We’re all going to the zoo tomorrow…

zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow, we’re all going to the zoo tomorrow, we can stay all day…

Well actually we went on Monday but here’s how our day went out and lots of things you can learn at the zoo.

We went to ZSL Whipsnade for our day out and despite being the first sunny day of the school holidays it wasn’t too busy and even though it was a hot day there was a nice breeze off the downs and there is plenty of shade.

When we arrived it was just in time for the bears brunch so we headed up there and learnt a bit about brown bears and the bears at Whipsnade Zoo… the bear cage is the oldest of the cages at Whipsnade and is pretty much the same as it was when it was built although the trees are now more mature. Years ago apparently people were encouraged to throw any left over picnic food in for the bears which over time caused them to be overweight and made them not eat enough fruit and vegetables (sounds like children!) so this is now stopped and at the bears brunch you get to throw in some fruit and vegetables for them – ideally so that it lands in the undergrowth / trees so that they have to forage for it. The display in the bear hide was enjoyed by all the boys – seeing how big the bears paws were compared to their hands, reading about what bears eat and seeing the model poo! We then managed to go to see the Wild Boar and feed them too before heading off to the elephant show (amazing – well worth seeing). After a quick wander through the Children’s Farm (with much protesting that sheep, ponies and donkeys are farm animals and not zoo animals) we visited the Discovery Centre and spent time spotting the various bugs and reptiles in the various tanks. Outside again we saw the end of the Birds of the World show (Macaws flying around the arena) before heading off to the Sealion Splash.

We had lunch on one of the plentiful picnic benches and then took a trip on the train seeing the Asian rhino, yak, camels and various deer before setting off to find the tiger (who was sat in his den) we headed off for the bus (which we sadly missed so had to walk instead!) to see the lemurs, chimpanzees and bison. We then did catch the (free) bus which was a doubledecker rather than the electric trunkline on we saw earlier in the day and we sat on the top deck to see the white rhino, (more) antelopes and the lions up on the rock.

Then we had an ice lolly outside seeing the pygmy hippos before heading inside to the very smelly hippo pool to see the common hippos. The Littlesheeps didn’t seem to mind the smell and spent a lot of time watching the two hippos swimming and looking at the exhibit showing how wide they can open their mouths and were very interested in their teeth.

With about an hour and half until the zoo closed all of a sudden it felt very empty as we spotted a cheetah and wandered through the Serengeti seeing the lions up at the top of the hill sunbathing. The biggest two Littlesheeps enjoyed playing with the spinner that demonstrated how often a lions hunt was unsuccessful. Then we saw the meerkats (Littlest Littlesheep’s favourite animal of the day) exhibiting great examples of meerkat behaviour with one sat up on top of the mound on guard duty whilst the other two ran around before you could hear the squeaks of communication and a change of guard. We then saw the zebras, giraffes, wolves and moose (babies toffee and caramel moose!), the otters, red panda, chimpanzees on route to seeing the European lynx that we had missed out earlier in the day. When we got to the lynx we were in for a treat as it was their feeding time and as the keeper threw in the food for the adults the three cubs (who apparently are rarely seen by visitors) came out of the undergrowth for their food – this was Biggest Littlesheep’s highlight of the day.

The zoo provided lots of opportunities for incidental learning about the animals we saw – from the basic level of identifying the animals, through grouping them into families e.g. cheetah, tiger and lions all being big cats, finding out what they eat (learning the words herbivore, carnivore and omnivore!), and where they live (and where that is in the world) plus it provided lots of opportunities once home where we have continued to look up more information about the animals we have seen.

Animal activity ideas / zoo extension activities:

  • Play games that have animals in e.g. Animal Safari
  • Learn the sign language signs for different animals – the My First Animal Signs book is a great resource
  • Talk about animals and their relative sizes and weights. These matching weight cubes are helpful to reinforce this concept
  • Singing songs about zoo animals e.g 5 Little Monkeys
  • Plan your own zoo – which animals would you put near to each other and why?

Check out our Toy Tuesday: Animals post for even more ideas



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