Zoo Journal

For Emily’s birthday, we splurged on a family membership to our local zoo. Since we plan to make many trips there throughout the year, I thought it would be fun for her to keep a zoo journal filled with sketches of all the animals she sees!

It was a beautiful day, so most of the animals were out for us to see and sketch! She started by drawing these handsome penguins.
And look at this sweet lorikeet! He kept thinking Emily had food.
Emily’s favorite part is the river otter exhibit! They are so playful and fun to watch!
She is very proud of her zoo journal, and showed everyone who would look at it!
I’m looking forward to seeing how her drawings evolve over the course of the year, plus I love how this simple activity encouraged her to closely observe each animal. We had a great time!!


  1. The otters are one of my favorites too 🙂

  2. MaryAnne says

    We just got back from the zoo! I love your zoo journal idea, great way to develop art skills while enriching a zoo trip even more.

  3. Raising a Happy Child says

    This is a great idea, and Emily's drawings are very detailed. It will be fun to see what she adds to this journal this year.

  4. Valerie @ Frugal Family Fun Blog says

    @ maryanne — It was a perfect day for a trip to the zoo! Emily told me that she wants to paint in her zoo journal later tonight. Fun!

    @ Raising a Happy Child — I didn't photograph it, but you should have seen her zebra drawing with all those stripes… it was so cute!

  5. Dear Valerie,

    As a child, we went to the zoo in Washington, DC. It was very very hot that day and the only animal I saw was a porcupine sleeping under a tree.

    It was not a fun day.


  6. Readily A Parent says

    Well I hope Mark enjoys the zoo membership too – he can relive his childhood fantasy of seeing an awake porcupine!
    Emily is such a talented little artiste!

  7. Joyful Learner says

    I love the idea of bringing a journal book to the zoo! We're suppose to go to the zoo tomorrow if the weather holds up. It's been raining a lot these days. I love Emily's drawings! It will be wonderful to see her progress! I've kept on-line journal of her work but I also like the idea of keeping it all in one sketchbook.

  8. the Honorable Mention says

    My parents did this for me. I do professional side work as an artist because to this. Every now and then I by a pad to draw in…it's so therapeutic.
    Thanks for the post!

  9. That's a very cool idea. It would be great for adults to do that as well… at life in general… to help them slow down and take notice of the things around them.

  10. Valerie @ Frugal Family Fun Blog says

    @ the Honorable Mention — That is amazing! I always kept sketch pads when I was a kid too. I remember doing LOTS of sketches whenever my family would travel on vacations. It is great stress relief! Now Emily and I each keep sketch journals. She loves to draw along side me. Fun!

  11. My kids love the otters too! I love the idea of a zoo journal. We visit the zoo quite often, so this is going on my to do list!

  12. soo cute the otters would totally be my fav!

  13. Love that she sketched each animal. We brought our sketch books on our vacation — my kids aren't quite as interested as Emily but we're working on it.

  14. What a sweet way to record the zoo. 🙂

  15. great idea for a birthday present!

  16. I've gotten a sketch book for my kids too for this summer on our trip. I can't wait to see what they draw.
    Emily's drawings are wonderful, and I look forward to seeing her grow.

  17. Suzi Dow says

    Saying you "splurged" on a zoo membership is like "splurging" on a Merriam-Webster's dictionary. IMHO, it isn't a splurge but a super way to bring the natural world into your child's life. May I suggest for Clara's b'day adopting one of the zoo's animals?

  18. Just Breathe says

    What an excellent idea. You never cease to amaze me!

  19. The Mom I Want To Be says

    We've gotten my son a zoo membership every year since his forts Birthday! We just started doing 'zoo science'. We have a focus each time we visit (almost weekly). Sometimes it's drawing and observing a certain animal. Sometimes it's answering a question. This week we are going to learn about the difference between wallabies and kangaroos. I just recently realized what an amazing resource the docents are. They know so much about the particular animals, and if they don't know an answer to our questions they ask others over the radio! I hope your zoo is fortunate enough to have great docents.

  20. Valerie @ Frugal Family Fun Blog says

    @ Suzi Dow — You are so right about that, good point!! I love the adopt a zoo animal idea for Clara's birthday — it's perfect! I'm a big fan of no-clutter gifts. 🙂

  21. Katie's Nesting Spot says

    Such a fun idea, one to file away for when ER is a bit older or at least for when she has more muscle control and can doodle more.

  22. Such a great idea, and she produced really pretty results. I would be proud of that journal too!

  23. Great idea!