The zoo is a great place to visit with your toddler. The animals that they have only previously seen in books, magazines and on the TV suddenly right in front of them!
If you’re a parent of a toddler and are planning a trip to the zoo, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Being prepared by planning ahead will keep everyone happy and without the meltdowns that come by midmorning.
Check out these tips to make your zoo experience a happy one.
Top Tips for Visiting the Zoo with Your Little Ones
From about the age of 1 through to when they started school the zoo was a regularly trip for our family.
We visited in snow, sun, and rain. With friends and on our own!
Here are some of the things that we have learned along the way that makes these trips much easier.
Purchase a Zoo Membership
Toddlers love the zoo, and if you ask them every other week if they’d love to go to the zoo, we can almost guarantee they’ll say yes.
Consider purchasing a zoo membership that pays for itself in just a few visits, and you can be sure that no trip to the zoo is the same.
Many zoos consider under 3’s free so check your local as the pass can really save you money.
Get There Early
Toddlers tend to get fussy later on midday, or around their naptime.
Plan your visit earlier in the morning and before it starts getting hot.
Our visits used to start as the zoo opened and we would virtually have it to ourselves till lunchtime.
Then we would leave just after a picnic lunch and they would nap in the car on the way home.
Don’t Forget the Push Chair
Even if your toddlers prefer running around and getting as close to the animals as they can, within an hour or two, they’ll be complaining that their feet hurt.
Bring a buggy to avoid having to carry them, and it’s also a convenience to store other necessities underneath it.
Extra clothes, picnic, and waterproofs as you never know when it will rain makes having the pushchair with you so much easier.
Wear the Right Shoes
One of the last mistakes that you want to make with your kids, is dressing them in the wrong type of shoes.
Make sure that they are wearing comfortable play shoes along with socks to avoid any blisters or any discomfort.
If it’s raining don’t do what I did and leave the wellington boots at home and go to the zoo with just a pair of canvas shoes.
One little tot with very wet feet, but they still kept walking and walking.
Bring Extra Clothing for Kids
You never know when there is a possibility your child might get wet, whether from an accident or a water exhibit.
Kids that have to sit in wet clothing will not go well for anyone.
Pack a Lunch and Snacks
Most zoos allow you to bring your own lunch and snacks, and they have a few locations where you can sit down and enjoy a picnic.
Packing your own lunch and snacks will save you a ton of money, and you can easily store them under your stroller.
One of our favourite things to pack for a snack or picnic was some homemade pizza wheels. Perfect for a zoo trip with our kids.
Make It Educational
Although a trip to the zoo is mostly to see animals, you should still include some teaching moments for your little ones.
You don’t need to sit there and read each exhibit sign to them, but maybe pointing out a cool fact about each animal.
If you have a tot like mine then they can probably tell you facts you didn’t even know about them too!
Find Hands-on Exhibits
While kids certainly love looking at their favorite zoo animals, after a while they may become bored or restless, especially if it’s a hot day.
Most zoos have a farm animals petting area and other hands-on exhibits that kids can get a close-up experience.
Break up your visit by visiting these locations.
Yes this may mean that you find yourself holding a giant cockroach or being followed by a goat but it is all fun.
Have a Plan for the Gift Shop
If you aren’t planning on purchasing anything at the zoo’s gift shop, it will certainly be in your best interest to avoid walking anywhere near there.
Some zoo locations are clever and make the gift shop the only exit! They do at our local one!
Tell your kids ahead of time that you don’t plan on buying anything and move through the gift shop quickly.
If you are planning on buying your kiddos a little something but don’t want to spend a lot of money, steer them towards toys and souvenirs that you’re willing to pay for.
Activities for After a Zoo Visit
Why not continue the fun with some activities and crafts to do with your toddlers once you return from the zoo.
- Make your own Paper Plate Lion with this easy toddler craft
- Create a set of jumping swinging monkeys with our DIY Monkey Puppets ideal for using for play and singing Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.
- Make a Feed the Lion Game to practice counting as you feed the hungry beast.
More Tips for Visiting Places with Toddlers
- Encourage a love of reading with your toddler by visiting the library regularly. Check out our top tips for visiting the library and enjoying it.
- Head to the shore and have fun with our Top Tips for Taking a Toddler to the beach.
Cerys is a marine biologist, environmental educator, teacher, mum, and home educator from the UK. She loves getting creative, whether it is with simple and easy crafts and ideas, activities to make learning fun, or delicious recipes that you and your kids can cook together you'll find them all shared here on Rainy Day Mum.