Zoo Learning

While we’ve been to the Milwaukee Zoo plenty of times, today we had the excitement of going to a new, different zoo – the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. We got to spend the day as a family, the three of us, and with my mother-in-law as well. She had a late flight out of Chicago so we made something of the day by going to the zoo also. Dominic loves zoos, so it was really no surprise that we would have such a good time. I think I probably did too much comparing of this zoo to our zoo (cons: no elephants, pros: baby gibbon and baby rhino, among other things), but I still had a good time anyways. I am completely and totally exhausted though.

Anyways, I got to thinking about all the ways that the zoo is good for learning. I think there is the obvious that people know, which is that you can learn about animals from the zoo – by reading the signs, watching the keeper demonstrations, talking to the volunteers, etc, but I also think there is the less obvious ways you can turn it into a learning opportunity.

It’s not hard or complicated to turn it into more of a learning opportunity, because it just involves talking to your kid. I have a two-year-old, of course, and so that is where my perspective on this is coming from as I think what you can learn at the zoo will vary with age, but everyone is capable of learning something there. Anyways, at two, learning language is such a huge thing. Their vocabularies are rapidly expanding and a big way that they learn words is from you, their parents. They don’t just imagine that water is called water. No, somebody tells them that this substance that they drink and bathe in and swim in is called water. And they have to do that over and over, learning every word. Well, the zoo is a great place to introduce and reinforce different words and concepts. Not only can you name the animals, but you can talk about what the animals are doing (swimming, flying, sleeping, playing, jumping, climbing, eating, etc.), you can describe the animals, both in size and in markings (big, small, long neck, stripes, all sorts of colors, spots, etc.), you can count the animals and talk about how many there are, and you can even talk about relationships (that is a baby rhino and the bigger one is the baby’s mom). You aren’t limited to just those things either, you have so many possibilities. Sure, your kid probably knows some of those words already, but reenforcing those words is important as well as showing those words in a different context and situation, to understand that we eat but that animals also eat, for example. It seems like such a basic concept, but as adults, our concepts of these things came from somewhere, they didn’t just magically poof into our heads. Talking to your kid is so simple, but so very important for the development of language.

Learning can be anywhere and everywhere!

And now, the pictures from our day of course.

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