Due to the trauma of holding my crying daughter back from seeing her favorite animals at the zoo, I quickly set up a return trip and made it into a play date with three other kids, two of whom are girls ages 2 and 3. They behave well (read: don’t run away, steal, or otherwise make the day miserable) so I knew it would be lots of fun this time. You may remember some of these characters from my old blog (http://myprettyones.tumblr.com/) as Vroom, Tangles, and Duckling. Yes, my ex’s kids. Anyway, they are now much older, and Vroom is in school, but Tangles and Duckling are good buddies (and influences) on M when they get together and play. In fact, M repeatedly requests to play with the girls and the “baby”, their one-year-old little brother.
The key to a good zoo visit with toddlers? Go early in the day, as early as it opens. Pack a lunch in a small, portable cooler. Bring enough seating for all the kids, double strollers, wagons, whatever. Pack snacks and water bottles to refill. Stagger activities with playground time and lunch. Know when to call it a day. But most important: never take kids who have not proven that they can be consistently well-behaved in public or open spaces, and make sure another parent or helper is with you!
Although I wish that M could have the kind of relationship with her older sister that she has with her two best friends, sadly that won’t be the case right now, as I cannot manage her behavior and her parents are not willing/able to do these types of activities with her. But we had a wonderful day today full of animals, playing, eating, and learning, with no bad behavior other than the occasional normal blip, and three girls who really and truly enjoyed and appreciated every second with the animals they saw. It made my heart soar again to see M mesmerized at each animal site, pointing and naming the animals with so much happiness and excitement in her voice. She deserved a better zoo experience than she had Sunday, and today she got to watch all of her favorites as long as she wanted to!