Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Early Literacy in Everyday Places: The Zoo

One of our favorite warm weather activities is visiting the zoo! Engage your kids with the zoo experience and practice early literacy skills at the same time with these simple activities.
  • Sing a song as you travel to the zoo. Channel your kids' excitement about going to the zoo by singing a cheerful song in the car on the way there. Some suggestions:
  • Practice making the sounds of the animals you see. Often, kids learn animal sounds before they learn to say the names of the animals themselves. What better location to practice than in a place where you're surrounded by animals all day long? (For suggestions on sounds to make for some of the trickier animals, try Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Eric Carle. For animals that don't make a particular sound, you can act out their movements instead.) 
  • Use signs and maps to find your child’s favorite animals. The zoo is a great place to practice map skills, and to begin to understand the importance of signs. Many zoo maps use icons and symbols in addition to words, making it easy for even pre-readers to locate the animals they want to see most. Using a map is also a great way to prioritize your zoo trip, as it is rare that you would be able to see everything in one visit. 
  • Try to see an animal for each letter of the alphabet. Keep your kids engaged throughout your visit by making it into a game. Keep a list of the animals you see, and aim to find one for each letter of the alphabet. (If finding 26 animals is too daunting, you might also try finding one for each vowel, letter of your last name, or letter of your children's first names.)  
  • Narrate the animals’ behavior. Animals do lots of interesting things that we don't always talk about in everyday conversation. Give your kids a vocabulary boost by describing what the animals are up to, then ask them for their observations, too. 
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