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Are you the kind of person that hates the zoo? Loves the zoo? Thinks you should take your kid to the zoo regularly? Thinks the zoo is evil? If you’re on the evil end there’s a little x at the top of your browser tab that you can check.

BUT if you think a connection with the zoo is a great way to teach your child about a diverse set of animals follow along as I show you how you can spend 4 hours at the zoo with a 3, 4, 8 and 9 year old. (sometimes a 16 year old too)

Our zoo is small but constantly improving so we enjoy what’s available locally.

We start by buying an annual pass so if we have one hour or four hours we don’t worry about having to stay and get our monies worth if someone is acting up. They know we’ll leave if anyone is misbehaving so they’re really good 🙂

I can bring all the snacks in the world but they’ll still want popcorn so we bought the refillable container and it’s just $1. Except we have two because usually there are 6 of us. If you spill your groups popcorn it’s all gone so the keeper of the popcorn has to be careful.

We also take binoculars that we’ve purchased one at a time over the years. You can wear them or put them in your backpack BUT if you set them down somewhere I get them for the rest of the trip.

As I’m writing all of this I realize that one of the reasons we have fun at the zoo is because we have boundaries! It reduces stress and maintains realistic expectations. They can trust me to follow through the same each time.

The last rule is the two little people that are 3 and 4 can’t be at the front of the adventure and they can’t be at the back, just like the animal herds the little people have to be in the middle. Now if we get to the zoo, like we did two weeks ago, and I didn’t realize that government schools had Monday off, we just go home. We go once or twice a week and it isn’t worth it to stress with people that are rushing through the zoo trying to see everything in one hour.

Our zoo offers a couple things for additional costs like:

1-A Carousel

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2-A Butterfly House

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3- A Train

zoo train

4-And Shops – we don’t go into these unless someone has money of their own.

The first three we rotate through using a discounted pass if you buy all three. BUT we don’t use all three on one trip we do one special event every third or fourth trip to the zoo. The really cool part about this IS they will remember doing them “ALL THE TIME” when really they went about twice a year to each one 🙂 It’s a great way to say yes. Yes, we’ll ride the carousel again but today we’re . . . . .

Our zoo has other things besides animals that are fun when it’s not crowded like:

1-A river bed with toys to play with.

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2-Lorry feeding – you can walk in for free and the nectar is $1 which a kiddo can earn.

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3-There are goats to pet and we sometimes take a math manipulative with us to extend the time at an enclosure. Everyone takes turns from enclosure to enclosure getting to count the animals. An Abacus is great because each row can represent a different animal or you can add up the animals at each stop as you go along.

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4-There are indoor children’s play areas that often have an animal out that kids can get a close look at.

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5-Then there are the animals! We have flashcards and other sorting games that we take with us at different times. If we’re going to focus on cats we have an animal classification  flash card set that goes with us. Maybe we’re just looking at necks at the zoo, now that’s fun!

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6-Then you have to take the same picture every few times in the super awesome picture taking spots so you can look back and see how much you’ve grown!

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7-Then there are all the little animals that often get overlooked. We don’t look at everyone every time and we take turns “picking” what we’re going to see.

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8-Story Time at the Zoo! I try to take at least one book with me to read in a place where we’re waiting for the animal to get fed or trained. My current favorite is the Eric Carle series. During our Dr. Seuss month we take many books to the zoo because Dr. Seuss grew up going to the zoo with his dad and drew lots of his funny animals while waiting there.

9-And here’s a few more days you can try:

Shapes and Lines

Masks

Costumes

Geography

Story book animals like Paddington

We’re going to need more than 4 hours!