Did you know that June is National Zoo and Aquarium Month? I don't know about your kids, but my kids really enjoy hanging around with the animals for a day. Whether it is a quick visit or a day trip, this can be a wonderful way to spend some quality time with your kids. Some zoos and aquariums may even have special events planned for this month so it might be worth looking into those in your local area. If you don't know where to start, check out the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to find one. Following are some ideas to stretch your trip into a meaningful adventure!
Making the Most of Your Trip
- Take time to understand what a zoo does and how it helps animals. What can you find out?
- See if your zoo or aquarium has self-guided tour brochures or materials to prepare your kids for the visit, like this one from the Sacramento Zoo. Taking a little time to familiarize yourself with the specifics of your zoo, or even just with animals or fish in general will help your children to appreciate what they see all the more.
- Planning a scavenger hunt of particular animals or fish to find. Check out your local zoo's webpage---some actually have hunts made specifically for their site. If they don't have one, consider making your own. Here are some ideas from the Oakland Zoo or the Smithsonian National Zoo. These give your kids something specific to look for instead of just wandering around. Give prizes for even more incentive! UPDATE: I found this one from I Can Teach My Child!
If your kid(s) love animals and fish, check out the Association of Zoos and Aquariums link above and you can find tons of extension ideas that can keep your kids busy for a long time. Just look under the "Education" or "Teachers' Resources" tabs on just about any website and you can find tons of things you can do at home. Preparing for a visit or extending your experience afterwards can really make the trip an educational experience as well as a fun family outing (remember, I'm a homeschooler here. I love this stuff!) Here are a few cool finds I found just by looking around at some of the ones in California, but you can probably get ideas from any zoo or aquarium on the list!
- Activity Guides with crafts and projects from Aquarium of the Bay, San Francisco, CA.
- Build a Fish from Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach CA
- Have your kids take photos or draw pictures to add to a summer book of memorabilia. Make a collage with your ticket stub, brochures and a family picture.
- Make paper plate animals! Wouldn't these look cute lined up against the wall? Have your child name five interesting facts about each one and post them next to each animal.
- Use the ideas to turn this into a summer-long study with books, lapbook ideas, crafts and projects. Homeschool Share has tons of ideas (school age or this Pinterest board with ideas for preschoolers.
- Search "zoo animal theme parties" for extra fun. Who says you need a birthday to celebrate? These can give you tons of extension ideas. Make cupcakes to deorate (scroll down a little). This party service in Texas has a list of animal themed food ideas (scroll down midway) as well as activity ideas.
The God of All Creation
As wonderful as it is to visit a zoo or aquarium, a trip like this can be an opportunity to marvel at God's creation. Here are some ideas for using a trip like this to turn our kids' eyes to Him:
- Tune your kids' eyes into observing and looking closely at how God made each type of animal or fish unique. Not only does this hone their observation skills, but it can also be an opportunity to praise God for His amazing creativity and ingenuity. Many zoos and aquariums have an evolutionary bent, but we can always turn our kids to Him. (Great opportunity for worldview training!)
- Animals and fish figure into many Bible stories. See how many you can find in Scripture...and then look for them at the zoo! How does seeing these animals help the stories or principles come alive?
- Study with your kids what it means to be a steward of God's creation. What does that mean and how does it look like? How should we treat animals, our oceans? What difference is there between being a steward of God's creation and worshipping God's creation?
- In keeping with the animal theme, something I like to do is to watch animals in their natural habitat. Take time to watch an animal at work. Just be quiet and let the Lord use their lives to illustrate His truth to you. I've learned a lot watching ants, squirrels and lizards!
Whether you want to just take in a day at the zoo or turn it into a learning adventure is up to you. Consider what kind of time you have as well as your energy level. Even though I share tons of possibilities, think about what you want to do and set some limits. Pick one idea or a bunch to custom create a meaningful day together. Most of all, have fun!
Any other ideas?