It's a Zoo in Here
Free Flow from Jennie Mo’
Children have a natural, inborn urge to make sense of the world. Animals are almost anomalies to them initially. “What is this creature that looks nothing like the other people around me?” That’s what makes them so intriguing to them. As parents and caregivers, we naturally introduce sounds to babies by using animals, and part of what makes that so compelling is that those sounds can be both silly and also imitable. They also make for an early version of match making--“moo” goes with “cow!” And beyond that, they bring about the realization that sounds are created by living beings. Children begin to show care and interest in others through animals--like a stuffed animal or lovey. Sometimes, animals (both animate and inanimate) lend themselves to the earliest forms of caregiving--children naturally gravitate towards feeding them, petting them, bathing them, and caring for them--the earliest signs of empathy.
Children also like to categorize or sort things in their minds. The animal world is a natural place for children to start because it’s very tangible: there are small animals, big animals, animals that walk, animals that fly, and so on. A trip to the zoo, therefore, creates a learning experience for even the smallest children. Here, they can explore the animal world firsthand. Wandering from cage to cage, they see for themselves how the animals look, what they eat, and how they care for their young. These early lessons in sorting and organizing the world form a foundation for how we categorize. But since we can’t go to the zoo so easily right now, let’s bring the zoo home to them!
Language exposure, representation, pretend play, and vocabulary.