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Zoomazium to You: Creature Feature at home

Posted by Janel Kempf, Early Childhood

Editors note: While Woodland Park Zoo is temporarily closed to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in our community, our staff and educators want to share a few ways you can connect young learners to nature and nature play... and what better way than to bring Zoomazium to you! Each week, we'll add an activity to this blog to help your family create innovative and educational play time at home. For information about our temporary closure please visit Can't wait to see examples of your own Creature Feature!

Have you been to a Creature Feature?
One of our favorite daily activities in Zoomazium is Creature Feature, a fun puppet story followed by a visit from an Ambassador Animal. While the zoo is temporarily closed, our dedicated animal keepers are still hard at work giving these creatures the very best care. Your favorites like Obi the ball python, Bolivar the red-footed tortoise, and all the other animals you might meet, will be there as soon as we are able to welcome visitors back to the zoo.

This week's Zoomazium to You is from Nemesia Herzstein, our lead learning facilitator. Nemesia says that she misses seeing early learners visit Zoomazium and she looks forward to hearing about how you've all been spending your time at home. One of her favorite parts about working in Zoomazium is seeing everyone participate in our Creature Features, but this week Nemesia is asking you to create your own Creature Feature experience at home! 

Do you remember how to safely touch a Creature Feature animal? Two fingers, and soft and gentle!

Creature Feature: Home Edition!

What you need: Toy animals of any kind (and maybe a cooperative household pet!)
Time: 5-15 minutes per story  
Ages: 18 months - 6 years old  

Gather up some toy animals with your early learner. In Zoomazium, we use puppets during Creature Feature, but you can use stuffed animals (or stuffies, as we say in Zoomazium), plastic animals, or even pictures you’ve drawn of the animals you want in your story. 

Then, add an audience. This might be just you and your child trading off, but you can include other family members—or get really creative and bring in an excited crowd of pillows, houseplants, action figures, and an occasional can of corn! It's also a great time to connect virtually with Skype or Zoom with grandparents, other families who are practicing social distancing or even neighbors. 

How would it feel to touch a red-footed tortoise?
Ask your early learner if they’d like to tell a story first, or if they’d like to listen while you tell one. If either of you know any stories by heart, that’s great! But, you can also make up a story. (We don’t know if we should give away our professional secrets like this, but we get our stories by making them up ourselves!) 

Grownups, when it’s your turn to tell a story, engage your child’s interest even more by including movement, sounds, or songs—try hopping like frogs, howling like wolves, or singing "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider".

At Zoomazium, we have a tradition after each story... we meet a real animal! If you have a pet, you can ask them to be the animal—but for a realistic zoo experience, make sure you give your pet the choice to participate or not. When we pick up our Creature Feature animal, we’re always looking for signs they may not want to participate just then. If we see any of those signs, we always choose a different animal. If your pet prefers to stay on the couch (or is a fish or some other pet who shouldn’t be touched), you can pretend with one of your toy animals. Either way, it’s a great time to practice touching with one or two gentle science fingers, and on the animal’s back only. 

What are these children doing? They look like a very patient group of young learners!
Just like we always do in Zoomazium, use hand sanitizer (we call it “foamy soap”) after touching an animal. And don’t forget step two—wash your hands before eating! If you sing "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider" again, that gives you the recommended 20 seconds of scrubbing!

Extension for older children: Reading animal-themed storybooks aloud is another activity we love in Zoomazium. This is a great time for older children to practice their reading aloud skills when it’s their turn to tell a story. They can even pretend they are reading to a group of younger children, or bring in their siblings for a live audience! 

For previous week's Zoomazium To You activities, click the links below:

Play Like An Otter: March 16

Have you and your family tried any of our Zoomazium to You activities yet? If so, we'd love to hear how it went! Tag us @WoodlandParkZoo and use #ZoomaziumtoYou to share photos, stories or videos of your own Creature Feature sessions!


Nemesia said…
Gus and I made a Creature Feature video and put it on Facebook look for it using #ZoomaziumAtHome