Do you take your kids to the zoo? We LOVE going to the zoo! Of course, as a former high school biology teacher (who entered college as a pre-vet major with a dream of working with exotic animals), I may be just slightly biased. But, really, isn’t the zoo one of the best places for a great family activity?! Here’s why I think so…
- The animals. Really, where else can you expose kids to such a variety of amazing creatures? I firmly believe that kids getting to see, smell, and sometimes even touch the animals in person gives them such a better understanding of and appreciation for the diversity in the animal kingdom.
- Opportunities for learning. The opportunities for learning are nearly endless at the zoo. Of course, the biology lessons are countless (classification, ecology/habitats, anatomy, animal behavior, evolution, etc.). But, you can also create geography lessons while you “visit” animals in “Africa” and then walk over to “Australia”. You can practice reading skills, teach map/sign decoding, learn about different cultures, etc.
- Lots of movement. Every zoo I’ve visit requires a lot of walking! And, the good ones have open spaces or special play areas for kids. It’s a great way for parents and kids to get active. We always leave completely worn out! (As a side note – it’s a great place to go walk if you’re wanting to help kick-start labor. We walked the zoo on my due date with baby #2. My water broke less than 12 hours later! )
- Practice decision-making & compromise. We are never able to get to every exhibit at the zoo in one day (true for every zoo we’ve ever visited). So, frequent zoo trips really are a great family activity for and a great opportunity to practice making decisions and the art of compromise. Which animals are we going to see today? What path are we going to take? How can we make sure everyone sees their favorite animal? It may seem simple or silly, but kids need real opportunities to practice these skills in a safe way.
- Freedom! At the zoo, there are usually a good number of walking paths, trails, or open spaces where kids can exercise a certain degree of freedom – where they don’t have to hold Mommy’s hand; they don’t have to use “inside voices”; they don’t have to sit still. It’s great for kids… and a nice outing for Mom too!
Given our location, we frequent the Phoenix Zoo most often. It’s great and we always have a good time. But, we also love to visit zoos when we travel. The San Diego Zoo and the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska are our absolute favorite zoos in the country. Both are incredible and are must-sees! We go every chance we get!
What are your favorite zoos (or zoo activities)?