I dressed Kingston in his "Bananas Over Mommy" outfit with his little banana shorts. We sun-screened him up, packed some snacks, and hit the road!
The zoo we chose for his first trip was a smaller zoo that I use to frequent as a child. I remember several class trips here and also visiting with my parents. Unfortunately, this zoo doesn't have animals like lions, giraffes, elephants, and zebras. However, they did have a lot of exciting animals to see without it being too overwhelming! I didn't want to overload Kingston too much!
The first animals we saw when we got there were from the Canadian North Woods. Kingston sat in his stroller for the first part of our trip as he observed a lynx, arctic foxes (those little guys were so cute!), and reindeer. Kingston was very serious observing the animals at first. I'm not sure if he was trying to figure out what they were or if he was watching a television screen. I pointed out the reindeers' huge antlers and K got quite a sensory experience smelling them!
Then we headed over to the small farm area. I thought for sure that this would perk Kingston right up and that he would be clapping and waving. However, my dreams were quickly smashed when I wheeled K up to the pen to visit the goats and pigs, and he was not impressed.
We met a zebu named Gibson. No reaction. A snow leopard. Kingston just feigned mild interest. Antelope. Nothing. We got to the wolf enclosure, and there was not a wolf to be found. K was yawning, and I was starting to get nervous that I had built our zoo adventure up WAY too much! We paused for a snack and a water break, stared at a yak for a few minutes, and then made our way to the monkeys. Finally my baby started acting like himself again!
These monkeys were adorable! Kingston stared at them for a few minutes, and then started guffawing. Yup. He gave a little knee slapping "HA. HA. HA!" and then was ready for action. We watched these sweet little white-cheeked gibbons climb all over their 20 ft. enclosure, swing from bars, branches, and ropes, play with their toys, and the best thing ever: nurse. I was smitten when I saw the mama gibbon nursing her sweet little baby! When the baby monkey started nursing, I could see some of the other bystanders look at each other with questioning eyes as if to say, "What is going on here?!" I couldn't help but burst out, "SHE'S NURSING!" It was such a beautiful thing to watch, and was really mind-blowing to see how similar this mama's nursing habits were to those of a human mother. Her wild little one would nurse intently for a few minutes and then hop off to go play or be silly. Mama monkey would watch with what seemed like amusement while she waited for her little one to come back. I could feel her pain for sure! My little monkey is a nosy nurser too! I took several pictures and a video that you can't really see anything in. I think I was the only one that cared, but I just thought it was so sweet. When Kingston was due to nurse later in the day, inspired by Mama Gibbon, I nursed him proudly in a nice shady area in the open, cover-free. I was happy to hear from my mom that someone had been nursing their little one in the same spot just minutes before. Yay for nursing mamas!
After the monkeys, we moved on to the bird show. I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but my child loves birds. It all started with his jungle themed exersaucer. He was obsessed with the bird toy on there, so much so that he completely ripped it out of its socket. I've tried to rip the same bird from identical exersaucers at friends houses and found it pretty much impossible. But my strong boy did it. He loves waving at birds as they fly. He is a bird boy for sure. I was excited to bring him to the show, but a little nervous to see if he would sit still. I mean, he is only 10 months old (as of our zoo trip!). My parents waited outside with the stroller because we didn't want to leave it unattended and Glam*Ma is not very fond of birds, and we entered the open-air theater.
Out of everyone in the stands, Todd was chosen to be part of the show. Todd is ALWAYS chosen to be part of the show. I should really post the video of him doing the hula in front of hundreds of people on our honeymoon in Disney. Priceless. I was a little horrified that a big bird was going to be coming at us, but kicked back to enjoy the show anyways. There was music playing and Kingston was clapping and seriously excited. I knew that as soon as the birds came out, he was going to be into it. And into it he was! Every bird that flew out, he followed them intently from one side of the theater to the next. He absorbed every bit of it. He clapped for each bird and he even yelled "HI!" to a few of them. Whenever the birds would fly close to him, he would stick his hands up and reach for them. I was a little nervous that they would land on him! We saw chickens, macaws, a hawk, several different types of owls, a red-legged seriema, and a few other birds. Kingston's favorite was the bald eagle. It came out two times and each time Kingston clapped for it. The bird that landed on Todd's arm wasn't that large thankfully, but I'm pretty certain K was hoping it would hop over to his little arm! We had so much fun at the bird show watching the birds fly overhead. I couldn't believe how interested Kingston was in it.
After the show, one of the women who had been sitting next to us during the show approached me. She marveled over how attentive Kingston was and told me that she had never witnessed a baby that young absorb information the way he had. She couldn't get over how he had found and followed each bird with his eyes, and had interacted with each one. She told me what a smart baby I had and that he had entertained her and her daughter even more than the birds! I thanked her, and was thrilled. Every mama likes to be told things like that. I like to think of the learning experiences and educational things that we do with Kingston as being enriching building blocks to future learning. Even if he is too little to remember this trip, it is these moments that will cause him to form connections that spiral into greater understanding later down the road.
I didn't have to wait long for Kingston to make a connection though. I told Kingston he could pick out any stuffed animal on the giant wall of animals in the gift shop. Todd and I like to let Kingston pick a souvenir at every exciting place we go to. Don't judge. That is just the kind of people we are! There were a ton of stuffed animals: alligators, otters, tons of different birds, dinosaurs, foxes, etc. etc. K surveyed the wall, and reached for the bald eagle. The bald eagle was the very last bird that we saw in the show. Coincidence? I think not! Of course we bought that for him, along with this tabbed Usborne book:
We also had fun trying on different animal ears!
