Almost all children enjoy a trip to the zoo. We can use zoos to encourage our child's interest in the natural world and to introduce children to the many fascinating forms of life.
Guessing games can help your child understand structure and function. "Why do you think the seal has flippers?" (The seal uses flippers to swim through the water.) "Why do you think the gibbons have such long and muscular arms?" (Their arms help them swing through the trees.) "Why does the armadillo have a head that looks like it's covered with armor, as well as a body that's covered with small, bony plates?" (The armor and the small, bony plates protect it from being attacked by predators.) "Why is the snake the same brown color as the ground on which it spends most of its time?" (As snakes evolved, the brown ones didn't get eaten as quickly.) As your children mature, they will understand more complex answers to these questions.
Children can learn about organization by seeing related animals. Have them compare the sizes, leg shapes, feet, ears, claws, feathers, or scales of various creatures. Ask them, "Does the lion look like a regular cat?" "How are they the same?" "Does the gorilla look like the baboon?"
Here are a few suggestions to help make your visit worthwhile:
- Discuss expectations with your children ahead of time. What do they think they'll find at the zoo? Very young or insecure children may go to the zoo with a more positive attitude if they are assured that it has food stands, water fountains, and bathrooms.