Exploring Language at the Zoo


It is summer time!  The kids are out of school, we have amazing weather here in San Diego, but what should we do to keep the kids engaged, active, and learning for the next few months?  We are so lucky to live in a place that is full of fun, active things to do with our children.  It is even fun for adults to explore our city! As you start to plan your summer calendar of activities, we want to provide some tips and tricks for modeling language for children! So let’s start with the zoo!  There is no better place to learn, grow, and have fun than the San Diego Zoo!

There are many ways to model and explore language while at the zoo with your child! Here are just four language learning opportunities for the zoo.

Language Learning Opportunity #1: Basic Concepts

“Wow, he’s tall!” “That tiger has sharp teeth, roar!”

  • Adjectives are words that describe and are in abundance at the zoo. Talk with your child about colors, size, and quantity while visiting.

“Look! The hippo is under the water.” “The snake is hiding behind the rock.”

  • Prepositions are words that tell where things are.  Talk with your child about where   animals are in their habitat (in, on, under, etc.).

Language Learning Opportunity #2: Actions

“The giraffe is eating the leaves.” “Wahoo! The orangutans are swinging!”

  • VERBS, VERBS, VERBS! The zoo is full of action words. Animals swim, jump, run, and fly. The list goes on and on! Think of as many creative action words you can while there.

Language Learning Opportunity #3: Language Comprehension

“Where can you find elephants in the wild?” “What did it say turtles like to eat?” “What is the bear doing?”

  • There are many opportunities for children to practice their “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, and “why” questions at the zoo.  Take a few minutes to read an informative sign with your child and ask them some follow up questions.

“Before you go see the giraffe, put your juice in the trash.” “Where are the tigers on the map?”

  • Following directions is something we do every day.  Make it fun and motivating while at the zoo.  Maps are also a great tool to work on language comprehension.  Ask them to find something on the map for you.

Language Learning Opportunity #4: Story and Personal Experience Retell

“Did you see that?  First they washed the elephant’s feet.  Next they gave him a carrot.  Last, he drank some water.”

Mommy, I saw a hippo swimming today!  Then Daddy took me to see the snakes!  Later we got some ice cream!”

  • So many fun things happen while at the zoo.  When something exciting happens at an exhibit, retell the event to your child at their level.  If you child is able, ask him/her to tell you what happened!

Bring it home!

After you leave the zoo, bring the zoo home with you! Here are some activities you can do at home that incorporate the fun from the zoo.

Preschool and Early Elementary Ideas:

  • “Zoo Keeper Says:” Play a game of “Simon Says” zoo keeper style! Some examples might be: “Zoo Keeper says, jump like a kangaroo!” “Zoo Keeper says roar like a lion!”
  • Books: Find books at home that have the animals you saw at the zoo in them. See if you can name them all!
  • “Zoo Safari:” Play a game of hide and seek with your stuffed animals. Grab an old paper towel roll, cut it in half, and use them as binoculars as you search high and low for your animals.  You can work on following directions, prepositions, asking questions, and giving information in this game.

School Aged Ideas:

  • Animal Collage: Grab some old magazines or print some pictures from the internet and make a collage. Have your child tell you what they like about each animal they chose.
  • Write a story together: Was your child really interested in one of the animals at the zoo? Do a little research on that animal and write a report or a creative story about that animal.
  • Books: See if you can find a book at home that has some of the zoo animals in it. Take a trip to the library and find a book about your favorite animal!

These are a few of many ways to work on language with your child in a fun and engaging environment. See the link below for a YouTube video where we take you to the zoo!


Wehear’d love to hear from you!  Leave us a comment and let us know how your child’s language grew at the zoo!



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