Your toddler’s first trip to the zoo doesn’t have to be his last trip. With a little bit of preparation and planning, you can have an enjoyable day with your little one and make memories he will remember for life.
First, many thanks to the Central Florida Zoo for sponsoring this post! Being able to take my toddler triplets on their first trip to the zoo and see it through their eyes was fantastic!
Talk it up big.
If your child has never been to the zoo before, chances are he simply will not be able to comprehend what he’s about to experience. Read books about the zoo and the animals you may find at the zoo. Build anticipation.
I may have been a little excited to take the babies on their first trip to the zoo – the zoo I grew up going to! We read lots of books and talked about animals we’d see and pretended to be those animals. So.much.fun. I think one of my favorite exhibits was the nursery – I could sorta relate. =)
Map it out. Even for all you spontaneous people, a little bit of planning can really make the day go so much more smoothly: Are there restrooms at the back of the zoo? Snack kiosks? How long does it typically take to “see” the zoo.
We planned to spend the morning and early part of the afternoon there. It was a perfect amount of time to see the zoo, play, eat and ride!
Bring a stroller.
Don’t expect her to be able to walk the length of the zoo – bring something for her to take a break in and see the sights from a bit more relaxed setting. The stroller can also double as extra hands for the stuff you stash for the trip!
We brought our Radio Flyer Triple Wagon and it was very easy to navigate the beautiful boardwalks at the zoo. This was a very good decision. A very, very good one.
Keep expectations low.
And I mean low. Your toddler may find the exotic birds incredibly fascinating and simply glance at the massive turtles and alligators. Or a meltdown may move lunch time (and thus the rest of the day) up sooner than you’d anticipated. Be prepared for “whatever” with a toddler…or three. =)
I happened to love Mr. Turtle. The babies got a kick out of hearing the birds squawk to each other…all the way down the path. I think that it reminded them of them?
Pack snacks. And drinks.
Nobody wants to get dehydrated at the zoo. Or find yourself in a remote part of the zoo with a suddenly wildly starving toddler. Nobody.
I was pleasantly surprised with the lunch options available at the Central Florida Zoo! My turkey wrap was delish!!
Pack swimsuits and towels and sunscreen.
Many zoos now have splash parks which add so much to the experience! So check to see if swimsuits and towels need to be added to your bag.
The Central Florida Zoo actually has little kiosks with sprayable sunscreen for a small cost, if you forget yours. The splash park was a huge hit and just what they needed to get some energy back for the next round of animals!
Let’s face it. Between the munchies, the souvenirs, the animal feed and the extras, cash is going to come in handy!
Our zoo has a train, zip line, carousel, souvenir shop and so much more! I was really hoping the babies would make it a bit longer, but they did get to enjoy their first train ride and the souvenirs my mom snagged for them…after she hugged a lama!
Take your cues from kids.
Be flexible. If they’re reaching the breaking point, there’s no reason to push to see “just one more exhibit” if they’re gonna fall apart in the middle of it. Taking lots of breaks and encouraging them to ride in the stroller can really lengthen the trip.
I think we made it all of 4.5 hours. That’s the longest and hardest my
babies kiddos have gone at one time, with no nap! They did amazing, but we left riiiiight before meltdowns hit. Whew!
See it through their eyes and have fun!
Get down on their level. Pet the animals with them. Get splashy in the splash pad. Watch their eyes light up with recognition of what a real life tiger looks like.
It was precious seeing them make connections like “Curious George” in the books and a real life monkey!
Keep talking it up.
Show them pictures of the trip. Read those books about zoos and animals and remind them of what you saw at the zoo. Continue associating with the zoo – and listen to their little conversations. You’re guaranteed to hear the impact their first trip had on them!
Our kiddos talk about monkeys and alligators and trains and snakes and all the other animals we saw. So worth it.
Did your little one love his first trip to the zoo? What tip would you add to this list?