Have you taken your toddler for a zoo visit? If not plan for a zoo visit at the earliest.
A visit to the zoo with your toddler will be great fun for you and a different experience for your toddler if you plan ahead and follow certain tips and guidelines.
Reyhan likes animals. Seeing his beaming smile and excitement whenever he sees a cow or a dog in the TV or a duck or elephant in his picture book we decided to show him around the zoo so that he can see all these animals live. (The only living beings we can spot around our flat other than humans are a few pigeons and a cat.)
Here are a few tips and guidelines I followed while taking my toddler for a one-day tour to the zoo.
What is the right age to take your kid to the zoo?
The right age is 1 year and above.
The first time we took Reyhan to the zoo he was 13 months old. It was the right time as he had started walking all of his own and was saying a few words and babbling a lot. He was even imitating the sound of dog, cow, cat, crow etc.
You can take younger babies too provided they are ok with crowds/socializing, are able to handle all the excitement, the new environment and are not scared of animals.
Why is it important to take your toddler/kid for a zoo visit?
- Its fun: Your toddler gets an off from his usual surroundings and will be having fun exploring and experiencing a new place.
- Language development: You can label animals, give a brief description about color, sound, food habits etc. Show around the stalls in the zoo and talk to him about what you see. This will definitely add to your toddler’s vocabulary.
- Hands-on-experience: Some zoos provide facilities and guidance under strict supervision to touch and feed animals. This can be a great hands-on experience for your toddler.
- Understanding the diversity: Though too young to understand about environment and the importance of providing a space for all living beings, your toddler can at least understand that there are many more variety of creatures of all size, shape and color out there. For older kids a zoo visit will be a great help to understand animals.
- Family time: A visit to zoo with your whole family can give you ample time to be with your family. Isn’t that the best thing?
- Great exercise: For you it would be a great exercise to walk around the zoo. Walking is always the best of the exercises. For your little one…mm… he may give up walking after a few rounds. Be ready to carry him.
- Increases curiosity and allows for exploration: Seeing something new can always spark curiosity in those little minds. This is the best signal they give out for you to start explaining in simple words what, why and how things are the way they are. Allow and encourage them to explore the new place with guidance.
12 Tips to make the zoo visit enjoyable for you toddler/kid and you:
#1. Give an intro
Before you head to the zoo make sure your little one gets an introduction or idea of what he is going to see.
Show him pictures of animals in books or on TV. Name them, talk to him about animals. Don’t scare him by saying things like lions can eat you or make scary noises. Develop a curiosity.
#2. Know the zoo timings and facilities
The last thing you want to see is a closed signboard in front of the zoo after all that travelling. (Once this happened for one of our aquarium visits.). So know the zoo timings.
Plan the timings so that it will be comfortable for your munchkin. Find out about the timings of any special shows they are hosting or discounts for families or groups during special hours or days.
Find out the facilities provided by the zoo. Know about distance and travel facilities to reach the zoo.
All these information can be collected from internet as most of the zoos have a website of their own. Or you can directly call the zoo and find out more.
Avoid rainy days or very hot days.
#3. Avoid long distance travel
If the zoo you plan to visit is at a very long drive from your house, please avoid it. You don’t want to travel a long distance and be tired and exhausted by the time you enter the zoo. Or you can split the travel by halting in between and taking rest for an hour.
#4. Never leave kids unattended
Don’t allow your children to wander around in the zoo. Always keep an eye on them. Never leave kids unattended in public places like zoo and parks.
#5. Dress for comfort
Dress appropriately on the day of your zoo visit. No too long dresses that can make walking difficult. Wear proper shoes as your toddler and you will be walking for most of the time. Carry a hat if it is hot. Apply sunscreen during summers.
#6. Take a stroller or be prepared to carry your kid
It is natural that kids can’t walk too long distances with their little feet. So use a stroller or a baby carrier or carry your toddler when they are tired.
#7. Stock water and snacks
Carry plenty of water and snacks. You will for sure need them after a few steps around the zoo.
#8. Be germ free
Carry hand sanitizer and wet wipes to clean your hands after you touch or feed animals. (If touching and feeding is allowed)
#9. Follow the rules
Abide strictly by the rules of the zoo. If they say never feed the animals, then it’s a strict NO NO. Don’t allow your kids to lean on the cage or put hands inside the cage.
Don’t touch or play with animals if its not allowed. If it’s allowed, make sure you have a proper instructor, animal trainer/caretaker or supervisor with you.
#10. Halt/ Avoid /Stop
Continuous walking can be difficult for your kid. Halt in between your walk around the zoo and have some rest, eat snacks or drink water. Breastfeed if you are still breastfeeding your toddler. Almost all zoos have facilities for these.
Your aim is not to see the entire zoo but to give your toddler or kid an idea of what a zoo is like. So if your munchkin is not showing interest or seems tired stop the tour.
Avoid dark rooms if your toddler is afraid of darkness. Reptiles and nocturnal animals are usually kept in cages in dark rooms or rooms with minimal lighting. If your child is uncomfortable being in dark rooms please skip that section or move out of the block as soon as possible.
#11. Preserve memories
Take plenty of photographs if it’s allowed. Buy a few stuffed toys or picture books or anything you find in the zoo’s stall.
When you are home after the visit make it a point to show the photos/toys and talk about the animals you saw and about the entire zoo experience. Refresh his memory.
12 # Give a good bath to your little one once you reach home
Very essential tip as we would be exposed to a lot many germs and dust from the zoo and surroundings.
My experience of taking my toddler for the zoo visit:
We went to the Abu Dhabi Emirates Park Zoo when Reyhan was 13 months old.
The zoo is more than 2 hours journey by car from our place. So we went to our friend’s house first which is on the way. Took rest for an hour or two and then continued the journey.
The Emirates park zoo allows children to interact with many species by touching or feeding the farm and wild animals that are kept at the Zoo.
Reyhan enjoyed playing with the sheep and lambs.
The funny part was that all birds were kaka (Malayalam for crow) and the lions and tigers were cats for him and he happily chanted meow meow on seeing them!!!
I was happy that he was able to differentiate between animals and birds and understand that lions, tigers and cats belonged to the same family!!!
He also touched a small tortoise and a snake! Of course under the supervisor of the animal care taker/ trainer. His hands were washed and a hand sanitizer was applied soon after that.
We fed the giraffes, but this time Reyhan cried may be because the big size of the animal frightened him. So we quickly took him to another section.
He loved walking around the aquarium shouting meemi meemi. (That’s what he says for fish). He did walk for more time than we expected. Rest of the time we carried him.
We didn’t see the entire zoo. When we felt that Reyhan was overwhelmed with all the new sights and was tired we decided to skip the bird show, elephants section and stopped the tour.
In short the zoo visit was fun and went smoothly than we expected.
Do take your toddler for an exciting tour at your nearest zoo and share your experience. I am sure it will be fun.