With children in the zoo: tips and rules of conduct

For most children, a visit to the zoo is something very special. To ensure that everything runs smoothly, that the little ones have fun and that the animals feel comfortable, you should consider the following tips.

At the zoo, children can learn to better understand and respect animals - Shutterstock / Nadezhda1906

At the zoo, children can learn to better understand and respect animals – Shutterstock / Nadezhda1906

Prepare your visit to the zoo for a few days and plan an age-appropriate program for your children. Small children, for example, have different needs than school children and get tired more quickly.

Prepare your visit to the zoo well and don’t overwhelm the children

You should find out about the zoo rules and applicable regulations in advance so that you know what you can and cannot do. In addition, before your visit to the zoo, you can research information about the animals that you would like to show your children. The zoos’ websites also usually contain information about feeding times for the animals and possible offers for children.

A longer visit to the zoo can become boring for small children if there is nothing for them to touch and discover. It is therefore better to start small and only explore the petting zoo and the playground. From around the age of five or six, when the little ones gradually reach primary school age, they can concentrate on quieter activities for a little longer and also enjoy looking at the animals in their enclosures. Nevertheless, it is advisable to only explore a certain part of the zoo at first, so as not to overwhelm the children. If you notice that your offspring would like to learn more about the zoo’s inhabitants, many zoos have zoo schools where experienced employees share their knowledge.

Treat animals with respect at the zoo

Out of sheer excitement or boredom, it can happen that children, for example, knock on windows, shout loudly or try to reach into the enclosure. This frightens the animals or makes them feel disturbed, which puts them under considerable stress. Teach your children as early as possible to only observe the animals from a distance and to leave them alone. This can be difficult to understand and implement for particularly high-spirited whirlwinds – in which case you should just stop by the pens and spend more time in the playground.

Don’t put children on barriers

You can often see parents at the zoo putting their children on the walls and other barriers during feeding times so that they can see better. This is certainly well intentioned and usually nothing happens because the parents hold their offspring tightly. Nevertheless, it is risky, because the little ones do not always behave well-behaved and calm, especially when something has aroused their curiosity or enthusiasm. There is a risk that they will make an unfortunate move, lose their footing and accidentally fall into the enclosure. To be on the safe side, hold your children or put them on your shoulders and stand a little way from the barrier.

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Do not feed animals in the zoo without permission

Feeding the animals is a big highlight for children and adults at the zoo. However, to ensure that the elephants, giraffes and co. do not eat too much unhealthy food, a few rules must be observed. You can usually find out what these are on the zoo homepage. In some animal parks, feeding animals is strictly forbidden, in others it is permitted under certain conditions. For example, some zoos offer prepared food packages that you can feed to designated animals. If you are unsure, ask the carers whether you can give them fruit and vegetables or pieces of bread you have brought with you.

These regulations are not about harassment or money-making, but about the welfare of the animals. The monkeys and waterfowl may not mind a bit of bread or cake, but if too many visitors think so, it can eventually become too much. If children were allowed to choose their own diet, they would probably eat biscuits, cakes, chocolate and gummy bears all day long – if this is an exception, there is no harm, but if it becomes the norm, deficiency symptoms will follow after a while. This is also the case when zoo animals are fed uncontrolled with all sorts of snacks they have brought with them.

Don’t let children out of your sight

No matter how well you raise children, they always remain a bit unpredictable. If you’re not paying attention for a moment, the little rascals have escaped and are exploring the area on their own – with sometimes dangerous consequences. For example, there is a risk that the little ones will suddenly climb over barriers, slip through gaps in fences and fall into animal enclosures. So keep an eye on your young explorers and ideally hold them tight at all times. If the little ones get fussy and restless, it is better to cancel your visit to the zoo and come back another time. If there are several children, you should not go along as the only adult, so that the situation remains manageable. If the other parent can’t, ask friends, uncles, aunts or grandparents if they would like to come to the zoo with you.

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