Zoos are among the list of attractions that will soon be reopening when the restrictions lift a little more. While this is great news for kids of most ages, it’s of particular benefit for the toddler age group, here’s why…
- They get to see animals they’ve only read about in real life: You can play with toy giraffes, put together jigsaws with pictures of pandas on them and read books together about lions- but nothing compares to seeing these beautiful creatures up close. Toddlers get excited when they see a pigeon or a cat so you can only imagine what their reaction would be to see a monkey or a meerkat. Embrace this period when they are excited by wildlife because their enthusiasm may quickly fade as they get older.
- Learn about new species: While there are lots of books that feature bears, tigers and elephants- other creatures that don’t get much attention can be visited in a zoo- some of the more rare species of bird or fish for example. This gives you the opportunity to teach your toddler the names of more than just the favourites used in literature and to decorate toys. While they might not remember them all- they will probably choose a favourite and recall its name and you’ve already expanded their vocabulary by one word.
- It’s an outdoor activity: As parents, we should jump at the opportunity to get our little ones outside and away from the temptation of screens, so this is the perfect opportunity to do so. What could be more thrilling for a toddler than an outdoor activity that involves animals?
- It will increase their step count: Even if you are out for a walk every day with your toddler, you probably won’t reach the step count that you will on a day at the zoo. The beauty of this type of attraction is that you don’t realise how much walking you do because there are so many distractions and stop-starts as you reach each new animal territory. Toddlers are little bundles of energy, so taking them somewhere like this will allow them to release it all in a healthy and productive way- and if they start to get tired, you can always top for a picnic or grab an ice cream to help recharge their batteries.
- Animal behaviours: Your toddler will be able to see the animals eat, swim, walk, communicate with one another, sit, roll over- essentially witness them doing all the things that we do. This gives your toddler a basis for comparison and talking points to help them learn. ‘The lion is eating his dinner just like you are- but he is eating raw meat where we have to cook ours’. There are plenty of opportunities to share these little titbits of information that might seem obvious to us but if you can create a conversation around it- your child might just retain a piece for trivia as a take away.
- Making memories: While reading and talking about animals and playing with fluffy representations of them are all beneficial for your child’s development and help you to bond- it’s nothing like the real thing. Your child is more likely to remember visiting a zoo rather than a session of pretend play so it’s worth making the opportunity to take them to one if you can so they can experience these animals to the max.
- Repeat visits: Many zoos offer season tickets that work out just a little more than the price of a regular day pass. If your toddler has shown a keen interest in animals- this could be a staple day out for you over the summer and autumn months. Many offer discounts to special events too if you want to experience the zoo in a new way. Kids’ days out are an expensive business so if you know you will return, this could be a sound investment, meaning you don’t have to constantly have to come up with ideas for days out.
When you first enter, you are faced with a giant playground so if you and your baby are accompanied by an older child, this is a good pitstop to keep them entertained at the start or the end of your journey around the site. The zoo is deceptively large- the scope of the place isn’t obvious but let me assure you that good walking shoes are a must. Another piece of advice is to be vigilant with your pram as there are plenty of slopes for it to roll down. Make sure you have good breaks- you will need them! As it was a weekday, we were blessed with a quiet day. Only a handful of people and us were making our way around the zoo, so the animals were confident to come up close to us as we made our way around. There were very few attractions where we saw nothing as most of the animals were comfortable going about their business with so few spectators...