We are on week 4 of quarantine and social distancing where the kids, hubby, and I are stuck together in our house due to the Coronavirus outbreak. While we cherish our quality time as a family together, there were times when I want to pull my hair out every time the kids are bugging me when they are bored. Doing my usual mom duties is an impossible task these days.
I couldn’t be mad though, usually they are outside, at school, having playdates, or going to parks.
A couple of days ago, my 5-year-old son was reading a book about animals (he loves anything and everything about animal) and said he wishes to visit the zoo again.
Then an idea strikes me. Yeah, we can’t go to the zoo right now. But what if we get the zoo animals to come to us?
Imagine the excitement (and confused look) on my little boy’s face when I said let’s explore the zoo right from our house.
As I discover many great free resources on the internet, we got more and more captivated by how much they have to offer. It’s like having a real trip to the zoo! The technology now is so advance you can literally turn your house into a virtual zoo.
We can learn new knowledge about animals including what they like to eat, how they live in the wild, and how they are taken care of in their new homes. I found zoos and aquariums to be incredibly educational for kids of all ages.
Let’s take a look at these ideas on how to bring the animals to your kids at home!
1. Google 3D animals
Our kids’ number 1 favorite is the Google 3D animals. Using their new clever augmented reality tour, you can see life-sized animals in your own home!
No downloads, no need to sign up, just use your phone and you’re all set. It’s also incredibly easy to access. Type in an animal on Google search, and click View in 3D right at the top of search results.
For example, if you search “Tiger”, it would come up like this.
There are currently around 30 animals that you can see. Here’s a list so you don’t have to guess one by one.
- Angler fish
- Ball python
- Brown bear
- Easter Bunny
- Emperor penguin
- Giant panda
- Labrador Retriever
- Shetland pony
Beside its ability to turn your house into a zoo (albeit virtually), the most impressive aspect about these 3D animals from Google is the kids are able to see the actual size of the particular animal. It allows you to project animals into your living room exactly as they would in real life.
My kids learned that a Ball Phyton Snake can be as big as a dining room chair, or a Shark can be twice as long as their bed. They could also see in incredible detail of the animal by moving the phone camera.
To add some fun, you can also take a screenshot of your kids with the animals. Pretending to ride the tiger, petting an alligator, reading a book to an Easter bunny, the possibilities are endless and a great way to fill the time while they are stuck at home.
2. See live streams of animals at the zoo.
There are a lot of zoo’s live streams across the world, but these are my son’s favorite.
We can see baboon, penguin, ape, koala, or my son’s favorite, the polar bear via live camera from San Diego Zoo.
Have a kid who loves fishies? Visit Georgia Aquarium to see a live look at sea lions, jellyfish, piranhas, sea otters, beluga whales, and more sea animals.
Another aquarium in Monterey, California, Monterey Bay offers 10-live streaming cameras from sea otters to shark. They also have a camera on nearby ocean, the Monterey Bay Cam (look for otters, birds, and sailboats!) and Open Sea Cam to see live open-ocean animals (sea turtle, tuna, shark, etc) from your home.
Tune in to the Houston Zoo’s webcams to see giraffes, gorilla, elephant, leafcutter ant, rhino, and flamingo and turn your house into a virtual zoo.
Smithsonian’s National Zoo has set up livestreams of its giant pandas, Tian Tian and Mei Xiang.
See the animals all the way from Australia and catch their penguin, zebra, and giraffe feeding time throughout the day to watch the animals up close.
3. Take a virtual tour
Just like visiting a zoo, some website allows you to take on a “private” tour complete with a tour guide. This is a more entertaining way to explore the zoo because you can learn interesting stories, facts about animals and useful information about how to take care of a certain animal. And it can make turning your house into a virtual zoo experience to be more realistic.
Take the Smithsonian National Online Zoo Highlights Tour that offers interactive features in many languages! This is a self-guided tour so you can pick and choose your own adventure along the way. Maybe visit the cheetah first, then komodo dragons? The entire tour will take about two hours, and it’s free to access.
Each day at 11.30 am (EST time) the Cape May County Zoo is posting a virtual tour that features different animals found around the zoo.
For a visit to an aquarium, walk through floor-by-floor tour of the National Aquarium.
4. Do a fun scavenger hunt
What animal can do handstands? Who likes to live in trees? Which items in your kitchen would a zookeeper use? Be a wildlife detective by going on the Nature Scavenger Hunt by Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.
Your kids can choose whether they will do inside or outside hunts. This was a hit for my son, he loved being a wildlife detective!
5. Adopt An Animal From The Zoo
Do you (I mean, your kids) want to adopt a tiger, komodo dragon, orangutan, or a lemur? The Houston Zoo has an Adopt Me Program where you can symbolically adopt an animal.
Yes, you can’t bring them home, but by adopting you you not only help the care and feeding the particular animal, but also support the conservation programs at the Houston zoo.
The Adopt Animal packages will be sent digitally. You will receive a customized certificate, animal fact sheet, photo, and two giraffe feeding tickets to use when the zoo is open again.
6. Download and Print Free Activities From Various Zoos
Cincinnati Zoo is closed right now, but they are offering a Home Safari Facebook Live each day at 3 pm EDT. Every day, different animals are introduced complete with a video and many activities that your kids can do at home. Print an okapi crossword puzzle or a manatee obstacle maze, their resources are really creative and engaging for kids!
What is water pollution? How can we achieve a sustainable fishery? Georgia Aquarium provides great lesson plans in a PDF format for K-2 to grade 12 students.
Turn your house into a virtual zoo by watching interactive videos with a zoo educator from Omaha Zoo. Following the videos, there are activities that you can download and do at home. The activities are divided by grade (PreK-5th grade ad 6th-12th grade activity).
Oregon Zoo also has new videos every week on their Facebook page. After each live video, there are at-home activities that you can do together with the kids to learn more about the particular animals and how to help them.
If your kids just want to take a break from learning all the animals, take the coloring pages from Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.
Of course, nothing beats seeing the animals in person at the zoo. But watching something in the comfort of your home is better than nothing, and most importantly, safer too. Especially during these times.
Honestly, my kids are having the same fun inside or outside as long as they have an engaging activity that they interested in. So in my opinion, our interaction as parents to guide them while they are doing activities like “visiting a zoo” makes a big difference in battling their boredom.
Please check out my other post about free learning resources for your kids to do at home during school closures, for more activity ideas.
What is your family’s favorite zoo to visit? What animals your kids love when you turn your house into a virtual zoo? Or do you have other recommendations of activities to do at home? Please share it in the comments below!