ranger Melissa from the Sand Point Marsh Trail at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore saying thanks for playing with me today. Alright, fox ears, let’s see what we can hear. See you next time.

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8 minutes, 21 seconds

Young children are invited to play and learn right from home, or preschool, with Ranger Melissa to discover sounds. Listen to nature sounds in the park during all four seasons, find out how to make a rainstorm with just using your body, and learn how to make your own animal ears to hear even better!


Open Transcript


Oh, hi there friends! I am Ranger Kendra and I work for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I’m glad you’re tuning in with me today for Park Ranger Playtime because today we are going to learn all about trees.

Our park protects 40 miles of shoreline along Lake Superior that you can see some of behind me. Did you know Lake Superior is one of the five Great Lakes? Although the park is known for the big lake and colorful cliffs, it is mostly made up of forest. That means we have of many kinds of trees! Ready to learn about trees? Let’s start by learning how trees grow. Okay friends, I want you to listen to my words. Imagine you are a tree and act out what you hear. I’ll do it with you so you can follow me. Ready?! Imagine you are a seed barely hanging onto a branch, close your eyes and picture it. Raise your arm over your head to hold onto a branch. A mighty gust of wind blows you off the branch. Slowly twirl around and move in the wind. Feel free to make some blowing wind sounds. You begin falling to the ground and land in the soil. Slowly drop to the ground and sit cross-legged and curl into a ball. It starts to rain. Plip, plop, plip, plop, and you begin to grow. Slowly stretch your chest up to the sky. Feel your roots bury into the soil. Stretch your legs out in front of you. Growing stronger, your roots dig deeper into the soil. Slowly wiggle your feet and legs. Feel your branches begin to grow. Slowly stretch your arms up to the sky. Now, you are a little sapling among the giants of the forest. Look up at the other tall trees. As the seasons change, you begin to change as well. You grow taller. Slowly stretch up and come to your knees. You grow wider. Stretch your arms out to your sides. And your branches and trunk grow even higher to the sun. Slowly stand up and reach your arms up to the sky. Now you are finally a giant tree. Stand even wider and taller. Animals use you as a home on your branches and inside your trunk. Use your arms to make a roof over your head. Your seeds begin to grow on your branches and some animals use them for food. Use your hands to nibble on seeds. A mighty wind comes and blows most of your seeds away. Twirl and move around in the wind, sit on the ground, and curl into a ball. And the life cycle of a tree begins again. Start growing upwards and stretch to the sky and the sun.

Awesome job! I liked pretending to be a tree, did you? I imagined all the animals living on me tickle me just a little bit! Did they tickle you?!

Trees are helpful to animals for food and shelter and they are also helpful to us. Take a breath for me. Let’s do one more because that felt nice. One of the many helpful things trees give us is the air we breathe and that’s a big deal because if we didn’t have air, we wouldn’t be able to live. Trees also offer shelter and home for many different types of wildlife and humans. Many of our human homes are built with wood, or lumber, like this bench I’m sitting on. Even some of the items inside our homes might also come from trees. For example, this collage of pictures shows household items from trees like furniture, cabinets, pictures frames, and even carpet! I want you to investigate your home for items that are made from trees. Have an adult press pause for you to take a look around your house and see what you can find that might come from trees. Well, what did you find? I bet you found at least a few things that come from trees. In my house, I found a picture frame, a book, and even an egg carton. These all come from trees. Next time you look, try to count how many tree items are in your bedroom, kitchen, or maybe the family room. Then, figure out which room has the most. Hundreds and hundreds of the things we use every day come from trees. I’m sure am grateful to them for all the gifts they give me. Thank you, trees! I had a lot of fun playing and learning about trees with you today, friends. But hey, don’t let the tree fun end here. Go outside with an adult and find your favorite tree in your backyard, your neighborhood, or your local park. If you want, bring some paper and crayons to make a few rubbings of tree bark or leaves from your favorite tree. When you’re on your outdoor adventure, remember to be kind to your favorite tree and to all trees. They are alive like you and me. Trees are hurt when bark is pulled off or too many leaves are removed. So, please use care and if visiting your local park, please make sure you follow all rules and be safe. Well, that about wraps it up for Park Ranger Playtime. This is Ranger Kendra from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore saying thank you for tuning in and I hope you have a tree-mendous day!

