Stroller, sunscreen, walking shoes, snacks, sippy cups, diaper bag… we’re moms. We’ve got this, right? Sometimes we do so much to get ready for a trip to the zoo that we forget that the kids need to get ready too. And not just having their favorite sippy cup along. A zoo is a very different and overwhelming environment for kids. They get to see animals that they have adored through books, hear new sounds, be surrounded by hundreds of strangers…. Not to mention dark rooms, real waterfalls and bugs that might land on them. These zoo themed activities will help get your kids ready for the zoo and give you lots of opportunities to talk about what they might encounter in a visit to the zoo.

Are you getting ready to visit the zoo? These zoo themed crafts, books and videos will help you prepare your child to visit the zoo.

We recently took a trip to visit the Henry Doorley Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska. It is rated as the #1 zoo in the United States by Trip Advisor, so we were expecting it to be pretty amazing.

It definitely was.

Zoo themed craft, activities and videos to get read for a zoo visit.

My kids were amazed as we saw penguins, lions, jellyfish, snakes, elephants and so much more. Because the buildings vary so much in temperature and humidity make sure that you are wearing easily removable layers. Going from the Amazon rainforest to the icy penguin house can be a bit unpleasant if you can’t get your sweatshirt off or put one on.

My special needs daughter did have a few moments that resulted in some big tears…

Going through the dark passage and under the waterfall in the rainforest exhibit was one of them.

Getting too close to the train when it blew its whistle.

And not wanting to leave.

So just some things to keep in mind if you have a child that is sensitive to loud noises or the dark.

Are you getting ready to visit the zoo? These zoo themed crafts, books and videos will help you prepare your child to visit the zoo.

Here are some fun zoo-themed crafts & activities that can help you prepare your child for a trip to the zoo this summer!

Forest Animal Matching Activities

Forest Animal Graphing

Rainforest Matching Games

Desert Animal Board Game

Biome Sorting Mats for Forests

Arctic Animal Matching Games

Growing Patterns with Nocturnal Animals

DIY Farm Animal Game with Free Printable

Lion & Giraffe Pattern Block Mats from Pre-Kinders to build math skills while learning about animals.

Lion Paper Plate Craft from East Coast Mommy

These Montessori-Inspired Zoo Scavenger Hunts  from Every Star is Different are not your traditional scavenger hunts!

Zebra Paper Plate Craft from East Coast Mommy

Learn about animal tracks with this Animal Track Hand Prints activity from Left Brain Craft Brain.

These DIY Safari Binoculars from Arts & Crackers would be so fun to take to the zoo!!

For those who love play dough this Feed the Shark Play Dough Geometry Game from Left Brain Craft Brain would be a good opportunity to talk about the fact that the sharks cannot bite through the glass in the aquarium…seeing a shark up close can be a scary thing!

I love this Colorful Chameleon Craft (love the alliteration!!) from Cutting Tiny Bites

We saw a chameleon at the Omaha zoo and it was so cool!! He was actually brown, so we thought he was something else at first!

Fuzzy Brown Bear from Cutting Tiny Bites

We loved the Penguin building at the Omaha Zoo. They actually have a system that lets out snow from the ceiling to keep the penguins cold and they adjust the lighting in the summer for the penguins and puffins who would naturally be heading into winter.


Check out this fun Frozen Ooblek Sensory Play with Penguins from Messy Little Monster.

Do you have some leftover bubble wrap? Try this Bubble Wrap Giraffe from Crafty Kids at Home.

These animal finger puppets from In the Playroom would a great way to role play different encounters at the zoo.

Use this Zoo animals dice game from Pre-K Pages to talk about how animals move and eat.

This paper bag hippopotamus from I Heart Crafty Things would give you a chance to talk about how big and dangerous hippos really are.

Even though every time I hear the word hippopotamus, I want to sing, “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas…. ” Impress upon your children that this would not be a good idea. *wink*

Here are some great books to read before your zoo visit. They give lots of opportunities to talk about what is real and what is pretend.

And then check out some videos like this:

YouTube video
YouTube video

Find even more engaging activities in the Life Over C’s shop!

Planning for an Animal Theme? We’ve done all the work for you!

We now have interactive thematic lesson plans for toddlers (18-35 months) AND preschoolers (3-5 years)! Get ready for fun and learning with unit lesson plans for your ANIMAL THEME. Explore a variety of themed hands-on activities! Easy to follow lesson plans include activity modifications and adaptations to meet the needs of all learners. For more information, click on the graphics below:

More Activities You’ll Love:

author avatar
Kim Staten Owner and Curriculum Designer
Kim Staten is a mother of four children ages 20, 19, 16, and 12. Kim has taught at the preschool, kindergarten and early elementary levels for 16 years. With extensive experience working with special needs children, including her own children with special needs (Rett Syndrome, autism, anxiety, and ADHD), she creates hands-on curricula and activities that are great for working with children of all abilities in the classroom and at home. Hands-on, accessible activities are her passion. 

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing your moments with your sweet daughter and your insights on special needs kiddos. I am a first grade teacher who took a twelve year break to teach middle school. So much has changed (The iPhone was invented since I taught first grade last!) and there is all of this good information being shared to help me understand even more about my inclusion classroom. I always had empathy, but now I am learning how to help my students adapt and thrive. I saw my firsties grow like I never knew they could this past year! Thank you!

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