Children love learning about animals, but not everyone can have a pet at home. Fortunately, there are many places in central Ohio where kids can see,interact with, and learn about animals. Here are 10 places to see animals in central Ohio and some suggested learning activities you can do together.
COLUMBUS ZOO (POWELL)
The world-renowned Columbus Zoo has a huge variety of animals, habitats, and play areas. Little ones will enjoy learning the names of all the animals. Ask toddlers to describe the colors and sizes of the animals they see. Read interpretive signage with preschoolers and pre-K students. Talk about how the different habitats affect that animals that live in them. (Example: Why do you think polar bears are white?) Check out the Columbus Zoo animal guide online ahead of time to start the conversation. (Free for under 3, $11.99 for 3-9, $16.99 for 10+)
STRATFORD ECOLOGICAL CENTER (DELAWARE)
This non-profit educational organic farm and nature preserve can teach children about wildlife, farm animals, and even where honey, herbs, and other yummy foods come from. Infants old enough for solid foods can taste some of the farm products. Toddlers will love singing Old McDonald and seeing the farm animals in real life. There are special camps and day programs for preschoolers and pre-K. Check the calendar to see what’s available for your child! (Regular visits are free, fees apply for camp enrollment.)
SLATE RUN LIVING HISTORICAL FARM
In addition to wildlife and agriculture, children can learn about history and culture at Slate Run Living Historical Farm. Part of the Columbus Metro Parks system and managed by the Friends of Slate Run Farm, the farm has historical reenactors on site that show children what it was like to live on a working Ohio farm in the 1880s. Kids can explore the farm and even participate in pumping water, carding wool, and playing with historical toys. There are also trails for nature walks. Take a look at what’s going on this month at Slate Run Living Historical Farm. (Free)
The Metro Parks system consists of 20 parks and trail systems throughout central Ohio, from downtown all the way out to neighboring counties. You can find wild animals on nature hikes, and many of the park nature centers have living micro ecosystems and preserved specimens kids can explore. In particular, Battelle Darby Creek as a herd of American bison (you can look but can’t touch!) and Scioto Audobon hosts large flocks of migratory birds. Click here to find the Metropark nearest you. (Free)
SUNRISE SANCTUARY (MARYSVILLE)
Sunrise Sanctuary is a nonprofit dedicated to rescuing and caring for abandoned farm and companion animals. While younger kids will just enjoy seeing the animals, preschoolers and pre-K students may have questions about animals that appear sick, injured, or disabled. Don’t be afraid to ask sanctuary staff and volunteers about animal health and ethics. Visit on Open Barn Days and support the rescue work at Sunrise Sanctuary. (Tickets $10)
Playing with animals can teach children so many things: empathy, responsibility, and caring for another living being. We hope you will take the opportunity to visit some of these great organizations here in Central Ohio!