In our homeschool this year, we’ve been doing Field Trip Fridays – with a fun educational outing each and every week. We’ve been to some pretty neat places, but one of our favorites is the zoo! I don’t know about you, but a trip to the zoo with a vanload of kids can be pretty stressful for me. That is, until I changed the way I did things! Here’s my failproof, stress-free zoo plan!
1. Break it up.
Don’t try to see the whole zoo in one trip. There’s no rule that says you have to look at everything every time you go! For our family, a yearlong membership paid for itself in only 2 visits. We got the membership, and then made a plan to see small pieces of the zoo in greater detail over the span of a year.
A few reasons this rocks:
- You’re not running around the whole zoo like crazy trying to see it all.
- You can spend less time there, knowing you have another trip in the works. Our zoo trips are usually only 1-2 hours.
- The kids actually absorb more and learn more when you’re going at a slower pace.
2. Do your research.
Go to your zoo’s website, and download a zoo map. Look at which animals are in which areas and which ones are indoors vs. outdoors. Print off a map, and draw your planned route for the day.
3. Plan your route around your studies and/or the season.
We are studying animals in science this year, so I have broken up our zoo trips into our areas of study. In fact, I planned our homeschool units in this order, so that we could study the indoor zoo animals in the colder winter months, and the outdoor animals in the summer.
Our homeschool runs on a calendar year – January through November. (Read more about that here.) We did reptiles first (Jan/Feb), then amphibians (Feb/Mar), invertebrates/bugs (Mar/April), mammals (May-August), birds (Sept/Oct), and lastly sea life, the fish and marine invertebrates (Oct/Nov). We are taking 1 trip to the zoo for each unit, except the mammals unit got 3 trips since it is so large and extensive.
4. Tell your family the plan.
Make sure the kids know what’s going to happen! Avoid meltdowns (“I didn’t get to see the monkeys!?!”) by telling them ahead of time, “We’re only going to the reptile house today. We’re going to see the monkeys on another visit.”
5. Bring along some activities.
Kids like to be active in their learning. Don’t just show them the animals and expect them to learn anything. Engage their senses, by having them observe and record what they see! See below for free printables!!
6. Have fun!
Don’t get too crazy about your route and your plan. If you have a little extra time, it’s okay to swing by and see the elephants (even if you haven’t studied them yet, gasp!) My husband is the one who really enforces this for us, since I tend to be more plan-oriented. He makes me a better mom!
FREE ZOO PRINTABLES
I made up some zoo activity sheets for you guys, to make your zoo trips more educational and FUN!
The printable pack includes 3 activity sheets:
- A “Zoo Fun Sheet”, geared for elementary school aged kids who can read and write on their own.
- A preschool page that requires no reading or writing, just drawing and coloring.
- A Zoo Scavenger Hunt, for all ages (non-readers will need help knowing what to look for). You can do all the sections, or pick and choose which ones you are doing on that day’s trip — for example, just the color and name sections, or the people and classes sections — it’s up to you how much to do, based on how much time you have and their attention spans! You could also do one section at a time, with a winner for each section, and that person chooses which section to do next. There are lots of ways to use this!
And >>click here<< to see my tip for on-the-go scavenger hunts!
Thank you for visiting, and may you have many happy, stress-free zoo trips in your future!