13 Zoo Inspired Homeschooling Activities
Updated: Aug 26
It is the eighth week of quarantine. My homeschooling (aka crisis schooling) skills are becoming more second nature and my covid induced depression seems to be easing. I even surprise myself with the fluidity of how random moments like picking up sticks or making sock friends are turning into a multifaceted educational experience.
In our home we reserve Fridays as Field Trip Friday. When the weather is good we find a new hiking spot and go nature adventuring with a picnic. If the weather forces us to stay indoors we learn about different cities and places to visit.
Then it hit me! What better destinations for Field Trip Friday than the locations in our books, Goodnight Madison and Goodnight Milwaukee. We already know and love these places. We can't currently visit them, so why not incorporate them into our Field Trip Friday. My hope is that I can create some sense of normalcy and familiarity through the activities below, and hopefully help any parents who are running out of ideas.
We will start with the zoo! Now of course in our books we are talking about the Henry Vilas Zoo and the Milwaukee County Zoo because those are the ones our family visits the most. I will be sharing some activities you can do with toddlers through early school age children:
• Do a report based on their skill level on their favorite animal. Include fun facts with silly photos that can be from the internet, magazines, or hand drawn.
• Encourage grandparents to set your kids up with a subscription to National Geographic Kids or Ranger Rick Jr.
• Go online to your favorite zoo or aquarium. These places are posting great content and educational videos during this time.
Toddlers - Preschool:
• Start small. Have them chose their favorite animal. You can expand this to their favorite land, air and water animal to create a weeks worth of activities!
• Draw, color, trace, connect the dots, paint or sew pictures of said animal
• Take a trip down memory lane: look at pictures of when your little ones were younger and zoo visits you had as a family.
• Air, land, and water activity: Sort whatever animal toys you have by where they live. Don't have little animals, just go to Pinterest and search free printable. (I LOVE Montessori Nature's website)
• Create animal habitats with whatever you have laying around. Get creative with play-dough, barn/farm toys, Popsicle sticks make great fences. Use items from nature to create trees and savannas. Water and blue food coloring in Tupperware can be oceans, lakes or rivers. Shaving cream or cool whip can be the arctic. Food color rice brown, green and blue for a multi mixing and sorting moment.
• Make collages from magazines. This doubles as cutting and pasting work.
• Learn the first letter of your animal. This is endless! This can turn into tracing and writing opportunities, crafts with large printed letters. Again Pinterest and free printable are ENDLESS! (I also use canva.com to create some of these things but only in a pinch because who has time!)
• Create a sensory bin. Line the bottom, use something scaly like a chunk from a pool noodle or cut up an old purse for reptile skin. Find something furry or soft like the inside of a woolly sweater or an Ugg insert. Fill with little animal toys and top with feathers!
• YouTube is the best resource! Search zoo books and listen to a story being read to you. You can also narrow it by animal. My personal favorite is What the Sleepy Animals do at the Audubon Zoo (this also happens to be one of my personal favorites because we LOVE New Orleans) YouTube age appropriate educational facts about your chosen animal noises or watch them being live streamed to observe behavior.
• Make lunch or snack out of what types of food your child's favorite animal enjoys to snack on.
• Create an indoor hopscotch with printed fun fact cards. This was a twofer for us. We wrote the letter Z on the back of each card (Zebra was Gunnar's land animal) and made an extended hopscotch in the house. After he got his fill of jumping, he got to pick which one he wanted to jump to next to reveal the fun fact. Once all the facts were read Gunnar stapled them together to create his own zebra book.
I hope some of these ideas work for you and your kiddos. Please share anything that has worked well in your house. It has always taken a village to raise a child but now more than ever. We will get through this together and learn from one another. Stay safe!