So, how many time since having kids have you said, “You’re not a monkey, don’t climb on the ___” (use your own example here – table, sofa, curtains)?
Seriously, “monkey” became part of our every day conversations once I had kids. Now aside from acting like monkeys or being carried on our person like monkeys… children are also fascinated with this species. (Okay, okay so not just the kids.) Guess who’s most anticipated when we go to the zoo? Of course we love the lions and bird house and those huge snakes we’d never seek out elsewhere… but the monkeys, gorillas and apes always steal the show. (And if you think I’m a fanatic, oh you should see my sister’s menagerie of monkeys!!)
Monkeys, chimpanzees, orangutans, apes, tamarin – after a while they all just seem to be the same but in fact there are two groups of primates: Apes and Monkeys. Orangutans, chimpanzees, gibbons and gorillas fall into the Ape category, while the Monkey category includes baboon, tamarin and mandrill. So in the spirit of Homeroom At Home, we decided to put this curiosity to work. My family held our first on-site (and quite interactive) parent/child “edu-play date”. That’s right, we got down to the fun monkey business of learning all about primates. It was simple; it was entertaining; it was educational (even for the adults!) With crafts, games and snacks we kept ourselves quite entertained for two hours. Knowing that our audience was going to be on the younger side, we kept the games and crafts very very simple, although you could easily choose more age-appropriate ones. We decorated bookmarks with monkey and gorilla stickers. We used hula hoops and a round table cloth to play games with a blow-up monkey. Of course our littlest guest thought he should be the monkey-in-the-middle. Another really cute game was “Where Is Sock Monkey?” complete with a stuffed sock monkey. For snack we ate Banana Graham Cracker Pudding Cake and Monkey Bread. We read a variety of books and used a simple story board to demonstrate the differences between apes and monkeys and then we tested our knowledge with picture books and stuffed animals. Each child took home coloring sheets of either gibbons, gorillas, tamarins, orangutans or monkeys. The highlight of the evening was the puppet story telling of 5 Little Monkeys Sitting In A Tree whereby teasing a certain crocodile. I happened to have a Crocodile Cuddle-Uppet and five stuffed animal monkeys. Everyone participated as one by one the monkeys disappeared. We also read and re-enacted 5 Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed and below you’ll find a cute picture of that action. Again, these highly engaging stories were the talk of the night. Check out our Facebook page for more fun photos of our Monkey Edu-Play Date.
As fun as it was playing games and tossing around stuffed animal friends, it doesn’t hold a candle next to watching these primates in action. There are many local places to check out apes and monkeys including the Philadelphia Zoo. The Philadelphia Zoo has named 2012 the Year Of The Orangutan with special exhibits, events and education awareness. The Buffalo Zoo of New York offers wonderful PDF Fact Sheets for most of their animals on exhibit – in fact many zoos offer bios or facts for their animal population but the full sheet fact pages of Buffalo Zoo was impressive and helpful. This was also the case for Brandywine Zoo of Delaware.
We can’t have all this talk about monkeys and apes and NOT mention the Ape House at the National Zoo in DC. This exhibit is home to several gorillas and orangutans. The Ape House is only one of several exhibits the National Zoo offers for primates. When visiting be sure to stop by the Small Mammal House, Think Tank, Lemur Island and more. Be sure to bookmark their website here, as it is full of information to return to – monkeys and otherwise. Another fascinating feature of the National Zoo is the creation of the first ever Orangutan Transport System (OTS) – no kidding! As a solution to a logistical and design issue within the zoo, they created a traveling system allowing the orangutans to freely roam between the Ape House and Think Tank. In addition, the orangutans are offered the freedom to choose their evening dwelling. How cool is that? Check out more on the “O line” by clicking here. Now among several on-going projects, our National Zoo at the Smithsonian has spearheaded the Golden Lion Tamarin Conservation Program whereby saving these critically endangered monkeys over the last three decades and reducing their classification from critically endangered to endangered. Don’t forget to check out the education tools on the website – there’s so much offered.
Play time equals learning fun too, so check out these great toys to continue your primate experience:
China’s famous Yi Yuanji of 1000 years ago, depicted a beautiful scene on silk of two gibbons in a tree. This painting became memorable due to a culture that mostly focused on flowers and birds in artistic expression. You can check it out here.
Let’s continue our discussion… chimpanzees, monkeys, gorillas, etc have been featured in a number of live-action family films. Share with us your favorite and one lucky participant will win a small monkey surprise just for leaving a comment. (Be sure to leave your email, so I can contact the winner directly.) Winner will be chosen on October 25th.