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Zoomazium to You: Mindful as a Mountain Goat

Posted by Janel Kempf, Early Childhood

First, don’t worry—this does not involve butting heads with your kids.

But it does give us all an excuse to think about some high-spirited zoo residents who arrived here as kids. Literally kids, in their case—mountain goats Zeus and Hera!

You might remember these two arriving at the zoo in 2018 and 2019 as young kids who couldn’t be matched up with mothers during efforts to relocate the species from the Olympic Mountains to the North Cascades. Mountain goats are native to the Cascades, but were introduced to the Olympics in the 1920s to provide hunting opportunities. Zeus, Hera, and the 275 goats successfully relocated to the North Cascades over the past two and a half years are descendants of those goats.

Mountain goats do a lot of scrambling, leaping, and bouncing—behaviors you might have also noticed in your early learners! Full-body, active play is vitally important for growing bodies. Equally so for growing minds, since a strong heart and circulatory system gets plenty of oxygen to all the organs, including the brain.

Yet an important aspect of school readiness is to recognize appropriate times and places for different activities. Sometimes full-body active play is wonderful, but other times are for calm, careful body movements. Learning to transition between those levels of activity requires practice, and Zoomazium’s Emily Felty thinks mountain goats are the perfect models for “kids” of every species!

Sidewalk chalk can mark mountains, rivers and ravines! Photo by Carly Kewley on Unsplash
What you need: Space to move, either indoors or out; some way to mark off spaces (perhaps sidewalk chalk outdoors, or tape for indoors—string or yarn will also work anywhere)
Time: However much you have!
Age Range: Ages 2 to 6 years
School Connections: Executive function, particularly self-control and self-regulation—an important part of school readiness

Find some open space in a large room or outdoors. Get help from your early learner to mark off a random assortment of areas to be mountain peaks, valleys, steep cliffs, and other features of steep Cascade mountain terrain. (Note: although you’ll be pretending to be climbing, leaping goats, we don’t recommend using the furniture as your terrain—furniture isn’t built to be jumped on, and slipping off the back of the couch onto a hard surface or edge can cause serious injury.)

Once you have your terrain marked off, tell your child the two of you are going to be mountain goats like Zeus and Hera at the zoo. Ask, “how would you get from one mountain peak to another if you were a goat?” Any answer is great! Ask your child to show you, then follow their lead. Once they’ve had a turn to lead, think of another way to do it, and encourage them to follow you.

What different things would you and your child do if you were mountain goats? Try keeping your feet on one spot on a pretend ledge while reaching out as far as you can to “eat” some grass. Or picking your way carefully along the side of a mountain slope until—oh, no, a mountain lion! Leap as fast as you can to a mountain peak! Maybe try balancing on one foot on that tiny peak as long as you can. There are lots of options—just alternate and balance huge, energetic movements with careful, calm ones.

Extension for ages 5 and up:
Another important part of executive function is working memory—the ability to remember and use distinct pieces of information in a short period of time. Physically lead younger children in this activity, but as they get older, try giving them pieces of information to remember. After marking off your pretend terrain, name the features of the landscape together. Then, you can play not just the self-regulation parts, but a memory game as well! Tell your child to leap from Mount Fun to Mount Silly, then climb down to Lake Happy for a drink and onto Goofy Ridge for a nap. Let them give you a sequence of locations and activities, and see how good your memory is!

Extension for ages 2 to 3 years: Help your child transition from big movements (like a leaping goat) to slow calm movements (like a goat balancing calmly on a cliff ledge). Practice breathing in and out. The transitions may not be easy for toddlers and very young preschoolers, so use your own calm voice and movements to guide and coach them.

For previous week's Zoomazium To You activities as well as activity kits and coloring pages, visit to invite the zoo to your home.