Going to the zoo is great fun when you’re stroller aged or even five or six, but my seven and nine year old children aren’t nearly as excited. Of course, to the homeschool mom that views everything as an educational experience, I decided to find a few ways to spice it up for them.
1. Research. Kids are active. They like to be on the move. Mine don’t like to stand still and listen while I read the small placards in front of each exhibit. Learn about your zoo’s unique animals at home first. If they already know the snow leopards are mother and daughter and that Tasha, the daughter, likes to climb high on the west side of the enclosure to view the llamas, your kids will use that knowledge to point her out to you. If they know one of the eagles has only one wing because she was rescued from power lines, they will look for her. The zoo’s website will have loads of information for you as you plan your trip. If you can’t find what you need, call and ask. Knowing these things ahead of time gives kids the chance to process the information. You can also use small tidbits of information as you walk together. “Did you guys know this Capybara is the largest rodent in the world?”
2. Reports. Before our trip, I have each child pick a zoo animal for their science report. We research the animal and I require a picture of them with the animal for their report.
3. Scavenger Hunts: Do your research first. You may find a scavenger hunt paper online before you create your own. I have included an example I created for our local zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the John Ball Park Zoo. Photo scavenger hunts often follow a list of pictures to take or you can make clues or riddles that your older children will enjoy. Every successful hunt needs a reward at its end. We plan a special stop on the way home for chocolate shakes.
4. Membership costs. Many zoos will offer annual family memberships. Decide if this is a good option for your family. If it will cost 45.00 for one day tickets for your family and an annual membership is $125.00, then you only have to visit the zoo twice more to recover the cost. We have used gift money to buy a membership. Often zoos will have “members only” nights. We were able to tour the inside area of the bear enclosure on one of these special nights. My son was especially impressed with the yellow line that marks how far the bear can reach through the bars.
Going to the zoo to look at the animals can be a day of family fun, but it can be an incredible educational experience as well.
John Ball Park Zoo Scavenger Hunt for ages 7-9
1. How many flamingoes are here? ____________
2. Name three South American animals. _______, _________, ___________.
3. What is the world’s largest rodent? (Native to South America)_____________________.
4. Name three amphibians. ______________, _________________, ________________.
5. Write down the name of your favorite animal ________________________________.
6. Look for the otter sign. Write down the fifth word on the sign. ___________________.
7. Beat the drums outside the lion exhibit twenty times. Check here when completed ______.
8. Find the dragon and write his proper name here. Make sure you spell it correctly.
__ __ __ __ __ __
9. Spot at least four different chimpanzees. Check here when completed. __ __ __ __.
10. What is the name of the zoo’s newest animal? ________________________________.
Return this completed list to Mom for a reward on the way home.