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Tips for taking toddlers to the zoo

Ann Douglas is a regular contributor to SheKnows, as well as the author of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books, The Mother of All Baby Books, The Mother of All Toddler Books and The Mother of All Parenting Books (all part of the internatio...

How to make your zoo trip more enjoyable

Toddlers can act up sometimes, especially when they are in new places. Here are some tips to make a trip to the zoo more fun and relaxing for the whole family!

Toddler and dad at the zoo

Zoo trips can be a lot of fun, but they can also be stressful when you've got a toddler in tow. Here are 10 tips that will help to ensure that the trip is fun for the entire family.

Decide on a family color

When you go on outings, have every family member wear T-shirts and ball caps of the same color. Try to stick to something bright and eye-catching like yellow, red or green so that each member of the family will stand out in a crowd. That way, if you momentarily let go of your toddler's hand and he disappears from your sight, you'll easily be able to find him again in a flash.

Make sure you can find him

Tape your toddler's contact information to the inside of his shoe — information that could prove invaluable to the zoo or park staff if your toddler were to become separated from you. Be sure to include your cell number too (and make a point of bringing your phone with you on your outing).

Set realistic expectations

Be realistic about how much of the zoo you intend to take in. If you're visiting a large zoo, you may need to make a number of different trips on different days if you're determined to take in each and every exhibit. Toddlers aren't exactly known for having long attention spans, after all!

Keep him entertained

Play games or sing songs while you're waiting in line for an exhibit so that your toddler will be less tempted to wander off. More often than not, it's boredom that causes toddlers to wander. This is a good time to utilize that Angry Birds app on your iPhone.

Give him a ride

Bring or rent a stroller even if your toddler is usually determined to walk. He may welcome the chance to hitch a ride in the stroller after an hour or two of running off steam! Besides, if you've got older children who are frustrated by the way their younger brother dawdles, popping him in the stroller every now and again will allow the rest of the family to pick up the pace a little.

Know where the restrooms are located

If your toddler is out of diapers, find the location of the restrooms in the park the moment you walk through the front gates. That way, you'll know exactly where they're located if your toddler needs one in a hurry. If there's a restroom near the zoo gates, encourage your child to use it before you start exploring the attraction. That should help to eliminate at least one impromptu sprint to the washroom.

Maintain reasonable parent-kid ratios

One adult per kid is the ideal if you're hitting a busy attraction. Hire a teenager or invite along an extra relative or two if you've got more kids than grown-ups in your group. This is one of those situations where you don't want to be outnumbered.

Know your child's limitations

Avoid any exhibits that your child is likely to find particularly scary. If, for example, your toddler is deathly afraid of cats, you might want to bypass the lion cage or the tiger exhibit until he's a little older. Petting zoos are always a good bet.

Consider the temperament of your kids

If you've got a toddler who loves to run away, confine that toddler to a stroller or backpack or — if he insists on walking — use some sort of toddler harness or safety strap system instead. If you have a child who gets fussy when he is hungry, be sure to pack plenty of snacks.

Let him chill out

Pack a lunch and make a point of including some frozen juice boxes. They'll help to keep your toddler's sandwich chilled and, as an added bonus, by the time lunchtime rolls around, your child will have an icy cold drink to enjoy. (Quick tip: If you use the refillable plastic kind of juice box, don't overfill it or the container may crack when you freeze it.)

Have a great trip!

More about parenting toddlers

5 Fast ways to stop a tantrum
Why you should breastfeed your toddler
Your 3-year-old: Development, behavior and parenting tips

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