Author: Rod Campbell

This wonderful lift-the-flap book Dear Zoo has been a favorite with toddlers and parents alike ever since it was first published. This colourful book excites young readers who love to lift the flaps and discover the animals the zoo has sent—a monkey, a lion, and even an elephant!

This popular book is a wonderful way to develop your child’s vocabulary, play and attention and listening skills. As each animal is initially presented through a container, this allows your child to see a glimpse of the animal and to guess what it might be, keeping their attention throughout. With simple repetitive language used throughout this book, your child will have the chance to hear the vocabulary used again and again.

Here are my top Dear Zoo activities you can do with your child to help develop their speech and language skills:

Activities for younger children:

  1. Collect a range of animal figurines/ toys to match the animals in the book (Lion, Giraffe, Camel, Elephant, Monkey, Snake, Frog, Puppy). As you are reading the book you should introduce each animal toy as you come across them in the story. To support your child’s attention and listening skills, when you re-read the book you should give your child one of the animals and encourage them to  hold up the animal when it appears in the book.
  2. Another idea for younger children in to model the symbolic noise associated with each animal in the book. As you come across the animals in the book, you should make the associated noise. Place no pressure on your child to copy these noises, but praise him/her if he/she does. After reading the book you can engage in pretend play with your child acting out the animals’ noises and movements. This is a lovely way to develop their pretend play skills.
  3. When you are re-reading the story, pause for 5 – 10 seconds before you open the flap and name the animal to see if your child can remember which animal comes next in the story.

Check out some other fun Dear Zoo ideas for younger children here and here.

Dear Zoo Play Activity

Activities for older children:

  1. Introduce the topic of ‘zoo’ and ‘zoo animals’. Discuss the animals in the book with your child. Explain that these are animals (excluding the puppy) that we find in the wild or in a zoo. Encourage you child to think of other animals they might find in the zoo/ wild.
  2. You can now introduce other sub-categories of animals to your child (e.g. sea animals; farm animals; pets). Go through each sub-category one at a time, encouraging your child to think of animals in each sub-category.
  3. Another idea for older children is to encourage them to think of the features of each animal. This can be done using a picture based mind map. Get your child to think of adjectives and key words relating to each animal (e.g. elephant – tusk, trunk, big, desert, big, strong). Get a big piece of paper and ask your child to draw an elephant in the middle. Then ask your child to draw pictures relating to the different features around the elephant. Remember you are not looking for perfect pictures!
  4. Encourage your child to think of other animals that would not be suitable as pets. Discuss the reasons they would not make good pets. This will help to develop their reasoning skills.

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