Monday, June 15, 2009

Zoo Fun

Before entering through the front gates of a zoo, the question usually creeps up over; where to begin, and it is always the first question a mother should have an answer for before typically left in a quandary with much begging, pleading and serious suggestions on which way to go first.

If possible, browse a map beforehand, or reference one if found online, or a last option could be to request one at the entry area before gathering together just inside of the gates as a group.

Allow everyone input and then formulate a plan for conducting your visit in an orderly fashion and I guarantee the outcome will be delightful. Make a plan though, your day will run so much smoother because you took a moment to do so.

Everyone in our family loves going to the zoo. Any sort of zoo is a great experience for all of us. I myself grew up with Sunday family drives to spend time at Stanley Park in Vancouver, B.C. taking in the many "animals who used to live at the zoo there". Most are gone now, all except for the odd peacock, squirrels in the wild and the Aquarium where a beluga whale just enthralled all by having a baby recently.

In the days of old, our older children were able to enjoy that same park just as my hubby and I had as children. There were penguins, polar bears, otters, wolves, dozens of monkeys, and others to enjoy before taking a ride on the popular miniature train near the children's petting zoo.

As an older mother, if there is one thing I can pass along for others with young children, my strongest piece of advice is to ensure you have a stock of wet towelettes to wipe up children's hands immediately following a petting zoo or animals touching/petting session.

I also bring along antibacterial waterless hand cleaner and swear by it to prevent contracting any ecoli and/or super deadly bacteria from entering tummies via hands/nose or mouth while visiting petting zoos, and/or salmonella poisoning from hands while touching snakes' and lizards' touchy feely encouragement.

Mothers, beware, this is no joke - please take precautions to heart here. Take a look at this article, quick and to the point, especially with regards to wee ones. And HERE is another.

The zoos we have explored usually have hand washing stations nearby a petting zoo area as a precaution, but an antibacterial bottle in your purse would be a asset for your family. Use it liberally! Also, within a petting zoo compound or zoo area where the children have touched or pet an animal, teach them not to lift their hands up to their faces or into their pockets afterward.

Stay healthy by enjoying the experience but also remembering to safeguard your younguns immediately following such a time. With summer and higher temperatures in our midst, precautions to this area of defense should be even higher than any other time of year, so take heart and be prepared before you go.

Other assets are to always carry water bottles, and have backpacks on your children's backs with a jacket for any inclimate weather that may surprise you while there. Have a hat, sunscreen, lighter shoes (flip flops) if necessary, and even a change of clothes packed up in those bags. Take a load of the mommy by having the children carry their own simple backpacks. They should learn how to carry their own things anyway, even wee ones can do this.

Did you know Llamas spit gobs of gunk at chosen ones, splatting their mouthfuls onto people's clothing and/or in their faces? True story, just ask a friend of ours who this happened to. His children thought it was all so very funny until their realized it wasn't a staged trick their father had endeavored to plan ahead to trick them with. Not funny. And thus it is always wise to bring along a change of clothes just in case of unexpected situations. I remember as a child getting too close to the water's edge while feeding ducks some bits of bread and I fell into the water, nice green super slimy water that is. A change of clothes then is indeed a very smart thing to have on hand.

Be prepared with your own snack foods when the growlies hit, mostly as zoo concession stand food is quite pricey and always a draw for children to beg their mommy for a snack. I prefer to have the children take along snacks and/or a lunch, and then we will stop when they feel like nourishing their bodies at a park bench or picnic table along our journey through the zoo compound. Keep away from the animal areas though while eating so nothing becomes airborne and ends up on your food during consumption.

Wow, these are still young giraffes, only 17 feet tall so far!

Can you guess what this is?

Remember what to do after something like this above?

When our children were younger, once the little ones were out of the buggy stages or almost ready to sit still properly, we used to take along our red wooden wagon and pull them along when their wee legs tired from all the walking we did. It was handy as a catch-all most often, typically becoming filled with everyone's stuff, but mother here usually got to pull it along while it became loaded. I stopped the catch-all attitude not long afterward and began to enforce the backpack rule so the children could learn to be responsible for their own things on all of our excursions.

Don't forget to label all of their possessions, tucking pivotal information out of the way for privacy sake but easy to find inside a zippered pocket area.

One more thing; ensure each child knows a secret code name/word so if they happen to get away from the rest of the bunch, they will not follow a stranger around without asking first for the secret name/word.

Teaching your children rules of safety continues for a long while; for instance as in the above example, if no one knows the secret name/word when asked to spill it, they are not to go with them. It's even practical these days for younger children to have a whistle around their neck so if they are lost, teach them to blow and blow and you'll be able to respond to their location quite easily. In a large crowded area, it's so hard to see little ones beneath a sea of people.

A whistle works great! We've used them, especially when out on boating vessels like kayaks, canoes, paddle boats or just around the ocean side. We attach them onto their lifejackets, and all have one permanently attached to their knapsacks for easy use. If your child always has his own belongings on his own back, he will also have the ability to blow his whistle in an emergency because it will be on his body at all times, hanging there ready to grab and use in a jiffy. A sports shop has a perfect stainless steel whistle for this purpose, however any sort of whistle will do as long as it wont' break and creates a distinctive high pitched noise.

No matter what you do in the end while at the zoo, just be sure to take it all in and allow your children all the time in the world to "observe" well rather than flitting all over the place and coming out without a favorite animal of the day.

Later when at home if they are so inclined, encourage them to find five fun facts about their favorite animal, or find a story about them to read aloud together to end the day in a perfect way.

Biggest rule of all? Moms do not take in a zoo day if you are in a snit, angry, uptight or in "one of those moods"! Stay home instead. Everyone will be happy you did. It's your day too, so remember to let your hair down and go with the flow, also enabling yourself a good time during this excursion just as your children will no doubt have. As the saying goes; "when mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy", so it's okay.

You are absolutely allowed to chill out and enjoy the relaxation such a visit to a zoo provides to any weary soul. Go home refreshed. If you aren't refreshed when you return home, go back to the zoo and don't go home until you feel it all the way down to the tips of your toes! :-)

Look up! Look WAY UP!

Seeing a giraffe at a zoo always reminds me of the heartwarming story from the FIAR (Five in a Row) curriculum book suggestion entitled; The Giraffe that walked to Paris

It's a true historical story, a gift of a giraffe to King Charles X from Muhammad Ali of Egypt in 1845. You can read the real story HERE if you are inclined to do so.

And so it goes...another successful trip to the zoo was enjoyed by all....