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A Trip to the Zoo With Toddlers

by Tania Cowling | June 29th, 2015 | Entertainment, Infants/Toddlers

child feeding at zoo (400x400)Nice weather, family outings and the zoo go hand-in-hand for a day of fun. Millions of people visit zoos annually, making it one of the most popular attractions to view and usually more economical than theme parks these days. As a former educator, mother and grandmother today, my motto is to pump up the toddlers with enhancement activities before, during and after the trip. You will be teaching young children many valuable concepts that will enrich their visit.

Before the Trip

Choose a date but don’t tell the toddlers until a few days before the outing. Young children have a hard time anticipating an excursion for a long time. Put a picture of a zoo animal on your calendar and let the little ones mark off the days as they pass. Or, make a loop chain from construction paper and allow the toddlers to remove one link each day until the chain is gone; this is your special event day!

During this waiting time, take your children to the library and look up zoo animal books to check out and read. As you look through these books, learn the names of the animals, the sounds they make and brainstorm to raise questions about them to discuss and answer on the trip. If you have some old magazines, let young children cut out pictures of zoo animals and glue these onto index cards. Take these homemade flashcards along with you and try to find the real animals.

Ready, Set, Go!

On the way to the zoo, try changing the words and sounds to this traditional song. As you sing, “Old McDonald Had a Zoo,” this will get the toddlers ready for the menagerie of animals they will see. As you stroll around the premises, talk about the names of the animals, how they live, the sounds they make, how they smell, what they eat and what they look like (sizes, colors, fur and faces). Toddlers learn by observation and listening to your text. Make sure to take loads of pictures of your children’s favorite animals and of your excursion together.

Visit the zoo’s petting area and let the kids pet and feed the animals. By afternoon, animals pretty much have a full belly and shouldn’t be too aggressive. Check their mood before you let your children enter the area and make sure zoo staff supervises it.

If your zoo has a train, monorail or bus, take a ride around the premises to relax before you drive home. This experience is fun and the kids can rediscover the experiences of the day.

After the Zoo

Use some fun zoo play extenders at home to remind the little ones of their recent visit. Bring out the stuffed animals and boxes and invite the kids to play zookeeper. Pretend to feed, clean and care for the animals in your play zoo. Put the animals into groups of various sizes; this teaches pre-math concepts. Let the children rename their animals using alphabet letters that go with the animal’s type. For example, you may have Ellie Elephant or Kristin Kangaroo at your home.

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