[Steph here, editor-in-chief at RoadTripper.ca. I’m thrilled to share the story below written by my daughter, M. She’s been my road trip companion and unofficial vehicle backseat reviewer since she was four years old. For nearly every summer since, we’ve been taking annual road trips to visit Parks Canada’s national parks and national historic sites across the country. What started as a passing interest became a passion that has inspired many stories—and even this website! We’ve now gathered more than 80 medallions from the Parks Canada Xplorers program for kids. We plan to complete our collection within the next couple of summers.

Sometimes as parents we wonder whether the things we put our energy into truly resonate with our children. M was the one who asked me if she could write this story for RoadTripper.ca, and she came up with the concept and drafted it entirely on her own. It’s a powerful affirmation that all the time and planning that went into those road trips had exactly the effect I hoped it would. I hope this inspires you to take your kids on this same enriching and inspiring journey. -S.]

As a teenager, I’ve been doing projects on Canadian history for years. But thanks to the Parks Canada Xplorers program, I’ve been able to stand on the ground that thousands of children write essays about every day.

What is the Parks Canada Xplorers program?

Many Canadian families go on road trips and shorten, or even skip, visits to national parks and national historic sites because they think their children will be bored to the point of fainting. The Xplorers program can help. Any child that wants to have more fun at any participating Parks Canada place will be given a small booklet, filled to the brim with easy, enriching, and unique challenges specific to the park or site. The challenges can be as simple as drawing a pretty leaf, or as brain-stimulating as using a touch tank!

If all the memories aren’t enough, your kid also gets to take home their very own dog tag. This gives them a way to always remember what they learned and all the fun they had with their family. The Parks Canada Xplorers program is offered at more than 100 national parks and historic sites. It provides the whole family with new experiences.

Wait, the Parks Canada Xplorers program helped you with your history classes?

Yes! Since I was 5, I’ve been in and out of national historic sites all over the country, from Alberta to Newfoundland. [We haven’t made it to B.C. yet; that’s on the docket for this summer. -S.] Nothing has ever made me feel happier than the times I’ve spent with my family there. As I’ve gotten older, more and more of the knowledge I gained from the Parks Canada Xplorers program has translated into my schoolwork. From learning about the War of 1812 at Fort George National Historic Site to discovering the importance of Acadian history at Grand-Pré National Historic Site, everything your child learns will eventually help them gain a deeper understanding of what makes Canada truly diverse and whole.

Hopefully by now my praises have you and your family raring to get out that door and explore Canada. But if you can’t get past the crucial step of typing a national historic site into the GPS, a few tips from an experienced traveller might help.

Tip #1: Start local

Trying to pick a place to visit in Canada is like finding a needle in a very, very gorgeous haystack. There’s so much to see and do! My first recommendation is to narrow down your search to your own province or territory. Every traveller wants to see the places people post about on Instagram, but it can be overwhelming to drive over half the country to visit a site that might be rained out that day. I recommend starting with a quick weekend trip to a site in your area. Every province or territory has its own unique, beautiful history, so go discover yours!

Tip #2: Keep your kids’ interests in mind

If you want to use national historic sites as an educational resource for your child, I recommend finding a site that suits their interests. Do they like to play with toy soldiers? Maybe they’d love to see a musket demonstration at Fort Malden National Historic Site near Windsor, Ontario. Do they like to feel immersed in books? Maybe they’d like to visit the Fortress of Louisburg National Historic Site in Nova Scotia to interact with a fully restored 18th century town, complete with its own citizens! No matter what your child is interested in, Canada’s long and winding history is bound to have interesting elements for children of any age.

Tip #3: Eat until you can’t!

You can connect your visits to Parks Canada sites with a lot more of what makes Canada special. For example, no matter where you go in Canada, from seafood on the East Coast to delectable Saskatoon berries, there’s so much food to explore! Throughout my years of travel, nothing has made a trip more perfect than when I find a new favourite food. If you really want to get kids involved, a local treat and a lovely dinner will make a fun trip into a fantastic one. It helps tie the entire road trip together.

Many families justify thousand-dollar plane tickets to go to destinations they aren’t even connected with. But Canada is a destination in itself, and the history of our own country is one of the most important things your child could learn about. The Parks Canada Xplorers program helps every kid—including me!—find something interesting to love about Canada. It helps establish the knowledge of future generations, and it might even help with school assignments, making a personal connection to what would otherwise be just words on a whiteboard. The culture and beauty of this country is unlike anywhere else, and everyone in your family can find somewhere to enjoy in the nearly 10 million square kilometres we call home.

Read more about Canada’s national parks > and national historic sites >

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