Let the journey be shaped by the curiousity of the child…
Today, in the heat, we challenged our knowledge of animals. We had a fun day at the zoo. We had some different objectives while going to the zoo. First of all to have a fun day, second of all to see how much of the animals we already know, without to have to look them up and third to look at the habitats. Below you’ll find a couple of fun activities to do with your child at the zoo and how to prepare for it.
A question: Do you recognize the animals in the slideshow?
Going to a zoo can be more than just a fun day trip for families. It can be full of learning opportunities as well. You’ll give your child a chance to see animals he may never have seen in his natural environment, the zoo also provides opportunities to learn about habitats, different species of animals and animal behavior. The learning can begin even before you leave your house. This is where books about animals come in. The A to Z animal books are great resources.
Preparation: Your child may not know a lot of different types of animals yet, other than household pets and cartoon monsters, so now is the time to introduce him/her to new and exotic creatures. A few days before your trip, sit down with your child and start reading about animals from A to Z.
You and your child can then make an alphabetical checklist of all the animals you think you might see at the zoo. On the day of your zoo visit, bring the checklist with you and have a zoo animal scavenger hunt. Once you’ve found and checked off the animals, you can talk to your child about whether or not they looked the same in real life as they did in the books.
Your child might be interested in the concept of family and what roles children and adults play in families.
Preparation: You can build on this interest by extending it to the animal families you all will see while being at the zoo. Kids are also fascinated by what the babies of other species are called. You can begin teaching at home by reading a book such as an Animal Babies ABC: An Alphabet Book of Animal Offspring.
When you get to the zoo, ask your child to look out for ways that animal parents take care of their babies. As you visit each exhibit or cage, check in with your child to see if he remembers what the baby animal is called. At the end of the trip you can compare notes. Ask your child what things the animals did to take care of their babies.
Your child might be ready to understand that different animals need different kinds of environments in which to live.
Preparation: Start the conversation about environments at home, talking about the differences between the way your child’s room is set up now and how it was set up when he/she was much younger. A conversation about how his/her needs varied at different ages can easily morph into a conversation about how different animals need varied environments to be comfortable, happy and healthy.
To really get your child thinking about habitats, it may be useful to make a casual comment wondering about how the zoo manager make sure animals from all over the world can be safe, healthy and have what they need to survive.
Once you get to the zoo, your lesson plan is already set up for you, as each animal is maintained in an environment as much like their natural habitat as possible. All you need to do is to make observations like “I wonder why it’s so humid in the reptile room?” or “Look at all the shaded area the lions have,” and you and your child will be able to discuss why each habitat is set up like it is and how the animals benefit from it. An extra point of interest can be to critically look at the environment where the animal is staying. How much does it look like the natural habitat and what could be improved.