Just for Fun

A Day at the Zoo
Scouting and activities can enhance your visit.

by Grace Catron

A trip to the zoo is an exciting experience. But a trip to the zoo with a menagerie of activities added to the experience is exZOOberating! To make the most of your next zoo visit, plan ahead then delve into one of the fun-filled, hands-on activities that follow.

First Steps
Several days before your visit, go to the zoo’s website and learn more about special exhibits, programs and demonstrations. (See sidebar.) Note the animals highlighted online.

As you plan your trip, remember your child might not have the attention span to visit every exhibit. Prioritize what you want to see.

On the day of your trip, arrive early. Many animals are active in the cool hours of the day and at feeding time. Get a zoo map. Locate the restrooms and first aid station. Show your child what staff members’ uniforms look like so he can find an employee if he gets separated.

As you look at the map, plan what exhibits you want to see most. To keep your child’s interest, go to the exhibits she wants to see first. If someone in your party decides to go to a different exhibit, agree on a time to meet and a point of return.

Save special treats such as the petting zoo or rides until your child is bored and needs a change of pace. Take sunscreen, snacks, and plenty of water. Wear comfortable shoes. If you have binoculars, bring them. And don’t forget your camera!

For More Info

Elmwood Park Zoo
1661 Harding Blvd.
Norristown, PA. , 19401
10am-5pm, $8.50 Adults,
$6.50 children.

Philadelphia Zoo, The
3400 W. Girard Ave., Phila., 19104
215-243-1100, www.philadelphiazoo.org
9:30am-5pm, $16.95 Adults,
$13.95 Ages 2-11, under 2 Free.

Zoo Activities
Once you have a game plan for visiting the zoo, why not also plan a few activities to do with your child before, during and after your trip? Here are some ideas.

Match It Up! Most zoo websites have images of the resident animals. Print some of these pictures onto card stock before your trip to the zoo. Trim the pages so you have photo-size cards of the animals. When you see a particular animal at the zoo, pull out the cards and have your child match the picture with the real-life animal.

Books and Videos. Before your zoo trip, go to the juvenile section of your library and check out books about zoo animals. Read them to your child and point out the different animals. What kinds of noises do they make? What kinds of foods do they eat? What kinds of environments do they live in? What country or continent are they from? If the book you are reading doesn’t have the information, go to an online encyclopedia for the answers. Children especially enjoy books about baby animals and their mothers.

Follow up your zoo trip by watching animal videos with your child. Are there any creatures on the video you did not see at the zoo? Are some of the animals similar to what you saw? What is different about them?

Personifications. As you see different animals in the zoo, ask your child questions such as: If this animal were a person, what kind of voice do you think it would have? What would its personality be? What kind of job would it have?

Color Game. Cut one 3-inch circle from each color of construction paper: black, brown, white, green, etc. Cut two extra white circles; draw stripes on one and spots on another. Take these circles to the zoo. When you come upon an exhibit, have your child match the predominant color of the animal with the same color of construction paper. When he does, put a star sticker on the circle. If, for example, your child sees a flamingo, have him pick out the pink circle and put a star on it. At the end of the trip, look at the circles. What colors were the animals? This activity also works well if you choose just one section of the zoo — reptiles, for example.

Storybook Keepsakes. Gather pictures of animals you saw at the zoo. You can use pictures from the Internet or postcards from a gift shop. Take sheets of card stock or construction paper and have your child recount his trip to the zoo.

Record what he says on the card stock, but leave room for him to glue on pictures. Do not forget to include your lunch break and ride. Your child can illustrate those himself.

Make a cover page titled, “My Trip to the Zoo” and include your child’s name and the date of the trip. Place two hole-punches on the left side of all the pages. Tie them together with ribbon or yarn.

Zoo Masks.
When you get home, make a zoo mask of your child’s favorite animal. To do this, take a paper plate and cut it in half. One half of the plate will become the mask. Cut out holes for eyes on the mask. Then have your child color or glue on whiskers, ears, nose, etc. Help her punch one hole on each side of the mask and string it with yarn.

For kids, a trip to the zoo can be an adventure of discovery and wonder. See the zoo through your child’s eyes and you, too, will find the experience exZOOberating!

Grace Catron is a freelance writer.