Six ways to make your zoo trip more active

“We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo

How about you, you, you

You can come too, too, too

We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo…”

(Are you singing along in your head? Come on, I can’t be the only Canadian parent who grew up listening to Raffi.)

Visiting a zoo, aquarium, wildlife preserve, or nature centre is a can’t-miss family outing. Here are some tips to maximize your activity levels and make the most of the experience:

  • Fish for details. Do some proactive research online. Is there a playground or splash pad there? If so, bring the appropriate gear. Look for any limited-time attractions, special events, or pricing promotions. Print the map in advance and let your kids build a checklist of the animals they are most excited to see.
  • Be an early bird. If you can, arrive in the morning when the gates are just opening. The weather will be cooler, there will be fewer people, and the animals will likely be more active. At the ticket window, ask if any exhibits are closed for construction, so you can avoid those. Also make note of the interactive feeding times or educational “meet the keeper” sessions throughout the day.
  • Hoof it. Expect to do a lot of walking and insist that everyone wear good, supportive footwear. Instead of riding the train or tram, strap on a pedometer, step counter, or activity tracker. At the end of the day, it will be satisfying to see exactly how much ground you covered. Hike to the far-off exhibits first, while your legs are still fresh.
  • Pack for a migration. Depending on your kids’ ages, a stroller or wagon is handy to carry all your supplies. Bring water bottles, nutritious snacks and a picnic lunch to keep everyone fuelled up. Making sun-smart choices (applying sunscreen, wearing a hat, and taking shade breaks) will also enhance the group’s stamina.
  • Surprise your little monkey. The day before, quietly dig through your kids’ stuffed animal collection and find a few long-forgotten ones – ideally, animals you’re likely to see the next day. Hide them at the bottom of your bag until you see your child’s motivation starting to fade. The furry friend may re-energize him as he talks to it and “shows it around.” Having a cuddly animal already on hand will also save you money as you exit through the ultra-tempting gift shop.
  • Outfox them with technology. For tweens or teens who will be carrying mobile devices with them, create a “zoo selfie challenge” to be completed individually or with a partner. Give them a list of specific exhibits, and when they find each one, they need to take a photo with the animal in the background.

Whether you’re visiting a new city or staying close to home, a zoo is a great place for some active, outdoor time. And, if you plan ahead, you’ll keep everyone’s spirits up and be able to (as Raffi says in the song) “stay all day.”