Every parent knows there are times when your little monkeys need to be released into a more natural environment. Take your two-legged wild things to where the real wild things live at the SF Zoo. Their Little Learners Toddler Classes are morning classes that offer your kids a chance to learn about animals and their habitats through story, song, craft, and play. With a variety of days and times to choose from and different classes every week, your kids can tap into their inner wild thing over and over.
Part of the Zoo’s Early Childhood Education program, these classes are totally geared toward your little ones. With an age range of 1.5 -3.5, each class focuses on a single animal and includes a story, an animal fact sheet to color, a themed craft, play time, songs, snack time, and even an animal encounter from one of the Zoo’s education animals—animals not usually on view to the public. The class culminates with a walk out into the zoo to the animal-of-the-day. Families are then free to roam about the zoo at their leisure.
Bonus: Classes begin before the zoo opens officially to the public, so by the time class ends, you’ll be parked, unloaded, and ready to explore before the crowds hit.
What to Bring
The classes are held in the Little Learners Cabin at the Children’s Zoo and, except for the walk to see the animal-of-the-day, are inside. But the zoo can get chilly in the mornings and you’ll likely want to explore, so bring fleeces and hats, comfy walking shoes, especially in the winter time. If you need a stroller, wagon, or carrier, bring that along too so you can just head out into the rest of the zoo after class.
Insider tip: Classes are offered in series of six, and families are encouraged to sign up for all six. Classes fill up fast, however, individual classes can be taken if there is space permitting. If the class is full, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to be put on the wait list.
The Leaping Lemur café is located at the zoo. Kiddos do get snacks in class, and you can also bring snacks for them to eat during snack time. You may want to pack a little lunch to enjoy on a bench on the zoo grounds.
Insider tip: Just west of the penguin and otter exhibits, you’ll find Conservation Corner, an interactive garden teaching garden that has picnic tables for lunching. This is a great spot for nursing moms to get off the beaten track, and there are restrooms and a grassy knoll next to it.
Need More to Explore? Check out the Nature Exploration Area east of the fountain, past the penguins. This quiet section of the zoo sports a small Eucalyptus grove, and lots of leaves, stumps, and sticks for your little learner to connect with nature.
How to Sign Up
Classes are offered Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays for kids ages 1.5-3.5. Class times vary. Check here for details. Individual classes are $24/members; $28/non-members. 6 week series are $125 for members; $145 for non-members. All fees include a parking pass as well as entrance into Registration opens Oct 8, next session begins Nov. 5. Advance registration recommended.
All kids need to be accompanied by an adult (limit 1 adult per child).
What animal did you learn about today at the zoo?
— Amber Guetebier
Photo credit: 1 & 2 Janet Utech, courtesy SF Zoo, all others Amber Guetebier