Six Educational Activities for Kids at the Iowa State Fair


SHHH! Don’t tell the kids! Hidden in all the entertainment, fun and food at the Iowa State Fair is learning opportunities galore!

 Here are Six Educational Activities!


#1 Iowa DNR Building (NW corner)

Filled with tanks of fish, a small duck pond, DNR staff available to answer questions, hands-on games and activities, it’s easy to relax in the DNR building and forget you’re at the fair. Iowa State Fair DNR building

Todd Robertson, River Programs Outreach Coordinator, was on hand to show kids how a stand up paddle board works and help find locations were they can be rented. Paddle boarding is now going on our summer bucket list!

Make sure to grab a blue mesh bag for the “Keep It Clean, Keep It Fun” program.  “Littering is another significant problem on some rivers, especially at access points, and the DNR will be distributing blue mesh bags that people can take with them and pick up litter as they go.”


#2 University of Iowa Trailer (west of the DNR building)

It doesn’t look like much on the outside, but inside the University of Iowa trailer is hands-on fun with a focus on medicine and energy. Human organs on display for viewing include a heart, lungs and half a brain (not sure where the other half is). Kids can try training for laparoscopic surgery with the same tool and method doctors use. It’s a lot harder than it looks!  

Iowa State Fair University of Iowa Trailer


#3 Water Rocks Conservation Station Trailer (east of the Varied Industries building)

Kids can play games and be involved in hands-on demonstrations at the Water Rocks trailer. My kids loved squirting the water to make rain and asked questions of the staff.

Iowa State Fair WaterRocksISU kids making a rain stormWater Rocks will visit your classroom or group this year. Fill out a request on their website.


#4 Free Petting Zoo (north of Little Hands on the Farm)

I was truly surprised and thrilled to stumble upon this petting zoo. There is over a dozen unique small animals that are not found in our local zoos. My daughter loved the zoo and we spent around 20 minutes petting all the animals except for the porcupine and zebra.

Porcupine at the Iowa State Fair Petting Zoo

Feed cups available for sale but you aren’t required to buy them. It really is free. Be prepared to have your kids ask for a pony or camel ride which is not free.


#5 Little Hands on the Farm (by Gate 15)

Little Hands on the Farm has been around now for several years and is a favorite of my kids. This is the one thing my son really wanted to do! I was surprised because I thought he might have outgrown this attraction, but he still loves it. Each time the children visit they learn something new. This year we learned that 94% of Iowa hog farms are family owned.  

This map shows what kids can experience at the farm! We skipped the long lines by visiting in the middle of the afternoon. Early morning tends to be a busier time.


#6 Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center (by Gate 15)

Get ready for cuteness! Your children are going to want to be farmers in no time when they visit the adorable baby animals in the Animal Learning Center.

Iowa State Fair Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center baby ducks


Take time to stop and read the fun super sized books explaining farm life and ask questions about the animals to the helpful FFA staff. Write a thank you message to farmers on one of the many giant picture boards.

Iowa State Fair Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center Thank a Farmer

The Animal Learning Center gives kids an up close and personal look at farm life, including live animal births. Ask questions and enjoy! We met one hog farmer who cares for 129,000 pigs and shared lots of information with the kids!

Iowa State Fair Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center nursing piglet


We spent seven full hours of fun at the fair and didn’t even make it to any of the livestock barns, the 4-H building, the cultural center or farm house. There is so much to do and see at the Iowa State Fair!

Kids are sure to learn and have fun no matter what.

You can’t see it all…so just enjoy the day!

Iowa State Fair

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