When a child engages in pretend or imaginative play, by pretending to be different characters or by controlling objects in their own way and observing the result, they are essentially experimenting with the social and emotional roles of life. They are learning who they are as individuals and how they fit into the world around them, how the world works, and how to walk in somebody else’s shoes. They develop empathy and learn how to co-operate, to become responsible, and how to share responsibility.
Some of our most fun and favorite Zoo Camps are based on mythological creatures in which the origins of mermaids vs. manatees and unicorns vs. oryx are worked out. We highlight fascinating fantasy fiends like Hydra, Minotaur, and Hippocampus from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, and the mysterious and mystical monsters of Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. In our Sea of Monsters and Care of Magical Creatures camps, we compare fictional animals to their real counterparts at the Zoo, from reptiles like dragons and basilisks to Komodo and bearded dragons; birds like phoenix and griffins to hawks and eagles; and mammal-like satyrs and centaurs to goats and horses.
You can re-create some of the fun at home by making your very own Monster Book of Monsters, and magic wands to play a freeze tag game! Find DIY instructions here and here, but use your creativity and whatever you have on hand to make yours unique- add unicorn hair, a phoenix feather, or dragon heartstring to your wand, and fill your monster book with all the beasts that your imagination can conjure! Be sure to encourage kids to use caution when working with any sharp or hot tools.
Take a few moments every day to consider how you and your child can share moments of make-believe and wonder. This will help to build your child’s creativity and wonder while also helping them to practice important social and cooperation skills which will help them throughout their lives.
The Minnesota Zoo would love to see examples of how you used this activity at home! Please share pictures or comments via email at [email protected], and take less than 5 minutes to provide us feedback by completing this short survey.