The Zoo

Zoos are inherently fun. They offer animals from around the world and often have several animal-themed attractions. Nurture the experience of your next zoo trip by making your little ones explorers. Each area of the zoo is full of new animals and habitats to discover. They will need a few supplies, though: binoculars to closely examine their finds and clipboards with paper and crayons to document these details.


Zoo binoculars

What you’ll need:

2 toilet paper rolls

Paint or markers



1) Color or paint the toilet paper rolls. If you have animal stickers, this would be a perfect place to use them. If you are using paint, allow the two toilet paper rolls to be touching while they are drying. This will help them stick together.

2) Glue the two toilet paper rolls together. I used Elmer’s glue, but if you are worried about them falling apart, you can always use super glue.

3) When dry, use a sharp-tipped object to make holes in the sides of the toilet paper rolls for the string. I used a nail, and also a pen at the zoo when we had a slight binocular malfunction. You will want to make sure that your object makes a big enough hole for the string to fit through.

4) Tie the string through each side of the toilet paper roll so that it will fit around your child’s neck and be long enough for her to hold the binoculars up to her eyes.

Riley with binocularsStory with binoculars



Zoo Drawings and Clipboards

Zoo pictures

What you’ll need:


Crayons or markers

Large, hard-cover books


1) Use the clips to clamp a pile of paper to the cover of the book. I used food storage clips, but you can use binder clips as well.

2) Have your child draw each animal that she sees at the zoo, or just her favorites.

Two steps! Wasn’t that easy! You can label each paper with the name of an animal that they will see, or if you are working on spelling, have your child help label them. Be sure to bring your crayons with you! If it is a hot day, consider bringing markers as the crayons may begin to melt.

The girls drawing zoo animals


Zoo Reading

There are so many books about animals out there that it is hard to choose. We just read our Nat Geo Wild Animal Atlas for Earth Day, which was a great resource for our zoo trip as well. To get some other ideas, I took a look at the gift shop selection at the zoo. Here are a few books suggested by the zoo itself:

Giraffes Can’t Dance

Giraffes Can’t Dance tells the story of Gerald the Giraffe who is not very coordinated. The dimensions of his body keep him from gracefully dancing with his friends at an annual festival. On his walk home, a wise cricket tells  him that he won’t be able to dance until his finds his song and encourages him to listen to the music of the forest. He does, and lo and behold, he turns out to be a fantastic dancer. He just needed his own song. Ask your child what makes her dance. She may have some dance moves you’ve never seen before.


 The View at the Zoo

>When you are at the zoo, who is viewing who? This book takes a look at what the animals might be saying about the visitors to the zoo. We just might be a little bit more like our animal companions than we think. This can make for interesting conversation with your kids. Read this prior to your zoo visit and then ask your kids at each animal’s habitat, “What do you think that bear is thinking? What do we look like to that kangaroo?”

What To Do If An Elephant Stands on Your Foot

What will you do if an elephant stands on your foot? What will you do if you run into a tiger? This book talks about the best way to handle this type of experience when you are on a safari. From a kid’s perspective, anyway. Fun and humorous, this book will help you start building your escape plans from zoo mishaps with your child on the car ride to the zoo.

Tin Can Luminaries

I love using things we already have around the house for our crafts. It saves a trip to the store, teaches the girls about recycling, and expands their imagination by thinking about items in a new way. We made these 4th of July luminaries from tin cans we had left over from a particularly satisfying dinner (okay, it was from a can; I can’t vouch for it being too satisfying). The girls had fun looking for 4th of July images that would work on the cans, and we traced them out together. Now we have a fun holiday mantel decoration that the girls helped make!

What You’ll Need:Tin Can Luminaires

Tin cans, washed


Sharpie marker

Painter’s tape or masking tape



1) Wash the tin cans. Hopefully you’ll be keeping these for a while.

2) Find the images you would like to use and draw them on the can with your Sharpie.


3) Use the nail and hammer to make holes along the lines of your image. This will take a bit of time, so make sure you have something to keep the kids busy!

4) Paint the cans and allow them to dry. Add a coat of Mod Podge to seal the paint. You may need to re-poke some of the holes after the paint and Mod Podge dry.

5) Add votive candles and enjoy!

Tin Can Luminaires 2

Nurture the Experience:

Take the opportunity to teach your child about recycling. Check out this site: Science Kids, and explore it with your kid. It is full of videos, fun facts, and activities designed to engage your child in learning all about recycling. After you’ve spent some time with this, allow your child to help you sort the recycling in your own house. Make sure to talk about some of the facts you learned from the site to help bring what she learned into context. If you normally have your recycling picked up at the curb, take a special trip to the recycling center to bring the concepts full circle.

Easy Homemade Valentine’s Creations

Each Valentine’s Day the girls come home with a bag full of generic Valentine’s Day cards from the daycare Valentine’s Day party. Except, there are always a few that are creative. On busy years I role my eyes and wonder what Supermom decided to put those together but, in my heart of hearts, I love making homemade Valentine’s with the girls. Not only do I enjoy the process of making Valentines but I love the thought that goes into it. There is so much more meaning then buying a box from Walmart.  (more…)

Fruit Kabobs

Never to shy away from adventures that would make most people exhausted just thinking about them, Lesley and I took the girls on vacation to Jellystone Park in Cave City, KY, this past month. It was amazing and packed full of fun times and adventures. One of the those times was making fruit kabobs for the grill. Lesley and I are not huge fans of meat, so we needed to get creative if we were going to try kabobs. Grilled watermelon is all over the place this year, and we were excited to try it. We assembled and grilled. It was interesting how the flavors of both the pineapple and watermelon changed on the grill. Most surprising was the watermelon. It definitely did not taste the way watermelon should. I can see why people like it, but you have to be ready for the difference the grill makes! (more…)

Baked Spaghetti

We are like any traditional American family. Spaghetti is a staple. It’s so quick. So easy. And, so cheap! Not to mention it stores really well so it’s also simple to make a bunch and bring it for lunch the rest of the week. It’s hard not to make it every night of the week. There would probably be a mutiny if I did that. Riley is already slightly bored of it. So, I needed to come up with something just as fantastic just a little more exciting.

Here it is! A cure for spaghetti boredom! This dish has the same great spaghetti taste with the same great kid appeal but has kicked the cheesiness factor up a notch. Quick and simple — a great weekday meal.

Baked Spaghetti

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Baked Spaghetti



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain noodles and return to pan.
  3. Thoroughly mix together spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, and 1 cup of shredded cheese.
  4. Pour spaghetti mixture in 9 x 13-inch pan. Cover with remaining cheese.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until cheese begins to boil.


This dish can be easily customized with: Red pepper flakes Minced garlic Olive oil (drizzled on top) Onions Pepperoni

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Kick your spaghetti up a notch with this new staple. #recipes #feedingkids #familydinner Click To Tweet