Learning Activities at the Zoo
One of my family's favorite spring activities is a trip to the local zoo. There are so many new learning adventures waiting to be discovered there. Not only that, but there are plenty of activities you can do with your children before and after your trip to the zoo.
Toddlers & Preschoolers
Before You Go: Using play zoo animals, have your child dip the animal's feet into finger paint and then walk the animals along the paper to make animal footprints. Teach your child about the different sizes and colors of the animal tracks.
Read books about the zoo with your child, pointing out all the different animals they may see while visiting the zoo. After reading, help your child make a visual list of zoo animals, using pictures found in magazines or on the Internet.
Once You Get There: Pack the visual list your child made, attaching it to a small clipboard with a pencil. Once your at the zoo, help your child go on an animal scavenger hunt with the list. Even better yet, have your child help you take pictures of all the animals he or she finds on the list.
After Your Zoo Trip: Print out pictures of all the animals your chid learned about and help them make a collage from the pictures.
Make a photo book using an online photo site. You could even make your child his or her own zoo animal board book through Pint Size Productions.
Before You Go: Visit the Zoo's website to learn about the exhibits and plan out your day, paying special attention to the feeding times and other special timed events. Older children, who are learning to tell time, can write the times of the activities down in a special zoo notepad that they bring with them on zoo day.
At this age, children are interested in families. Teach your child about the different baby/mommy animal names and how the adult animals care for their little ones.
Once You Get There: Find a zoo map and help your child map out the day based on the timed animal activities. Visit the animals during their feeding times, to learn about what they eat.
Along the way, encourage your child to find the adult/baby animal pairs and remind them what each is called. Talk about how the animals interact with each other. Help your child take pictures of all the pairs they find.
After Your Zoo Trip: Help your child create their own picture book about their trip to the zoo using an online photo site or paper and colored pencils. Early readers and writers can include short sentences about the animals they learned about.
Before You Go: Middle school children can begin to learn about different animal habitats. Have your child visit your zoo's website, to learn all about the ecosystem of each animal. Talk to your child about habitats that are endangered and ways to conserve them.
Once You Get There: Engage your child in learning about the various animal habitats with a scavenger hunt. Use the one on Scavenger Hunt Guru or create your own. Bring binoculars with you if you have some at home. Encourage your child to take pictures along the way.
After Your Zoo Trip: Encourage your child to search for a wildlife conservation foundation online. Talk with them about ways they can help from far away, including adopting an animal, connecting through social media, or donating a small amount of money. The National Wildlife Federation is a great place to start.
Children of all age ranges can enjoy a day at the zoo. Have fun turning a typical trip into a learning adventure beyond the hours you spend with the animals!
Do you have a zoo nearby? If so, what are your child's favorite exhibits? How frequently do you explore the zoo?