On Monday I took the almost 1 y.o, 3 y.o and 6y.o to visit the zoo. It had been a couple of years since I had visited the Melbourne Zoo. We had a great time and it was a lovely opportunity to go with the younger children on their own and keep at their pace.
One thing that stood out for me from our visit to the zoo was the number of crying children and frazzled parents that we encountered on our way around the zoo grounds. Being summer school holidays it was a relatively busy day with many families taking advantage of the sunny, but not too hot day (about 25 degrees Celsius). It seemed very apparent though that not every one was having fun!
Whilst our time at the zoo wasn’t perfect, we did manage to enjoy our time without tears or me losing my cool. A little bit of prior planning really paid off and I will share some of the things that we did and some that I would do next time when visiting the zoo with young children. Although based on going to the Melbourne Zoo, most of these tips would be applicable to any zoo.
Tips For Making The Visit To The Zoo Fun
- Buy Tickets Online – I didn’t do this and it would have been wise to have done so. We would have waited for 10 minutes in line, but could have gone pretty much straight through if we had pre-purchased our tickets.
- Plan out a preferred route – You can print a copy of the map of the zoo from their website. I showed the children the map the night before and asked them to tell me what animals they wanted to see most. They only chose a couple each, which made it possible to include all their choices in our walk around the zoo. Planning before we started walking around, meant that we didn’t have to double back and walk additional distances.
- Meet The Keeper Times – The zoo has Meet The Keeper Times published on their website, which I had noted down and we planned to see at least one of these sessions. As many of the animals can be quite sedentary during the day, it was great to have a chance to see the baboons feeding and hearing about what they eat and do during the day from the keeper.
- Realistic Expectations – I knew which were the key animals the kids wanted to see and had told them that we would see more, but I never expected that we would make our way around the whole zoo and see all the animals. I think to try and see all the animals is unrealistic for this age. There is a lot of walking involved and it requires them to be engaged for a lengthy period of time.
- BYO Food and Drink – I find the food at the zoo to be expensive and their can often be queues for the food as well. By taking our own food and drink we could stop and eat anywhere, anytime.
- Take a picnic blanket – I wish we had taken our own picnic blanket. As I said earlier it was a sunny day and in many parts of the zoo the soft grass to sit on is without shade. Many of the trees now have mulch under them, which isn’t that comfortable to sit on!
- Hats and Sunscreen – While looking at many of the animals you are exposed to direct sunlight, so being sun smart is important. As we were there for just under 4 hours, I actually reapplied sunscreen of my fair little ones.
- Stop and rest frequently – This was the biggest win for me in making sure the kids continued to enjoy their visit to the zoo. When I could see the kids were starting to tune out to the animals around them and looking a little flat (the whining would start), I would find somewhere for us to sit. We would have a small snack, a drink and a little chat about what we were going to see next. This gave the kids time to rest and refuel and we would all set off again in a better mood. We would have stopped about every 45 minutes or so to do this.
Our highlight from this visit would have definitely been the Seals in their new home “Wild Sea“. The new exhibit is great for little ones to view the animals and it also has seating and provides an opportunity for them to rest in a cool, dark place. You can check out their promo video below.
Dive into Wild Sea this summer! from Zoos Victoria on Vimeo.
Zoo Themed Activities
Since the visit to the zoo, we have been doing many zoo inspired activities. We have made a zoo out of duplo, we have made a jungle with wild animals (and dinosaurs!) and Possum has written a story about her visit to the zoo using Power Point. We used the version on my MacBook (2007) to make it and it was very easy to set it up in a format that she could then work on her own.
In Power Point if you go to “Format”, then “Slide Layout”, you can choose “Picture With A Caption”. All you have to do then is click on the icon to add the picture. It then formats it to the right size (only works well with landscape orientation) and you then click in the text box to write your story.
Power Point also then lets you save each slide as a jpg file. Simply click on “File” and then “Save as Pictures”. I have added a couple of Possum’s pages below: