Zoo Activities for Preschool Children

A pair of brown bears in a face off

When you are wanting to teach about animals and the zoo, activities for preschool children can help focus your child's studies and make your little learner a budding scientist.

Get a Membership

Zoos and preschoolers go together hand in hand. Therefore, if you are able to go frequently, a membership might be well worth the investment. However, there's an added plus to your zoo membership purchase: the zoo will often provide activities and classes for preschool aged children, and they will generally do so at a member's rate or as an exclusive privilege to members. Your preschoolers could have the opportunity to see newborn pups and cubs, get a special tour of the zoo's reptile collection, or even hear educational storytelling focused on wildlife conservation. Another, more hidden advantage of buying a membership is that rather than doing the zoo in an entire day, you can go to the zoo more frequently in shorter time slots. Going to see one animal or one biome at a time is a much more doable way to see the sights and sounds of the zoo with your preschooler.

Creative Zoo Activities for Preschool Children

Making the most of your zoo visit is easy if you prepare a few zoo activities. For preschool children, having a portable activity can help them learn to think scientifically and come away with much more from their learning experience.

Zoo Alphabet Book

Reinforce beginning literacy by helping your child make a zoo alphabet book!

  • Materials Needed
    • camera (digital or polaroid)
    • scrapbook
    • scrapbooking supplies that your child can use
    • cut out letters (you can make these yourself or purchase them from a teacher's store)
  • What to do:
  1. On your way to the zoo or before you go, talk to your child about different letter sounds. Help them think of animals that they might see and what letters those animal names begin with: ant for 'a', buffalo for 'b', etc.
  2. Tell your child that he is on an alphabet hunt to find animals to represent every letter of the alphabet. Tell him that he will be given the camera and with help, he can take pictures of the animals. The pictures will go into a book he will create.
  3. While at the zoo, let your child lead the way (as much as is reasonable). Encourage your child to take as many pictures as he wants. Do not worry if he takes pictures of five different "p" animals--just be prepared to have an extra large "p" section.

Zoo Animal Hunt

Although this activity takes some advanced preparation and familiarity with the zoo, it's a great activity to build thinking skills. The basis premise is that you create five to ten "clues" to help your child "hunt" for a particular animal. For example, if the animal you were searching for is a polar bear, the clues might look like this:

  • I am white. (Include a picture of the color white.)
  • I weigh tons. (Include a picture of a scale or something else to indicate a heavey weight.
  • I love to swim. (Include a picture of a pool or lake for swimming.
  • I normally live where it's very cold. (Include a picture of icebergs, or something else that's cold.)

As you go through the zoo, ask your child if the animal he's looking at is the mystery animal. Review the characteristics of the animal to help him decide. So if he's looking at a penguin you could help deduce that this is not the mystery animal because it isn't heavy and is not all white.

The Zoo at Home

Don't forget that if you can't go to the zoo, the zoo can sometimes come to you! There is no shortage of online resources for discovering the zoo at home, and while it won't replace a real trip--it might suffice temporarily!

Animal Zoo Masks

Zoo masks can make it seem like you're in a zoo! What preschooler doesn't love to make a mask and dress up? Preschool crafts are always a welcome addition to any activity so don't be afraid to break out the paint brushes!

Zoo Keeper for a Day

Begin by collecting materials that a zoo keeper might need. Baby bottles (for feeding rescued animal babies), nets, a zookeeper's vest, and binoculars can all be part of the fun. Store your materials in a dress-up bin for those rainy days when you cannot get out.

Animal Crackers

This is one time when it's okay to play with your food. Encourage your preschooler to sort and categorize his animal crackers. You can also paint them with edible food paint. (You can make edible food paint by adding some food coloring to corn syrup.)

The most important thing to do when exploring zoo activities with preschool children is to remember to have fun. Planning activities may help order your day and give your preschooler things to do, but in the end, it is the process and not necessarily the end that matters!

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Zoo Activities for Preschool Children