(BPT) - Children can't help but be drawn to animals, so a visit to the zoo is always a winning and memorable choice for a summer outing. Introducing children to animals of all kinds, especially endangered species, will help foster a lifelong appreciation of them. With more and more animals needing help, educating children about conservation is more important than ever. However, cranky moods brought on by long lines, hot sun and worn out legs can quickly mar a day at the zoo.
With these tips and insights, you can get the most out of your visit, making your zoo adventure one the kids will never forget!
Score a free ticket
The costs of any outing can quickly add up, but this summer, you can stretch your dollars with free admission for the kids. With every purchase of two specially marked Stonyfield YoKids yogurts multipacks, you can get a free kid's ticket with the purchase of an adult ticket to a participating zoo or aquarium. (The offer is valid until Sept. 30, 2017) To get your ticket, visit www.stonyfield.com/azasafe/redemption, choose a participating zoo or aquarium, upload the image of your receipt, fill out the simple online form and you're done. The Stonyfield YoKids yogurt containers even feature many endangered species like penguins, cheetahs and elephants, so kids will be excited to collect them all.
Build connections before the visit
Make the visit more meaningful by learning together about the animals in advance. This can be as simple as stopping at the library a week in advance and checking out a small pile of age-appropriate books about monkeys, lions and other animals. In addition to that, explore online for high-quality animal printouts and games.
Be thoughtful about the timing
Animals and children - especially the little ones - live on very different schedules than the adult human. Both will hit that time of day when they really need to retreat from the crowds and have some down time. Aim to visit at opening time, when the kids are fresh and ready and the animals are more likely to be up and about.
Don't miss the special events
Since many animals love dinnertime as much as any human, contact the zoo ahead of time and get the feeding schedule. When kids get to see their favorite animals enjoy their supper, it adds to the experience. In addition to that, zoos often have special programs and events, whether it's day camps for kids or close (but safe) encounters with the animals. Check the zoo's website and plan accordingly.
Bring your adventure pack
Having all the right gear handy will greatly reduce stress for everyone while eliminating the need to purchase extra supplies at the gift shop. Pack your backpack with sun gear, including sunscreen, sunglasses and baseball caps. In the heat of summer, you want to avoid dehydration, so include a water bottle for each family member. If you want to bring snacks, try freezing some YoKids squeezers ahead of time - it's the perfect on-the-go treat. Many zoos have policies about food in the exhibit area, so be aware and plan ahead before you approach the ticket booth.
Skip the stroller
Don't tax your lower back from repeatedly lifting young children from their strollers. Instead, use a wagon to help them get around. This will give young legs a rest while giving them the freedom to climb in and out themselves as the family moves from exhibit to exhibit. If you don't own a wagon, check if the zoo offers rentals.
A trip to the zoo is the perfect gateway to learn more about the world we live in. When the experience is positive and engaging, kids will come away with a deeper appreciation for wildlife and our role as humans to preserve and protect.