The weather here in the DC area was so beautiful yesterday that the boy and I spent a few hours at the zoo. That is to say, at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park.
It may not be the biggest zoo in the world, or even the “best” zoo in the world, but it’s ours and I love it unreservedly. And they do a heck of a lot of scientific work on species that are going extinct there. Good stuff!
Now, Barak is not quite 2 years old, so we didn’t exactly talk a lot of science while we were there, but I see zoo trips as a precursor to being scientists. We watch the animals and observe what they’re doing. As the kids get older, we talk about their food (Pandas eat bamboo! Look at that cheetah eating meat!) and where they sleep.
And amazingly, by the time your kid is 6, you can explain the basics of natural selection to them. In the car the other day, Yael and I talked about giraffe’s long necks and fish that had never evolved eyes because they lived in a pitch black cave. I didn’t test her on the subject later, so maybe she didn’t understand it yet, but she seemed interested, so I figure it’s a win either way.
But Barak’s not there yet, so I was perfectly happy to simply expose him to the reality of animals he only remembers seeing on Zoocam. (If you’ve got kids, or if you just like animals, check this out, because you can see our adorable cheetah cubs, lion cubs, and clouded leopard cubs, along with the pandas and fish and…)
Barak liked the elephants a lot (and thought the elephant shrew was hilarious!), and was fascinated by a red-legged seriema, which makes one of the most amazing sounds you’ve ever heard coming out of a bird. Well, okay, it’s a very large bird, but still, it’s impressive.
Sure, you can teach your kid a lot of science by simply watching the birds and squirrels on the front lawn, but there’s nothing wrong with occasionally checking out some more exotic species 😉 And the zoo has those nice printed placards that make it easy to find a teachable moment.
And so, on a sunny February day that hit 75 degrees, Barak and I went to the zoo. I can’t really think of a more useful or interesting way to spend a warm, sunny day with my kid, can you?