Dad 101 unexpectedly took this week as vacation time off work. We thought about going away for two or three nights but the planets aren’t aligned for us to head off on a big adventure so we decided to plan a “staycation” with lots of excursions and outings around our marvellous city instead.
Today was officially day one of our staycation and we headed out for a visit to Perth Zoo. The sun was shining (though the air was cool) and my sister and niece came along. We were really fortunate that many of the animals were up and active, in fact it was as if every time Immy walked up to the glass or railing the animal would come up close to say ‘hi.’ Immy is at a the age where she understands that the animal she sees in real life is that which we look at in books, she is familiar with the names of the animals and their animal sounds. It makes it so much fun. She spent ages looking at the elephants and the penguins and was excited by the lion which came right up to the glass to face off with her.
Now planning an outing with one toddler and one husband takes a lot less preparation than planning an excursion with a class of 25 children but it still pays to be organised. So here are my…
10 Tips for Outings with Kids
- Use the internet to look for school holiday specials or discount tourist vouchers. Many tourist attractions now allow you to book online ahead of time which saves time on the day, and they usually have a special entry arrangement for pre-purchased tickets which is generally quicker. For attractions in your local area which you are likely to visit regularly, consider purchasing a membership or season pass. You’ll only need to visit a couple of times to make it worthwhile.
- Beat the crowds and get there early. By being early we missed the large queues at the entrance that had formed just 10 minutes after we arrived. We had time to see all of the animals we had planned to see, have lunch and still get home for our afternoon naptime.
- Save time and money by taking your own lunch and snacks. We have one of those handy picnic backpacks which has one section with plates, cups and cutlery and the other section is a cold pack. I packed buttered bread and sandwich fillings and we made our own. Pack lots of snacks and think about snacks for the ride there (and home) if you have a long way to go.
- Try and keep to your routine eating times. Children can get really short tempered, upset or whingy as their blood sugars drop so avoid this by taking your regular break times for morning/afternoon tea and lunch.
- Look online for additional school holiday activities that the venue might be offering – unique tours and additional activities are often conducted during school holidays but you might be required to book.
- Take breaks during the day so that the kids can be kids. We often expect children to conduct themselves in a more controlled manner when out at busy public places and this control can be hard for them to maintain. They get tired, frustrated or fidgety and start to act out and we get embarrassed. Find a place for them to stop and let off some steam. We stopped on a large grassy area at the zoo before sitting down to lunch. Immy just ran around chasing the birds or other children, and it was then much easier to get her to sit down to concentrate on eating with all that excess energy expelled.
- Consider the age appropriateness of the venue/activity/experience. Children will play up if they are bored or are required to sit and concentrate longer than is realistic for their age and stage of development. Think about whether the experience is right for your child before you go. If you have children of different ages consider taking books, toys or activities to stimulate and distract the younger (or older) ones if they are likely to get bored.
- Think about whether it is realistic to see and do everything at the venue. We prioritised what we wanted Immy to see at the zoo on this occasion, starting with the animals that were more familiar to her. We didn’t see everything the zoo had to offer but left on a positive note as she started to get tired but not overtired (it can sometimes be a fine line). We will be back to see more using our annual membership pass.
- Buddy younger children with older ones to help with supervision. If you don’t have an older child, consider borrowing one 🙂 My 12 year old niece was great at chasing after Immy if she ran ahead or picking her up to see things up high. It was like having a whole extra pair of hands (and eyes).
- Consider visiting zoos and other animal related attractions on cooler days as the animals are usually more active (that is also why it is good to get out early, as many animals find a shady spot to sleep/rest in the heat of the day). I once took a school group to the zoo on a day when it was overcast with the occasional light rain shower, it was the most active I have ever seen animals at a zoo.
P.S. And in perfect stay-cation style, my Mum and other sister came over to babysit and DH and I went out for dinner last night. Thanks to everyone who helped us have a great day!
What are your top tips for outings with kids?
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