After the gift shop, I nursed K (as mentioned above), and then we made some rounds of more exhibits. We saw an otter which Kingston was intrigued by. Then we saw some spider monkeys and another type of monkey that had a one month old baby. It was so tiny and cute. Then we went to visit the flamingos. They were cute, but these flamingos were cuter! They are part of the Burke family, a rare flock found only in New England.
After the flamingos, we headed to the "Treasures of the Sierra Madre" exhibit. We saw all kinds of animals here: bats, lizards, snakes, a few various small mammals, and a jaguar! To view the jaguar, we got to climb into a replica of an old wagon. The theming in this part of the zoo was very fun!
The next stop we made was called "Windows to the Wild". We went through a set of doors, and headed into an aviary. They actually called it a "budgerie". Beforehand, we purchased a tiny little seed stick in hopes that a bird would land on it. I really wanted Kingston to get some close interaction with some birds. Todd held the baby and the seed stick. He was intent on getting the bird to land on the stick so that K could see it up close. Dada is super patient when it comes to stuff like this. After much persistence, Todd finally managed to cajole a beautiful yellow and green bird onto the seed stick. Kingston was so excited! He gently reached for it and got to see it up close and personal. It was such a magical moment. Todd talked to K about the birdie while Mama just about melted into a puddle onto the floor. I love watching my boys explore together!
The next area in this exhibit was behind another set of closed doors. This was where the "windows" were located which featured tons of different animals. Some of the animals we saw were porcupines, a tortoise, koala bears, a kookaburra, meerkats, and more. Here we are in front of the wallaby window!
Can you tell K is excited?!
I managed to snap a blurry pic of the whole fam (minus me of course) at the end of the exhibit.
After this exhibit, we paused for another snack and water break on a shady bench across from the monkey enclosure. Kingston and Dada enjoyed one of their favorite shared pastimes: people watching.
Then we made our way to the exhibit that I had been waiting all day to take Kingston to, the bears. Kingston's favorite animals in all of the world, after puppies, are bears. (I would classify birds as his third!) He is in love with bears. He has a bear mobile that hangs down from his crib that he waves to every morning when he wakes up, at every naptime (both before he goes down and after he wakes up) and at night before bed. We say, "HIIIIII BEARS!" I use the same voice that I use in my rendition of "We're Going on a Bear Hunt". He loves bears. I was very excited to show him some real life bears. We were lucky to get to the exhibit just in time to observe one of the bears that had plopped down right against the glass.
(Yes my child is not wearing shoes. This was the only time I allowed his toesies to touch the ground. And only because he INSISTED!)
He was insanely excited. He was clapping, kicking, clawing at the bear. If I had dropped Kingston in the enclosure, I am almost positive he would have curled up next to the sleepy bear, hands entangled in his fur, and taken a blissful nap.
(This video didn't even touch on how excited he was, but notice the hands!)
The bears' names were Smoky and Bubba. I'm not sure who we got the pleasure of seeing so up close and personal, but Kingston refused to be held. He wanted to have a front row view.
(I absolutely LOVE this picture!)
Kingston kept waving at the bear and saying "Hi!" and clapping. Everyone else in the exhibit was laughing at how sweet he was. A little boy came over and sat next to Kingston to watch the bear magic. It was all very adorable and heartwarming. When it started to get a little more crowded and I figured we should probably give somebody else a turn, Kingston started wailing. This was the one and only time he cried ALL day. He reached for the bears like I was taking him away from his best friend. He only cried for a few minutes, but it was enough for Kingston's little audience to get a good chuckle. It was actually really funny to witness his pure love for the bears. This was another connection by the way, because he has only ever seen a stuffed bear. He knew when I said, "HII BEARS" in that same voice that these were in fact his bear friends! I think he may be the bear whisperer!
We passed through a few more exhibits and saw some roadrunners and a coyote. Kingston and Daddy crawled into a little tunnel cave and Mama after them to snap some pictures!
Then we saw a cougar!
Kingston loved the cougar. He waved at the big cat, as the cougar tried to figure out how to break through the glass and eat us. Quite magical!
As we went to the next enhibit, Daddy discovered a fun set of bird binoculars to look through. K thought they were pretty fun too.
Then we found a cute little discovery center! Inside were all kinds of fun things for kids to explore and do. It will be a great place to come back and visit when Kingston is older. There were lizards, frogs, giant cockroaches (horrifying!), a tarantula (EEK!), snakes, fish, turtles, and poison dart frogs in aquariums to view. There were tons of books, puzzles, coloring pages, models, and activities. Kingston enjoyed touching the bumpy scales of a striped lizard.
Outside of the Discovery Center, we took one final picture.
Kingston's first trip to the zoo was a major success. He was slow to warm up at first, but once he got acclimated he loved it! This was definitely the right age to take him. We all left on one of those highs that only an amazing day with people you love can do for you. I loved watching my baby discover the world around him and take joy in new surroundings and experiences. I can't wait to explore all of our local zoos, aquariums, museums, festivals, fairs, and other events. I want to take him everywhere!
Over the next few weeks, we will be exploring zoo animals. I am not going to limit it to the animals that we saw on our trip though. We will be discovering all kinds of zoo critters through literature, sensory activities, gross motor play, and art. All of our crafts and activities will be geared toward babies and toddlers, so please stay tuned for even more fun!