How Arizona Partnered with a Local Zoo to Support Families

March 20, 2024

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Looking for a new way to engage families in your community? Consider partnering with your local zoo. Learn how Child & Family Resources, Inc. (C&FR) of Arizona partnered with their local zoo to engage families, share program information and build young children’s brains.   

Partnering with Zoos to Build Young Brains  

In a bustling world where screens dominate attention and schedules overflow with commitments, finding moments to pause and engage in meaningful experiences with family and friends can feel like a rarity. However, nestled within the heart of our community lies a sanctuary where families, educators and curious minds can unite to celebrate the wonders of both the natural world and the intricate complexities of the human brain. This sanctuary is none other than our beloved local zoo, where an unforgettable community event unfolded, igniting conversations and sparking curiosity about the vital concept of brain-building. The event was C&FR’s 1st Annual Program Round-Up event at the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona. At the heart of the event was the mission to raise awareness about brain-building -- the process through which children develop the cognitive, social and emotional skills essential for lifelong success.  

Engaging Families Where They Already Are 

C&FR was fortunate to partner with the zoo to share valuable information and activities with families that were visiting the zoo.  C&FR is home to a wide array of free programs and wants the public to know all about them, so what better way to do this than to host an event at the local zoo! The Program Round-Up was a first-of-its-kind resource event to benefit and educate the children and families of Tucson and throughout Arizona about resources, services and support while engaging in brain-building activities they could easily do at home. Intentionally having this event at the zoo on a beautiful Saturday morning allowed zoo attendees to visit the Program Round-Up event at no extra charge to learn about fun, brain-building activities and other resources and services, all while being surrounded by the joy and adventure that the zoo brings. 

Programs, Services and Resources for Families 

The C&FR community has been coming together for many years to stand up, help out, give back and grow. C&FR works to build resilient children and families in numerous communities all over Arizona. They strive to help parents meet the challenges of having a low income, lack of resources or a child with disabilities. C&FR is also committed to directly improving the lives of our youth. They organize programs to teach teens how to become better leaders and make healthy choices, and they work to support child care centers in the area by providing education, professional development and even food. 

They do all this with the support of the community. Among the resource booths at the Program Round-Up were: Healthy Families, Prevention Programs for Youth, Employment Opportunities with Child & Family Resources, Child and Adult Care Food Program, Quality First, Child Care Resource & Referral, Nurturing Parenting Partnerships and Project Best. Each program offered information about its services and a brain-building activity to help promote the importance of supporting children’s development and growth.  

Building Young Brains at the Zoo 

 A keystone program of CF&R, Arizona Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R), hosted the main activity and event tent focused on the brain-building activities and resources powered by Vroom®.  Vroom provides science-based tips and tools to support families and caregivers in turning shared, everyday moments into Brain Building Moments™ and empowers families to play a proactive role in their children’s early brain development. 

Calm Down BottleThe event fostered a strong sense of inclusivity and community, with children and families of different ages, backgrounds and interests coming to visit our booths. Families were able to learn more about our programs and services, while also receiving new tools and resources to help support their child’s growth and development. CF&R was able to encourage families and their children to participate in brain-building activities such as making their own calm down bottle, reading a book or receiving a free copy of scavenger hunt to use while they walked around the zoo. Families learned how to receive free, science-based tips at their fingertips through the Vroom app and were able to download the app right there. By downloading the app and entering simple information about their child such as first name and age, they were immediately able to start receiving daily brain-building tips to support their children’s learning.

Arizona CCR&R collaborated with Child Care Aware® of America to create an activity handout for families to use as they visited the zoo: Brain-Building Activities for Young Explorers at the Zoo. Everyone who visited the main tent received the handout in either English or Spanish. The activity handout was designed so families could have an interactive experience with their young children at the zoo through brain-building activities and a scavenger hunt. In fact, one of the standout moments of the event was when a father came back to the CCR&R table after using the zoo scavenger hunt and expressed how fun and easy it was. 
He expressed, This scavenger hunt really helped me keep my child engaged throughout the zoo. The one thing I also really liked about it is that you didn't have to look for specific animals. This made it so fun and easy to use!”   

This event was not only fun for the whole family but also informative and empowered families with the information and tools needed to help their children thrive.   

National Zoo Lovers Day is April 8, 2024!

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Share the Brain-Building Activities for Young Explorers at the Zoo resource with families to celebrate.  

For more brain-building resources to share with families at your next community outreach event, visit    

Topics: Brain Building Tips

Michelle Saint Hilarie, Arizona Child Care Resource and Referral 

Written by Michelle Saint Hilarie, Arizona Child Care Resource and Referral 

Michelle Saint Hilarie, M.S. is the Statewide Senior Program Director for Arizona Child Care Resource & Referral, with over 30 years of experience in early child care and education. She is a dedicated and passionate early educator and advocate for high-quality child care, and works to improve the lives or Arizona’s children, families and early educators every day.