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Local Treks

Friday, 23 May 2008

Zoo Season

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"Now I look cool," she said as we left the zoo.  The cool factor was up because of the large foam bat mask she was wearing. 

It's hard to carry a bat.  Especially a 30 pound bat.  But we'd trekked all over the Philadelphia Zoo, it was lunchtime, and this particular chiroptera wasn't having it any other way.  Prior to becoming a bat, she'd been a hatchling egret, a tree frog, and a number of barnyard animals.  
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She'd watched the giant tortoises pace across their pen, and had yelled "Ew! Stinky!" and then burst out laughing each time we neared the elephants.

But most of all, she'd taken me by the hand as we entered the gates, and said "Come on Mom, let me show you where I like to go when I come here." And then proceeded to point out the okapi, the tiger cubs, and the bald eagle, before running headlong to the children's zoo. 

Zoos aren't perfect, but visiting them gives my urban kid the opportunity to watch, interact with, and pretend to be, animals that she otherwise wouldn't (shouldn't is actually the word coming to mind here) see.  Other zoos, in other cities, have thrilled us with pandas; Philadelphia - the nation's oldest zoo - wows us with scale and interactivity.  It is huge. And everywhere there are places to climb, touch, hear, and learn without getting into too much trouble. 

There are rides - the giant balloon for the fearless;  ponies and camels; a small motarized train; swan boats on a lake.  The swan boats in particular are a nod to one of the zoo's most famous fictional residents, the mute swan Louis from E.B. White's Trumpet of the Swan.

And there are lots of people.  On this particular day, there were huge crowds, because this weekend is a holiday weekend.  Tracking a toddler over, around, and through other families, couples, and the occasional male peacock is less than no fun.  Additionally, all of those climbing toys that inspire the child to pretend they're hatching from an egg?  If you don't see the kid climb into the egg, it is very hard to discover where they are.  So she and I made a deal. Because the angry-mom face wasn't working. If she made sure to look for me and wave before changing activities - even if I was standing right next to her - and to come get me if she wanted to go very far afield; if she stuck near me on the thoroughfares?  She could take a forbidden peek inside the gift shop next to the exit and select one thing that cost less than $3. 

Bribery, my friends.  Three year olds do not care for their own safety, but they are acquisitive madmen.  She stuck by me like glue.  Like white on rice.  Like a kid who was about to be allowed in a gift shop.

And once inside, we could talk about how much things cost, and what she might choose, and how she could not have two or three things, but only one.  And how $12 was more than $3.  And so on.  And then she found the bat mask, which was the One True Thing.  And we were set.

And she did look cool.
Posted in Americas : June-Aug. : March-May : Toddler : Young Child by Fran W. at 6:02 PMPermalink

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