“Do you want to go to the zoo?”
Hmmm… We went when he was little. Perhaps now that he can identify the animals by their pictures it will be more fun. Now that he will not be in a stroller and he can look at the giraffes and the lemurs. C’mon, it’s King Julian! It’s supposed to be sunny and 68 degrees! It will be a beautiful day.
All the way there he asks, “We’re going to…?”
“We’re going to the zoo to see the animals!”
“Then, we’re going home.”
“Do you want to go to the zoo?”
We stand in line for tickets. Well, mom and dad did. The little guy found a place to sit and wait. Inside the entrance, is a small train that one can ride with a conductor who acts as a tour guide. This scared my son. He motioned for Daddy to pick him up. We started to walk and the train followed us a bit. Further anxiety. He wanted to get away! And the timing right as we got in.
We found a little play area off to the side of the main walkway and he ran there, climbing a “walking slide”. He liked the play area and seemed happier there than the actual zoo.
We looked at flamingos together. I found them so much more beautiful than the lawn ornaments. He did not appear to be interested.
Lemurs – not focused on where they were or in the least bit curious about them at all. Orangutan – scared of it. I had to bribe him with M&Ms to take a photo with the wooden one.
Giraffes – scared.
Daddy had to carry him up over half the zoo. Getting the picture?
I felt like the entire visit was a bust. And then I found a study about children taking a field trip to the -guess what? – zoo! This study discussed the findings of what children ages 3-12 learned after taking a trip to the zoo, combined with a week’s worth of preparatory lessons, and while providing each child a camera to take photographs. The results relevant to my child are the 5-6 year old range. Here’s what they said:
What the preschool children noticed, photographed, and said about the zoo had little to do with what an adult would consider the actual point of visiting the zoo. What they noticed and remembered was anything they saw that was an example of something they already knew. Whether the event was theme related or not mattered little to them. Taking photographs of the ground, a girl’s pink tennis shoes, or the clouds was just as important as taking photographs of turtles, snakes, or goats. . . The ordinary was valued over the extraordinary.
Children were asked, “What was the most important thing you learned about the zoo?” Two children who were 5 years old could not articulate what they learned. However, a child who was 5 years, 9 months old said, “Seeing all the animals” was the most important thing she learned. When prompted why, she said, “Because seeing all the animals makes everybody know what all the animals are about.” When asked to discuss the most important thing she learned about zoo animals, she said, “We didn’t learn anything important.” . . .The four 6-year-old children and one 7-year-old also missed the zoo theme.
This was a neurotypical study. Encouraged by the knowledge that all kids my son’s age are not chomping at the bit to learn about the zoo, I asked my own son what he learned. (Remember, my kid did not have a week’s worth of classes and learned about the trip the day before). This was his response:
“Flamingos, zebras, giraffes and lions.”
I’m thinking that was a pretty good response, without a single prompt! Regardless of whether he memorized the animals he saw, he knew what I was asking and remembered the animals he did see. I call that a win. Even if King Julian doesn’t look the same…