Does your child love going to the aquarium? Mine does and luckily, living in Tampa, Florida, we have the The Florida Aquarium right down the street.
My three-year old has always been an animal-lover. He is not biased in anyway; all animals receive the same love and adoration from him. His usual after-school request is that we either go to the aquarium, the zoo, or the pet store and if/when we have the time, I usually adhere to his requests.
The appeal of aquariums seems to have broadened recently. Schools take field trips to the aquarium because they, too, see the learning opportunities offered by a visit. Sometimes, visiting a location, outside of the classroom or your home, is a more effective teaching tool for both school skills and life skills. The key with the aquarium, is that children get to learn “eyes-on” and sometimes, “hands-on” as well, typically making them a more receptive audience.
Here are ten important life skills that I believe your child can learn from a visit to an aquarium.
- A visit to the aquarium teaches your child about responsibility. Responsibility can be a hard concept for pre-schoolers and elementary-aged kids to understand. They may understand the definition, but may not understand the application. A visit to an aquarium will allow for your child to learn about what it takes to maintain an aquarium. Running an aquarium and caring for the welfare of all of the tank inhabitants (fish, corals, invertebrates, plants, and all living species found in aquarium systems) is not an easy feat. Children learn that much responsibility is required to run an aquarium, including the proper and best harvesting, handling, and management of all species in the aquarium. Your child can and will translate this into the knowledge that if they care about something enough, they also have to be accountable for it.
- A visit to the aquarium teaches your child about achievement. Owners of aquariums, large or small, have achieved something–they have successful maintained an aquatic system that is thriving and allowing for all its inhabitants to not just live, but be happy and healthy. This is something to be proud of. You child can and will translate this into the knowledge that anything can be achieved with hard work, dedication and commitment.
- A visit to the aquarium teaches your child the importance of constant learning. Aquarium owners, staff and even the animal handlers are constantly researching, studying and learning about their inhabitants. Without constant education on aquatic systems and the ever-changing needs/desires/wants of it’s inhabitants, the aquatic system may fail, ultimately causing the loss of its inhabitants or contributing to their unsustainability. Your child can and will translate this into their own understanding of why learning is so important–at any age.
- A visit to the aquarium can spark your child’s interest in reading. During our aquarium visits, my son requests that I read each and every blurb about each tank inhabitant. Though this can be somewhat tiresome for you the parent, be sure to engage with them on this. Honor their request and their thirst for wanting to know more.
- A visit to the aquarium helps your child to become a more critical thinker. Let your child ask you “why?” Encourage this behavior. If they are questioning you on why a a certain creature is doing a certain thing, it is their attempt to analyze the facts you just provided to them.
- A visit to the aquarium may develop your child’s love of science. Science is one of the most fascinating things about our existence. Some refer to science as a “giant puzzle” — kids love puzzles and can and will love science if they are taught the importance of it.
- A visit to the aquarium can foster the parent/child bond. My son is his happiest when we are at the aquarium. He is happy because I am fulfilling his want and need to be at a place that brings him peace. He appreciates my willingness to foster his enjoyment and I appreciate that he is so passionately enthralled by a place that cultivates learning.
- A visit to the aquarium can help your child learn to be brave. On occasion, aquariums will have animal handlers providing your children with an opportunity to touch certain creatures (i.e. sting rays, coral, snakes, etc.). For some this can be a frightening or anxiety-provoking experience, but for others it can be rather exhilarating and a self-confidence builder.
- A visit to the aquarium can teach your child patience. Frequently at our local aquarium, the animals you can typically touch will have a “time-out”. My son, who is usually lacking in the patience department, will respectfully and happily follow the “no touch during time out rule”.
- A visit to the aquarium teaches your child about the importance of looking past oneself. It is so easy to be solely focused on yourself. Us, adults, do it all the time. As a child, it is even harder to see past our own self and our wants/needs. Visiting an aquarium and seeing all the numerous creatures and how they depend on one another and the aquarium staff, reminds your child that the world does not revolve around them. Alternatively, they come to understand that we are just one small part of this world, but that we can make a big difference in it by being respectful and kind to all creatures and people alike.
Although a slight departure in tone from my usual articles, I felt and feel the importance of sharing what I have seen work for and with my high-spirited son and our frequent visits to the aquarium.
Be it the aquarium or a different place, be sure to take your child for hands-on education outside of the school and the home. I truly believe it can and will only benefit them–my son is proof.