Probably one of the cheapest—and best—investments we ever made was our family pass to the local zoo. It’s a small zoo, but since it’s an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), we also have free access to hundreds of other zoos, aquariums, safaris, and nature centers all over the country.
There was one year we traveled to probably 9 or 10 zoos in different states—some on multiple occasions—over the course of a year!
Can we just pause for a moment and appreciate how incredible it is that we can even go to zoos? In ancient times, precursors to modern zoos could be found in Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, China, Greece, and England—but only royals and aristocrats had access to these menageries. But today, zoos are visited by millions of people from all walks of life.
But after you’ve been to several zoos, your kids might start to think they’ve been to them all.
Making the Zoo Fun Again
Our teenage son isn’t exactly excited about the zoo like he was when he was 6. He’s a good sport about it when we go, but the zoo isn’t really his “thing” anymore.
We’ve noticed our 10-year-old is starting to absorb the same attitude.
So, not too long ago we decided we needed to come up with a way to spice up our zoo visits again.
In addition, every time we’ve gone to the zoo in the past, our kids like watching the animals—and they like to pester us about when we’re going to eat lunch…or a snack—but they don’t like really learning about the animals.
Enter: The Zoo Scavenger Hunt
We decided to kick our zoo visit up a notch and turn the whole trip into a game: a zoo scavenger hunt.
The game is pretty simple:
- Invite your kids’ friends to come along with you. (The more the merrier.)
- Divide the kids into groups of 2 or 3. Depending on the ages of your kids, you may pair older kids with younger kids, or you may keep the youngest ones with you and let the older ones go off on their own.
- Make sure all the teams have a zoo map, a Zoo Scavenger Hunt checklist (grab the free printable), and a digital camera or camera phone. (The camera is optional, but it certainly makes it a lot more fun.)
- Give all the teams a time limit and a specific location to meet at the end of the time limit.
- Award points for every animal found. (Subtract points if anyone is late to the check-in location.)
- If you choose, give an award to the winning team—even if the award is only your undying admiration.
Two Levels of Difficulty
For the little kids, your tasks should be pretty simple: “Take a picture of a shark.”
But for older kids, it’s good to make it challenging: “Take a picture of a cartilaginous fish.”
For unfamiliar terms and ideas, older kids are going to have to read signs, talk to zoo staff, and pay attention to details. And in the process, teens will really learn something.
Get the Free Printables
Hop over to Experience Biology and enter your email address to get these free printables: one for your tweens and teens, one for younger kids.