Last year we took our first trip to Melbourne as a family and the Melbourne Zoo was high on our list of places to see. Obviously, the main drawcard were the animals and the highlights included the elephants, orang-utans, butterflies and giraffes (or at least through the eyes of my toddler!) however the Keeper Kids playspace is an absolute must do with young children! Read on to help get an idea of how you may like to spend a day at the Melbourne Zoo with a two year old….
Before we get started here are some quick tips to keep in mind:
Pack plenty of snacks and a water bottle.
Allow the time for your child to move at their own pace.
Have rest times for them to sit, eat and drink.
Allow them time to play, if not at a designated play area, then off on their own accord (eg. rolling around on the grass).
If they appear uninterested, move on to the next thing.
Aim for only a couple of exhibits and anything else is a bonus!
Here is a little bit of a closer look at what we got up to:
We took the train from the city to the zoo and once we had met up with our friends and their babies we headed over to the frog exhibits and then the freshwater crocodiles, turtles, etc which are all indoors. They have a statue of the Corroboree Frog that you can take photos with and my boy was happy to have a look, if only because of the song from The Wiggles (warning, it may get stuck in your head!)
We then had a short rest break so the babies could be fed and my toddler could have his snack. Usually when I travel I want to see as much as possible so travelling in a group of three young children was an excellent lesson in slowing down. We then headed off to find the elephants as I was hoping to make the keeper talk. It was very crowded in the area that the talk was being held in and not much of a view so we headed back to the other elephant area where the elephants could wonder around more freely. The elephants were a bit further away but we had a good enough view that my toddler could see them and understand that he was looking at an elephant. We found that some animals were too hard to see or that it was too hard to point them out as he wasn’t sure what he was looking for. The elephants can be viewed from a few different areas which is great for interested young children.
The Orang-utans were next and we spent some time in the undercover area out of the sun. They have benches in here so it was a good time to reapply sunscreen, have water and a quick snack. Some of the orang-utans were up by the window having a snack too. It was an excellent viewing point and my toddler was able to point to them and look up close. At the entrance to this section there is also a statue which my child gave a hug. It is funny to see how children interpret and interact with things sometimes.
Next up was the Butterfly Garden. It was a bit warm in here but a good chance to walk through and spot all the butterflies flying around. If you stayed still they would sometimes land on you which was cool to see but there are continuous reminders asking you not to touch them and you should respect this. My toddler could see them and got excited at times but it was near the end that we found a butterfly resting on the ground with a small part of its wing missing. He was very concerned and kept telling me “it broken Mummy”. Eventually it flew away but I could tell it worried him. We had a quick rest in a little play spot while waiting for everyone to come out and then we headed to one of the eating areas to have some lunch.
Keeper Kids! I had read about this on the Melbourne Zoo website and wanted to check it out as I thought it would give my child a good rest from walking around. It was way better than I expected! Here the children could act out and play with construction, vet play and sorting food amongst other things. The majority of this play area is indoors providing a good respite from the weather. We spent an hour in here after lunch having a play and he was reluctant to leave this space. Keeper Kids also has a parent’s room available. I absolutely recommend having some time in here, especially if you have a young child.
After a failed attempt to find the tiger we lined up and entered the lemurs enclosure. It is a must to have everything packed away, especially food. By this stage my little one was tiring out and was actually more interested in playing with our friends baby. He had spent a good chunk of the day pushing around their pram and walking. If we lived in Melbourne we probably would have headed home after visiting the Keeper Kids area for a nap. The lemurs were very easy to see and I’m sure he would have been interested in them if we had gone there earlier.
Walking through the lemurs then led us on the path to the gorillas although they were too far away for my child to notice. The zoo does have a couple of gorilla statues displayed and he enjoyed interacting with those instead. He even tried to share his water with one (hygienic, I’m sure!) After a little play here we started to head back towards the exit, via the giraffes and zebras.
He quite liked the giraffes as they were easy to see and they were moving around a lot. He waved to them and told me what they were doing. I find the majority of kids, no matter what age, like the giraffes. He wasn’t particularly interested in the zebras and we kind of rushed past so we could see the lions. We made it just in time as the indoor viewing area was closed shortly after we got there. We then walked past a cat display with some great artwork and stopped in at the gift shop where he picked out a toy tram to take home….. and fell asleep in the pram as I was paying for it.
We had an excellent day, kids and adults, and would love to go again. In fact, I’d probably buy a zoo pass if we lived in Melbourne. Clearly we did not have time to see all the animals so my advice would be to pick out four or five must see animals and you are likely to see several others as you head out to find them. Keep up the water and snacks and allow your little ones the time they need to explore. You may not see everything but it will make for a happier experience!
If you would like to visit the Melbourne Zoo all their official information can be found here.