Yesterday I visited London Zoo with my youngest son to attend their Special Needs Day. It is the first time we have been and it was well worth the experience.
The general public are still allowed into the zoo, but the majority of guests appeared to be families of children with disabilities. Tickets which we ordered online were at a discounted rate. There was a separate entrance with no queues and by 10.30am we were looking at the animals. More staff were working to assist visitors, as well as different activities available and lots of areas where families could chill out. We did wildlife gardening and made a mini beast hotel for our garden as well as planted a seed. There were art activities, ‘Singing Hands’ demonstration, sensory storytelling and many of the animal enclosure talks were done in sign language as well.
We spent 6 ½ hours walking around the zoo as my son was mesmorised by the animals. The gorillas were a huge hit – there were four adult gorillas and a newborn and we were lucky to see them outside on two occasions moving around and interacting with one another. Tigers, giraffes, camels, zebras and penguins were also popular with my son. He was captivated by the reptile house and aquarium. The iconic Elephant House which I remember from my childhood is still part of the zoo, but the elephants all now live at Whipsnade Zoo. Inside the Elephant House are smaller animals like meerkats, prairie dogs and the sleeping areas of bearded pigs and tapirs.
It is not possible for us to visit a zoo and not buy a soft toy – it has become an obligatory item to live at the end of my son’s bed!! Yesterday it had to be a gorilla, which he cuddled all night and has now made friends with an orangutan and chimpanzee that also live at the end of his bed, along with another 50 or so soft toys.
It seemed busy in the park, but once we left, we realised we had actually been in a quiet park of London in comparison to the walk back to Camden Town tube station along the canal towpath. It is only 10 minutes away from the zoo, but it was so crowded that it became a little overwhelming for my son and he ensured his hood was up, head looking down at the floor and a tight grasp of my hand.
As well as being a fabulous day out visiting somewhere that has fond memories for me from my childhood, it was lovely to have some 1:1 time with my son and for him to enjoy one of his interests.
Whipsnade Zoo are holding a Special Needs Day on 13 June 2015 and I would recommend going. We are definitely going to go back to this event at London Zoo next year.