Going to the Zoo by Tom Paxton on Throwback Thursday

Member Joanie Calem recommended this fun, classic tune.

Tom Paxton

I think the song “of someone else” that I use the absolute most is Tom Paxton’s “Goin’ to the Zoo”. I first learned it when my family and I had moved back to the US from Israel in 1998. My children were 5 and 3 and we spent a lot of time at the public library, bringing home tons of books and cassette tapes of children’s musicians. We had a large repertoire of children’s songs that we sang in Hebrew every day, and whatever I remembered from my American childhood, but I was pretty clueless about anything that had been written for children between 1970 – 1998! So my kids were instant board of judges of whatever I put on in the car, and Tom Paxton was a total hit. This song in particular was a hit because we spent a lot of time at the zoo in those early years, both of my kids being animal lovers (and ironically, which has meant that they aren’t particularly fond of zoos anymore, but that’s a different story.)

I love this song because it is immediately a sing-along song, for all ages, parents included. It is also an instant movement song, inviting children to move like the animals in the song. I present it as a story, about Daddy who likes to drive fast to the zoo, and instruct everyone to grad their steering wheels whenever we sing the chorus. After we have “zipped” in whatever favorite animals that audience of children would like to include, I then slow the song down with the last verse:

“We stayed all day and we’re gettin’ sleepy, Sittin’ in the car gettin’ sleep sleep sleepy. Home already and we’re sleep sleep sleepy, We have stayed all day. We’ve been to the zoo, zoo, zoo; So have you, you, you. You came too, too, too, We’re been to the zoo, zoo, zoo.”

Usually without any kind of instruction on my part, everyone is lying down for this section, and then in a quiet voice I tell them, “So we go home, we have dinner, we take a bath, and we start talking about what we are going to do tomorrow…..do you know what we are going to do tomorrow??” And we end with the last verse….:”Momma’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow, Zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow; Momma’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow, We can stay all day. We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo; How about you, you, you? You can come too, too, too. We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo.”

Interestingly, if you look for this song on the web, many people seem to think that this is a folk song…..and it certainly sings like one.

Here is a youtube with Tom’s version, not particularly interesting to look at but his song!


  1. I haven’t heard that song in many years. It’s a great one! I just played it for my Grandson Ike (18 mo) who just went to the zoo for the first time last week. It was a winner with him!

  2. Wow! My 3 year old and I were at the Boston Children’s Museum today and a little wood car plays this song when you press the button! I thought, wow, I have to learn this for my classes and schools, and now here is a CMN post about it! So funny!!

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