Now that the weather is (finally) warm, it’s time to start planning our outdoor activities. One of my favorite places to take the kids is the zoo. It’s perfect: sunshine, animals, and (fairly) contained spaces for children to explore. What more can you ask for?
Don’t overthink the venue. Kids will be equally thrilled with a zoo complete with African safari or a farm with a few horses and cows. Everything is fun for them. Some of Vicki’s favorite experiences were feeding turtles animal crackers at the lamest zoo I’ve ever been to. She didn’t care – for her, seeing animals was fun. Period.
Dress for comfort. Zoos involve a LOT of walking. Add in toddlers and they involve a lot of running, too. I always bring a stroller for when inevitably someone gets tired and needs to ride for a little while. It also helps to have something to hold the bag full of snacks, sunscreen, drinks, and diapers.
Try the petting zoo. If it doesn’t work, no big deal. But the 50 cents for food pellets is worth the 2 seconds of pure bliss on a child’s face as a goat eats out of their hand. Bonus points if you get a picture. Just don’t forget to wash up afterward!
Make it educational. Pop quiz your kids about what kind of animal they see, what the animal eats, where it lives, and so on. Most zoos have informational placards so you can even learn on the fly. Extend the learning by watching nature shows with their favorite animals or reading wildlife books or magazines.
Go with the flow. If I were in charge of the operation, I’d power through the entire zoo and make sure to spend time seeing each animal. With my two year old, I have to slow down a little. She likes to linger at the elephants and go back to see the turtles over and over. We skip some exhibits because they’re not stroller friendly. But at the end of the day, if she’s happy, I’m happy.
Toddlers and animals are a perfect pair. They are delighted to see their favorites live and in color. If you live close enough to a zoo, consider getting a membership as a cost-effective way to visit the animals all year long. What’s your favorite zoo experience?