Going to the Zoo

Going to the Zoo

IMG_4813During summer many families decide going to the zoo is great summer entertainment. Most kids love to see animals and going to the zoo is the perfect place to do that. As a parent it’s fun to see your child’s eyes light up as they view an elephant for the first time or see their giggles as they watch the monkeys play.

Going to the zoo is a real “no-brainer” as a form of entertainment. Kids are easily engaged as they watch the animals. When you have younger children it’s easy for parents to suddenly find themselves asking their child what sound a certain animals makes or mimicking it.

Copy of DSCN0068But did you know there’s so much more you can teach your child at a zoo? But first, why should you even teach your child rather than just let them run around and be a kid?! I’m not saying don’t let them have fun. What I am saying, is just take a few minutes to sneak in some learning while you’re at the zoo.

Studies show the more we stimulate our child’s brain, the more likely they will grow up to be smarter. The smarter your child is, studies also show the more likely they’ll be successful in life. And who doesn’t want a smarter, successful child? That’s why so many parents are taking their children to tutoring centers. Those are great, but why not supplement with some fun learning by taking your child to the zoo?

IMG_5898Did you know kids can learn empathy from animals? Empathy is an important skill to have and is not taught in school (as part of a curriculum anyway).  Empathy is learning to put yourself in another’s shoes so you understand what they are experiencing. If you’re familiar with emotional intelligence (EQ), empathy is at the top of the list. Many experts say EQ is much more important than IQ.

If you have pets at home kids usually learn from a young age not to pull the dog’s tail or the cat’s ears. They can also learn it from observing zoo animals.  Next time you’re at the zoo take a minute to discuss what that animal might be feeling. Notice if the animal looks at you. They are conscious beings just like us even if they can’t talk or tell us how they feel. If you’ve ever watched those SPCA commercials on TV you know what I mean looking at those animals’ sad eyes!

Copy (2) of DSCN0391Viewing animals at the zoo can also help children overcome any fears they may have about animals. At the zoo children are safely shielded from the animal so they can’t get too close. This can help reduce their anxiety about the animal. If your child feels comfortable, take them to the petting zoo (which are usually part of larger zoos) or an aquarium touch tank so they can experience first-hand what it feels like to pet the animals.

Next time you are going to the zoo, be sure to remember these simple points so you can discuss them with your child. Learning can be fun, it doesn’t have to take place in a stuffy classroom or last for an hour!

We are fortunate in Dallas Fort Worth to have two large zoos. They are both great, just different. For more zoos, aquariums and petting zoo locations, check out our website.

 

By Catherine Cates

KATCoverFINAL1.14Catherine is the founder of AroundTownKids.com and author of the parents educational guidebook, Kidding Around Town. She is also a public speaker and regular guest on Fox 4 “Good Day” show.