Visiting the zoo is a wildlife-rich experience for children but believe it or not, there are simple ways you can improve your visit.
I’ve watched many people at zoos. Most see an animal in an enclosure, point at it for about a minute and then move on. You can learn a lot about an animal if you take a moment to stop and observe them.
The first post in 2013 asked you to touch more wildlife this year. If you’re going to a zoo, this is where you can get really hands-on. While you’re encouraging your child to touch an animal, ask them to describe how the animal feels. Does the animal feel hot or cold? Bumpy or Smooth? Wet or Dry?
Miss Possum and I take our camera everywhere. If we are not taking photos of our experiences, we are using our camera to zoom in and get a closer look at animals. Read one of my previous post about using a camera to get closer to nature, this post gives you photography tips to keep you and the animals happy when you’re taking photos.
Children will gain a lot of knowledge from a zoo experience if you talk to them about every animal they see. Ask questions and find out what animals they want to see at the zoo. Tip – use the information poster (usually located near the enclosures) to learn more about each animal.
Wildlife presentations usually get you closer to the action, so they should be an important part of your visit. They not only teach you information about the wildlife they show, but display it in an interesting way, by showing the animals natural behaviours. Try to plan your visit before going to the park so that you don’t miss out on the one you and your child are most interested in.
From years of running a ‘ranger for a day’ programme, I found little children love to imitate animals. Make your day even more fun by moving through the zoo like wildlife. Hop like kangaroos, slither like snakes and soar like an eagle! Here’s a little pre-visit activity that will get you in the mood!
Another thing we tend to forget, while at a zoo, is to listen. It’s so easy to switch off and not even realise the noises going on around you. Many times I’ve had to point out a koala bellowing even though the person was standing right next to the enclosure. During your visit, sit down with your child and ask them to close their eyes. Ask them what they can hear and what type of animal they think it is. This is always particularly good near the bird aviaries!
Now that you’ve taken all these photos, don’t let them sit on a hard drive in your computer. Make a book that your child can enjoy over and over again. The memories will last so much longer that way, and it’s a great way for your child to recall their experiences.
You really don’t get to experience a zoo to its fullest by just visiting on one day alone. Many of our animals are nocturnal in Australia and are only out and about at certain times of the day. If you get a season pass, then you’re more likely to see the more elusive animals the next time you return. Extra tip – visit a zoo in the afternoon. Many nocturnal animals are usually fed by their keepers just before they leave for the day and so usually much more active for the public at that time.
There are generally three objectives to a zoo: Conservation, Education and Research. Their objective is to get you to take home at least one message that will help save wildlife. Listen to these messages throughout the day, discuss them with our child and see if you can make a difference too.
Now you’re armed with these tips, when are you next going to visit the zoo? And which zoo is your favourite?