Take a deep breath. Ahhh, the smell of elephant poop in the morning. The sound of howler monkeys calling for their breakfast. The yawn from a tiger just waking up from his early morning nap. If you can’t already tell, I am a huge fan of the zoo. Any zoo. I make a point to visit zoos in cities that I visit. I have been to over 20 different zoos across the United States, and even one in France. It doesn’t sound like very many, but these organizations have taken up and continue to take up time in my life. Why, do you ask? Zoos incorporate two of my loves: animals and nature. I have an inkling that I am not alone in this, either. Why else would zoos attract hundreds of millions of annual visitors throughout the world?
The decrease in outdoor play spaces and exposure to nature (hopefully we are changing that), make zoos even more important to bring families together in an outdoor setting. These places provide positive outdoor experiences for all and invite visitors to see, hear, smell and even touch living organisms of our world. As conservation becomes more and more important, zoos are incorporating more and more natural settings for animals as well as natural play areas for children.
But incorporating these spaces in zoos is twofold. Not only can they expose and encourage children to learn and play in nature, but they nurture conservation attitudes in both children and adults. The fact is that the natural world is being taken over by farming, industry and housing development. This isn’t necessarily a negative thing, it just poses more of a challenge for us to find and utilize nature. Think of it as an adventure.
Although there may not be a zoo just minutes away from you, invest in the time to take your children (and yourself) to one of these amazing places soon. It’s worth it!
Zoos in Nebraska:
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo – http://www.omahazoo.com/
Lincoln Children’s Zoo – http://www.lincolnzoo.org/
Riverside Discovery Center – http://www.riversidediscoverycenter.org
Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari – http://www.wildlifesafaripark.com