Advice about Taking Kids to the Zoo

Archived Q&A and Reviews



When will my baby be interested in the zoo?

Feb 2007

This might sounds weird, but I am curious about when my 3 month- old daughter will start to be interested in going to the zoo... I have poked around online and found nothing -- any thoughts? At a year? Two years? Thanks. kevin

We have a two-year-old, and started taking him to the zoo around his first birthday. But I know parents who have taken their child at a younger age than that. We wanted him to be aware of the animals, and awake and alert during the visit, so age one seemed to work. If you go to the Oakland Zoo, definitely get an annual membership to the Bay Area zoos. That way you can go to the SF Zoo, Happy Hollow in San Jose and others either free or half-price. We were at Happy Hollow when we joined, but next time we are joining at the Oakland Zoo as membership there includes a parking pass. Lori

My son started being interested in the zoo right around age 1, and then only for the really big animals that you can see easily without a lot of effort. We also tried to visit first thing or right at the end of the day when they feed the animals, because there seems to be more to watch at that time. Go in the middle of the day, and all you'll see are sleeping animals. Jennifer

I took my daughter to the zoo for the first time at nine months and she loved it, though I think that she was more interested in the people than the animals. At around 18-months she started taking interest in the animals. I am a SAHM and fid the zoo to be a life saver. If 'relaxing' mornings at home aren't working we just pile in the car and off we go. Elephants can help turn a bad morning into a superb day. Jan

My nephew and a friend's daughter are both turning 2 in April and March, respectively. They started becoming interested in the zoo at about 1 year old. I believe it's when kids are really tactile and curious and starting to walk too, but still a little hesitant... so you need to be there with them. But, do bring celery and lettuce, if it's allowed. I would, however, recommend starting at the Tilden Park Little Farm, just to start getting acquainted with live animals. It's free (so you don't have to worry about paying and having your daughter bored), it's smaller, most of the animals (cows in particular) are babies, and there's a nice nature center and tons of paths to take walks on, as well as areas to picnic. Good Luck Jessica

We took our baby to the zoo for the first time at 5 months. We packed him for a tour in the elephant barn and strolled him the rest of the time. It was nice, but I don't think he really got anything out of it. I started taking him again around 11 months, and by about a year he really started to see and hear the animals and get excited about it. He is also now old enough to enjoy the petting zoo and the play equipment in the Children's Zoo.

I loved taking him even before it was clear that he was aware--it's a great place for a relaxing and inexpensive day out of the house. We bought a membership, and now we can just pop in for an hour or so whenever we need something to do for the afternoon! animal lover

A child might be interested in the zoo at around 18 months -- but they likely won't be interested in what you expect! My son, at 18 months, didn't even notice the elephants (they were too far away from him!) but LOVED chasing after the pigeons, and also really liked the bird exhibit at the Oakland zoo. It wasn't until between 3 and 4 that he reacted to the zoo like one expects -- interested in the chimps, camels, elephants, and such. It certainly won't hurt to take an infant to the zoo (it never hurts kids to go out with parents, as long as they get their naps) -- but face it, the trip is more for the parent than the child. Karen

You might want to start out by going to Little Farm in Tilden Park . They have cows, ducks, geese, chickens, goats, sheep...interesting enough for a baby. I don't think the zoo would work unless your infant can see long distances and has an attention span longer than 10 minutes . That being said, you can enjoy the zoo just don't expect your baby to get much out it yet. Probably about 1 yr to 18 months is appropriate. Angela

I've enjoyed taking my son to the zoo since he was about 5 months old, and he's now almost 17 months. If you're near the Oakland Zoo the membership pays for itself after 4 visits, and even though early on he was in a carrier just looking out and observing, now he enjoys the Children's Zoo, petting zoo, train ride, etc. It's also nice to be able to go for an hour or so rather than several hours...easy to do with the membership. I think he got a lot more interested when he was about 10 months or so. Zoo fan

It is highly variable and depends on the kid. My son, who is now 2 1/2 yo, just recently started showing interest in the zoo - finally, though he still prefers the trains and car rides over the animals. Of course it also depends on what you mean by the 'zoo.' There are play and climbing structures at the zoo that young children love, but interest in animals can come later. I should add that for a long time my son was much more interested in neighborhood cats and dogs than in zoo animals, and he also liked the fish at the CA Academy of Sciences long before he cared about giraffes. Like the zoo more than my son

