A family outing to a zoo or animal sanctuary helps little kids connect with the creatures in their picture books, while older kids can learn about nature conservation. And if all you want to do is take a walk on the wild side, a trip to the zoo is the thing to do.
Modern zoos have radically improved their animal habitats, often making a visit to the zoo more like a stroll through a botanical garden. Educational opportunities abound as zoos do more to get the public invested in the welfare of all creatures great and small. Here are some tips for making the most of your excursion:
- Call ahead to learn if and when you can see animals (elephants and such) being fed.
- Check for guided tours, special exhibits, or presentations. Has a baby animal made a recent debut? Is there a petting zoo area? Hint: wash hands immediately after touching animals, no matter how cute the critters.
- Get kids to really look around them by going on a scavenger hunt--draw up a list of things to find including creatures, plants, words, structures, other visitors (spot a person wearing leopard-print clothes) and so on.
- Make a plan for finding each other if someone gets lost in the crowd.
- If possible, schedule your visit for a mild day--just like people, many animals retreat from extremes of cold and heat.
Essential gear for trekking in the great outdoors:
- Comfy walking shoes
- Hats and sunglasses
- Lightweight binoculars
- Broad-spectrum sun block (important even on a cloudy day)
- UV-blocking clothing (you can launder your clothing with Rit Sun Guard to provide wash and wear sun protection)
- Hand sanitizer and wipes
Feeding Time at the Zoo
Going walkabout is hungry business. Most zoos have picnic areas where you can break for lunch, but it's a good idea to ask ahead. While you're at it, see if there are restrictions on what you can bring. Zoos often ban objects that could be dangerous to animals if they accidentally ingest them, such as drinking straws, pop tops, gum, disposable cup covers, etc. Note also that you are usually not allowed to share your lunch with the animals.
Here are some playful suggestions for a zoological picnic: