Visiting the zoo is a wildlife-rich experience for children. Make the trip even more enjoyable with these zoo tips for kids!
While working as a wildlife education officer at a zoo for eight years, I saw many parents tugging their children from one enclosure to the next (met with much complaining).
If you take one tip from reading this today, take this: all you need to give your child a better experience is to slow down, and take it all in. Don’t rush your kids through!
Zoo tips for Kids
Enjoy these tips on how to make your zoo experience even better.
1. Take time to observe
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 more than a moment to stop and observe them.
2. Touch as much as possible
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?
3. Take lots of happy snaps
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.
4. Talk to your child
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.
5. Watch wildlife presentations
Wildlife presentations usually get you closer to the action so they should be an important part of your visit. Try to plan your visit before going to the park so that you don’t miss out on the presentation you and your child are most interested in.
From years of running a ‘ranger for a day’ programme, I found that 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 animal movement activity or animal yoga that will get you in the zoo mood!
7. Close your eyes and listen
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!
8. Make a post-visit book
Now that you’ve taken all those 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 known 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 they’re 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 zoo tips for kids, when are you next going to visit the zoo? And which zoo is your favourite?
Great tips! I’m a zoo member and love taking my little girl to the zoo. I’d just add ‘rest’ to this list. Don’t worry so much about cramming too many sights and sounds into your day if you’re just going to hit a limit. Take time out at some stage to let the kids run around.
And if you can become a member, all the better. You can go for a morning here, an hour there – you never feel pressured to cram too much in to get your money’s worth.
Emily, what a great addition. I should have thought of that! Even teenagers need a rest from the excitement a zoo can hold.
Great tips, I’ll remember them next time we go – thanks for sharing! Emily
Thank you for commenting Emily. I really appreciate the feedback 🙂
Kate - An Everyday Story says
We love the zoo. Soon the National Zoo will open their huge expansion and so I think I might just get an annual pass! We went last week and Jack took his camera – of course! He loves that thing 🙂 – I always find that he is so much more observant when he has his camera.
I agree, a little prior planning and a few lead up discussions or activities make such a difference to the experience. The kids can prepare for it, make a list of the animals they’d like to see, read a little. Makes all the difference.
Oh and we like to stay and linger for a little while too, especially at the fairy penguins 🙂
Yay Kate, another budding photographer in the making! Miss Poss loves her camera too. I still haven’t taught her how to zoom yet though.
Thanks you so much for taking the time to comment Kate
Kate @ Back to Basics Tuition says
Another great post Penny. I enjoyed reading it and nodding to myself as many of the tips are exactly what we did with Indi on our recent visit. She was so delighted with the experience, I am already looking forward to our next visit 🙂
So glad you use those tips too Kate. They really do make it better. I bet Indy with love wildlife as much as me!
Susan Case says
Wonderful post! Love it. This makes me want to go to the zoo today.
Thanks Susan. Miss Possum would go every day if she could!
Janine Fitzpatrick says
Want to take my kids to Taronga Zoo, even though they are older now the eldest loves animals and I think she would really enjoy it.
I’m certain they would Janine! See if Taronga has a teenage program too. The teenage zoo keeper program gets the kids more behind the scenes then the public. I would have loved to have done that when I was a teen!
Niki H says
We got a zoo membership to the Dallas Zoo this last year and it has been the best investment! We have gone to the zoo many, many times throughout the year and have loved every visit. Thanks for the tips on making it even more fun!
You’re welcome Niki H! So glad you liked them and glad you are having a great time at the zoo!
We’re due for another trip to Taronga Zoo. It’ll be interesting how much the boys will know since the last trip. It’s always an exciting and fun time! Thanks for sharing these great tips!
Thanks for coming over Gracie. I know how busy you are on FYBF! The boys will love it even more than last time. There’s such a nice transition when they get that little older to recall the experience again and again. Just make sure you take plenty of wipes if you’re still toilet training!
One of the best zoos I ever visited was the smallish (by zoo standards) Dallas World Aquarium. It’s fully enclosed (which was a blessing on a hot summer day) and is several levels that you spiral through (a bit like the Guggenheim). You walk among the monkeys, birds, sloths–most of them without a cage–and end up on the lower level with the aquarium exhibits. A wonderful, very interactive experience.
Our family belongs to the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, which has been pursuing some much needed improvements quite successfully. Love their Asian Highlands area with its tigers and the new Rocky Shores exhibit, where you can watch above and below the waterline as the polar bear practices his dives.
Oh it sounds amazing and inspiring Ally. I hope I’ll get to go to both zoos one day. I’ve never been to a zoo out of Australia so seeing zoos around the world is on my list. When the kidlets get older perhaps. Thanks so much for dropping by. I’ll put those zoos on my list.
What a fantastic resource you have put together for us Penny!! I can’t wait to get my girls to the zoo…and our extra special visit!!
Thanks so much for your comment Jode! So glad you like it! I’ll have to do another insider tips I think, it’s been very popular!
Excellent suggestions. I would urge everybody to be extra cautious when touching animals in the zoo, this is only encouraged in pets corner or a petting zoo.
Thanks Kathy, that’s probably another point I should have made. I did mention it in the camera post, but you’re right I should mention it in this one too! Thanks
Janice@ learning4kids says
This is a very useful post you have put together Penny. Some things you mentioned I had never considered before.
We have a Zoo trip booked for the first school holidays when it is a little cooler. The closest zoo to us is in Perth so we make it part of a break away because we have to travel. Miss 2 has never been before but my older girls have. We took tons of photos and laminated them and made them into fridge magnets, my girls still play with them today. I can’t wait for the holidays now so we can go to the zoo!!
What a great Idea Janice. Those photos will always remind them about their experience because they are in eye sight everyday perfect! I want to see some of your zoo photos when you’ve gone. I’d love to go to Perth zoo!
The ZOO rocks! I keep my grandson (age 2) everyday while his parents work and we visit the local zoo as often as possible. We made this last Christmas a “zoo themed” gift idea for my little E and his parents. I gave his Daddy a zoo membership for this year & all of E’s gifts were zoo and zoo animal related. It was a huge success! One of my favorite gifts was a photo book with a hard cover filled with photos of our last zoo visit….we had it made by our photo order service, it was inexpensive. I enjoyed my visit here!
After reading this tips I will visit the zoo a little different then before 🙂 We (40 & 5 yrs old) will go to Artis, the zoo in Amsterdam, this september.
Penny Whitehouse says
That’s so lovely of you to say Monique! I’m so glad it helped and I hope you have a lovely day out at the zoo!
Olivia Smart says
I liked your suggestion to ask questions and find out what animals they want to see. I’m wondering what I should do when we take our kids to the zoo for the first time in a few weeks. I’ll be sure to keep this in mind, since it seems like it could help them to be more interactive and excited about the experience.