Go anytime! I took my son to the Oakland Zoo for the first time probably when he was about 6 months old. I remember him laughing at the little squirrel monkeys jumping around. He watched animals sometimes (like the big macaws, monkeys, etc.) and sometimes just watched people, etc. I got a memberhip to the Oakland Zoo and we went often. I'd go with friends when our babies were crawling and they would crawl around on the grass in the Children's zoo area and there are things for kids to climb on. Yes, your children will get more out of the zoo and watching the animals when they are older, but they will get something out of it when going as babies. I'll never forget him laughing at the monkeys. Andi

At about 1 1/2 yrs. of age, most toddlers will respond to the zoo animals, & certainly by 2 are enthusiastic zoo goers. Show your child pictures of animals, birds, snakes, etc. before you go & talk about the animals, their sounds, etc. You'll have a great time, and so will your toddler. Nana of a 2 yr. old

Babies start enjoying the zoo when they can see out of their stroller. So I'd say at about 8 months or so. But from 1 year on it is great. When she is just learning how to walk, it is a great place to practice. That said, start taking her whenever you feel like going to the zoo. If you're like me, you haven't been since you were a kid and it is really fun and interesting. There are lots of newborns there accompanying older sibs too. Oakland Zoo Member

It will certainly be a while before your baby is able to show any interest, but there's no reason not to start now. It is great exercise, fresh air, and the earlier you start going, the sooner she will become familiar with it and be able to focus on animals. We began taking my son to the Oakland Zoo at a pretty early age, and while we don't go every weekend, he does know the layout of the zoo like his own house and still discovers something new there every time. have fun! zoo mama

We took our 5 month old son in December to the Oakland Zoo . He actually enjoyed the whole zoo from his front-facing Bjorn...especially the frogs at the reptile house and looking at the goats in the ''petting zoo.'' They have a new children's section if you only want to tackle that part of the zoo on your first visit. I don't think he's too young, but obviously he will get more out of his zoo visits as he gets older. Have fun! Went on Baby Zoofari

I got a zoo membership and started taking my daughter to the zoo long before she was able to appreciate it--probably around 3 mos. The question really is, will you enjoy taking her there and being out and about, even if she doesn't notice the animals.

As to when they start appreciating it, I think my daughter started really appreciating it around a year old. I have pictures of her at 13 mos riding the Merry-go-round at the Oakland Zoo . She went through a phase where she was fascinated with sitting on curbs and would stop every 20 feet or so along the elephant exhibit to sit down. None of that has anything to do with animals, particularly. That interest probably started around 1.5-2 years (the same time she wanted me to do a google photo search for ''Monkeys'' on a daily basis). Carrie

I don't think that's a weird question at all! I wondered the same thing when my son (now 2.5) was little, because the zoo on its surface seems such a kid-friendly place. But there's a lot about it that's good for older rather than younger kids. I would say that your child may start to get interested in looking at animals, etc., at around 12-18 months, but it will be much longer than that before she really gets the zoo as an enjoyable outing. It all depends on your financial circumstances (whether you can afford to pop in to the zoo even if she enjoys it for only 30 min) and how close you live to the zoo (again, whether it's convenient to go for a short time).

As with all things, understanding is gradual. At age 1, she might enjoy looking at the elephants for 3 min, running on the sidewalk, playing in the dirt, eating a snack, and then going home. At 2, she might be more familiar with the concept of an outing (as her sense of time intervals gets better), and might be good for an hour or two of animal-looking including the aforementioned running and snacking. Could be a fun time, but keep in mind that at this age the zoo might not be more exciting than a visit to Little Farm (free), the park (ditto), or the pile of dirt at the end of your street. Last, although I haven't gotten there yet, my guess is that it's not until school age that kids are able to fully appreciate the zoo - what it is, why the animals are there, and what the signs say about them. Before 2, my kid wasn't even tall enough to SEE the animals unless I held him. The newly remodeled Children's Zoo at the Oakland Zoo is attempting to bridge that gap between bigger and littler kids, and it IS fun, but the same comment about Little Farm, etc., still applies. Still, when you have a 2+ year old, it's a good outing with visiting grandparents, etc. See you at the dirt pile

Hi - we just took our 20 mo old son to the Oakland Zoo this past weekend and he LOVED it. He was interested at all the big animals (elephants, giraffes) and he had a great time at the Children's Zoo (mostly running around and playing on the animal rock structures) We have taken him before (closer to when he was 1) and he didn't really get it. Julie

our daughter started being noticeably interested around 8 or 9 months and i just got a membership to the oakland zoo so that we can go there often. the sf zoo is wonderful, too! anon