When kids engage in pretend (or dramatic) play, they are actively experimenting with the social and emotional roles of life. When kids pretend to be different characters, they experience “walking in someone else’s shoes,” which helps teach the important development skill of empathy. It is normal for young children to see the world from their own point of view, but through cooperative play, your child will begin to understand the feelings of others. It also builds self-esteem when children discover that they can be anything just by pretending!


The Minnesota Zoo has had the pleasure of partnering with the Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) for the past two summers, and we look forward to more exciting camp collaborations in the future! As teachers and naturalists, we thoroughly enjoy combining interdisciplinary passions, a love of animals and theater, into one camp program, as well as co-presenting with the teaching artists of CTC. 


Solving mysteries is always fun, and in “Who Done It?” campers are faced with a new conundrum each day and tasked with seeking clues and using their sleuthing skills as animal detectives. Through theatrical concepts such as character and plot development, while using improvisation as a tool, campers uncover the answers to why certain animals and habitats are endangered or disappearing; and also what they can do to help the conservationists working hard at the Zoo and around the world to change the outcome.


“All the Zoo’s a Stage” builds on these basic concepts and expands campers’ knowledge of theatrical techniques, engaging them with additional opportunities to improvise, using body language and facial expressions to convey an idea and tell a story. Naturalists and conservationists often employ story-telling strategies in the important work that they do. Play is the important work that children do, and studies show that they learn best through play. For lots of pretend play and zoo role-playing ideas, check out www.pocketofpreschool.com/zoo-dramatic-play/.  As Albert Einstein once said, “Play is the highest form of research.”

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 of time to provide us feedback by completing this short survey.