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7 minutes, 4 seconds

Young kids can play and learn alongside Ranger Kendra to find out more about trees at the park. Hands-on activities include acting out the life cycle of a tree and going on a scavenger hunt in your home or school to find items that are made from trees.


Open Transcript


Oh, hello friends! I’m Ranger Katie and I work at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I’m glad you tuned in for Park Ranger Playtime with me today because we are going to explore water. If you visited our national park, water is everywhere.

For example, we have waterfalls - one being Sable Falls; we have streams and rivers, like Miners River pictured here; we have various small lakes such as Trappers Lake; and my favorite, wetlands like Sand Point Marsh. And of course, we have a great big lake called Lake Superior.

Lake Superior is one of the five Great Lakes. This map shows all of the Great Lakes. Can you help me count them? Let’s do it together, out loud – one, two, three, four, five. Nice job! Want to know the name of the Great Lakes? Here’s Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and I’m right here at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Water is important to every living thing in this park and the whole planet. Do you see all the blue on this giant Earth ball? That’s all water! Animals needs water like beetles, fish, birds, chipmunks, and black bears. Plants need water like trees, water lily pads, and wildflowers. And even we need water to live. Ah, that glass of water really hit the spot.

So, let’s be scientists today and experiment with water right from our homes!

For our first water experiment, I’ve filled this container with water. I’ve also collected some items from the park and some common household items. I want us to decide, or predict as scientists would say, which items will float and which items will sink. Are you ready?

Let’s start with the items from the park. Do you think this rock will float or sink? Let’s see. It sunk! What about the beech nutshell, which is from a tree found in the park, do predict it will float or will it sink? Let’s find out. It floated! Okay, now let’s try the items that you might find in your house. Do you predict the cotton ball will sink or float? It floated! What about the spoon? Do you predict it will sink or float? It sunk!

That was fun, scientists. Feel free to try this experiment at home with an adult using items from your house that are okay to get wet. Let’s try one more.

For our second water experiment, I have a sponge, a cup of water, a measuring spoon, and a tray to place the sponge on. Let’s use our imagination and pretend this sponge is a cloud in the sky.

This picture shows many different shapes of clouds. Some are round and puffy and others are long and wavy. Did know that water collects in clouds? That means clouds are sort of like a sponge that can hold water. But what happens when that cloud is too full and can’t hold any more water? Well, when a cloud is full of water, or vapor as scientists would say, it drops that water vapor either as rain or as snow.

We are going to see how much water our sponge cloud can hold until it “rains.” So scientists, how many spoonfuls do you predict it will take to make our sponge cloud rain? One? Three? Seven? Let’s find out. Will you help me keep track? I’m going to put one spoonful on the sponge, here’s two spoonfuls on the sponge, three spoonfuls, four spoonfuls, five spoonfuls, six spoonfuls, seven spoonfuls, eight spoonfuls, nine spoonfuls, ten spoonfuls, eleven spoonfuls, twelve spoonfuls.

It took twelve spoonfuls to make our sponge cloud rain! Was your prediction right? I wonder, would it take the same number of spoonfuls if I had a bigger sponge? Try this at home if you can and find out for me.

Alright water scientists, we’ve come to the end of Park Ranger Playtime but don’t stop here with learning about water. Try these experiments from your own home with just a few household supplies. Parents, do an internet search for “water experiments for early childhood,” and you’ll find many more simple activities to investigate water from home.

Or, take this playtime learning outside. Brainstorm a list of things about water to find in your neighborhood or local park and have fun safely exploring. Here’s a list I hope to find when I go outside later – moving water, storm drain, something that drinks water, and something that stores water.

This is Ranger Katie from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore saying thanks for being water scientists with me today. Oh and hey, did you know how Lake Superior says goodbye? It waves!

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6 minutes, 59 seconds

Join Ranger Katie as she explores water and demonstrates two simple water experiments that can be done from home or at preschool. Children will learn about the Great Lakes, find out why water is important, and help make predictions for a "sink or float" experiment and a "sponge cloud" experiment.

(To view more videos created by Pictured Rocks park rangers, go to our YouTube Channel!)

Last updated: August 31, 2020

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