What could be more fun for a family with young children than a trip to the zoo? My family is lucky that we live only a few miles from the Bronx Zoo. It makes it very convenient to visit the zoo for a couple of hours or an afternoon. In fact, my wife and I decided to become members of the zoo so that we wouldn’t feel obligated to make an all day excursion out of a trip to the zoo.
One thing that I would suggest is that you only consider going to the zoo when your children are old enough to handle everything that a trip involves. If the nearest zoo is hours away, you may want to wait to take your children until they are a little older. There’s probably nothing more frustrating to me as a dad than struggling through crowds of people dragging along a cranky toddler. (In my case two cranky toddlers since our youngest children are twins.) Another reason you may want to wait until your children are older is because many zoo attractions are not stroller friendly. Having young children means taking along a LOT of extra equipment. You’ve got your stroller, diaper bag, snacks, sippy cups, and other essentials. All that lugging can really add up, and dad often ends up pushing or carrying enough stuff to qualify himself for the pack mule exhibit. All this to say that you want to make sure that your frustration level should not exceed your enjoyment level on your trip to the zoo.
Another good idea is to plan your route through the zoo just after the entrance. Ask everyone in the family what they most want to see, and then use the map that most zoos provide to minimize any back and forth walking. It’s also a good time to familiarize yourself to the locations of bathrooms at the zoo. Four year olds give you so little time from when they announce that they have to go to when they can’t hold it any longer. You’ll be glad at the end of the day for a couple of minutes planning at the start of the day.
Zoos often post feeding times for their animals, so if you are able to time it right, your child can watch the animals eat as well as ask the animal keeper all types of questions.
If your children are young, look for a special children’s section of your zoo. These areas often have play areas that simulate an animals’ environment, right next to cleverly placed benches to rest mom and dad’s tired feet. The Bronx Zoo’s children’s area, for example, has a simulated prairie dog town to climb through; huge logs and birds nest to sit on, an enormous knotted rope spider-web to crawl up, and a hollow tree twisty slide to zoom down. This kind of area is a great place to let your child burn off any extra energy they may have. Many children’s zoos also offer an area for feeding or petting animals, which children of all ages enjoy.
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