Encouraging Language Skills at the Zoo


Zoo Blog

By:  Mallory Bruce, MS, CF-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

The zoo is a great outdoor activity for the whole family. The many different animals, exhibits, and sights are a great way to incorporate language into this fun outing. Parents can introduce their children to an array of animals and introduce new vocabulary all throughout the day. Here are a few ideas:

1. Ask basic questions and expand on your child’s answers –
While looking at exhibits, ask your children basic questions. This encourages your child to think about what he is seeing and make inferences and predictions. Parents can expand on their child’s answers and add additional information. For example, if a child is asked what an elephant looks like, they may say, “It’s big!” Parents can expand on that answer and reply by saying, “Yes! He is very large! He is gray and has big ears! He also has a trunk! What do you think he uses his trunk for?”  For example, “What is it?” “What does it look like?” “What do you think it eats?” “What sounds does it make?” 

2. “Guess that animal!” –
Parents can play silly guessing games to describe the animals. For example, if the parent has the map of the zoo, they can know what animal is next on their route. Parents can ask the kids to guess which animal is next by describing it to them.  For example, “What is big, has a mane, and is the “King of the Jungle?”

3. Incorporate action words and prepositions –
Action words and spatial concepts are key in expressive language. While watching the animals in their exhibits, parents can highlight what the animals are doing by emphasizing action words using the present progressive “-ing” ending. Parents can also identify spatial regions using prepositions such as “in”, “out”, “under” and “beside.”  For example, “The giraffe is walking towards the tree. He is eating the leaves on the tree!”

4. Review in the car –
Retaining and recalling information is a cognitive skill that is functional for every day learning. On the way home, (if the children aren’t sound asleep!) have your children discuss what they saw. They can recall describing words and prepositions that their parents modeled at the exhibits and sequence the activities of the day. Ask them basic “WH” questions such as “What?”, “When?”, “Where?”, “Who?” and “Why?” to review the events of the day.   For example, “What did you see first?” “What was your favorite animal that you saw?” “What did you learn about the _____(animal)?”

Vocabulary Words:

Have fun and enjoy your next trip to the zoo!

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