My children and I spent a fair amount of time at the Akron zoo; it’s close to home and the annual membership fee was very reasonable. Both of my children had their favorite parts of the zoo.

When my son was young, my aunt often went along with us. She and I sat and talked while he dug up “dinosaur bones” in the area set aside for digging. We followed him to the playgrounds and watched him ride the pony. The animals were really not the focus of our visits…except the goats. He liked to feed the goats.

Now, my son was a very cautious boy. The goats were as tall or taller than he was. Before reaching out his little hand full of goat crackers or kibble, he would look them in the eye and ask, “Are you a nice goat? You like me, goat?” Now, of course the goats didn’t answer; their eyes were focused on the food in his hand. But he took their silence as agreement – “yes” and “yes.” When they took the food he offered, he would smile and wipe his dimpled little hands on his overalls. (I love overalls on toddlers and preschoolers – if you have a baby and I give you a gift – that is probably what it will be!!!)

Visits to the zoo with my daughter were a little different. We spent a lot of time at the playgrounds, too…zipping down the slides, climbing carefully up the ladders or steps. When my son was with us, he carefully guided her up and down. She always looked to him to determine what was safe, fun, and acceptable behavior. She watched everything he did.

When he got older, my daughter and I would go alone. I have a lot of pictures of her sitting on a giant fiberglass caterpillar and “driving” pretend vehicles. She liked the more recent additions to the zoo….the jellyfish and the interior play areas. Even when she was a little too old/big for those play areas, she enjoyed them….and as long as her behavior was appropriate, I let her play on them with the smaller children who were there.

My daughter’s trips to the zoo were shorter. It was easy to see on her face when it was just all too much and we needed to leave. She would fall asleep, exhausted,  on the five minute ride home.

I miss those trips to the zoo. I think I’d like to go again, just myself…maybe I’ll feed the goats.

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