Learning Activities at the Zoo

learning at the zoo; tiger

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.

preschool zoo collage
Kristine Paulus, Flickr – Lion_Heart, Flickr – shannonkringen, Flickr

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.

Books: Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell; Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann; Curious George Visits the Zoo by Margret Rey and A.H. Rey; The View at the Zoo by Kathleen Long Bostrom

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.

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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.

elementary zoo collage
Bob Jagendorf, Flickr – Tama Leaver, Flickr – Tim & Selena Middleton, Flickr

Elementary School

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.

Books: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate; Zoobreak (Swindle) by Gordon Korman; Mother and Baby Zoo Animals by Caroline Arnold

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.

middle school zoo collage
jtestamarck, Flickr – Christopher Hsia, Flickr – 401(K) 2013, Flickr

Middle School

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.

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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?

{Related: 3 Great Learning Activites for Spring {Toddlers & Beyond}}

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What do you think?

Learning Activities at the Zoo

Mindi is a working mom with three boys ages 4, 2, and an infant (born June 2013). She spent her first 8 years of her career in Speech-Language Pathology at a Children's Hospital. She currently works with adults and children in home health. The real fun for her happens when she is at home with her boys, chasing them around and pretending to be a super hero. She blogs about life as a working mom at Simply Stavish. Her weekly feature, Words in the Sand, teaches parents how to grow their child's s ... More

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13 comments

  1. MAMASEXXY says:

    I PLAN TO CONTINUE BRING MY DAUGHTER TO THE ZOO.

  2. MAMASEXXY says:

    MY DAUGHTERS JUST GETTING INTO ANIMAL LIFE STYLES.

  3. MAMASEXXY says:

    WE DID THE MAP BUT DIDN’T GET FEEDING TIMES.

  4. MAMASEXXY says:

    I DIDN’T DO THE FOOT PRINTS BUT WE DID TALK ABOUT THE ANIMALS AND EVERYTHING ABOUT THEM.

  5. MAMASEXXY says:

    I’VE TAKING MY DAUGHTER TO THE ZOO SINCE SHE WAS 81/2 SHE LOVES IT.

  6. Luisa says:

    My niece and I love trips to the zoo.!! And when my baby comes this fall, all three of us will go together. 🙂

  7. Colleen says:

    My husband and I love going to the zoo, we went for the first time together shortly before our 1 year wedding anniversery. We took another trip there during our babymoon last year and now we can hardley wait to take our nearly 6 month old son. We know he’s probably a little young but we plan to take him on his first zoo adventure this summer.

  8. Laura_21 says:

    Love going to the zoo!

  9. MAMASEXXY says:

    MY CHILDREN AND I LOVE THE ZOO!!

  10. Pamela says:

    Great ideas…I have a one year old and a ten year old. My ten year old loves zoo animals and my 1 year old has never been. We have a local zoo that is free so it a a great place to go and easy on the budget. Your games ideas add to the fun of the day and can be enjoyed by both of my children. Thanks!

  11. This is great cause we are planning a trip to the zoo this summer and even thou. leigh is just 1 i cant wait to do these game with her and make it so much more than just a trip to the zoo 🙂

  12. This is great cause we are planning a trip to the zoo this summer and even thou. leigh is just 1 i cant wait to do these game with her and make it so much more than just a trip to the zoo 🙂

  13. melissa says:

    think you for the ideals i have 5 kids and thought my oldest 13 might think its for babies not him so this was help ful for me now i have some ways to make it better for the hole family

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