Tips for Safely Enjoying a Petting Zoo
Make sure when you finish the day at the park that the kids
Hi, I'm David Meeks, director of Hollywild Animal Park, for About.com.What should children wear to a petting zoo? When visiting a park or a petting zoo, believe it or not, what children wear will determine whether they have fun or not. And I don't mean the brightest colors or the fluffiest pants. The material they're wearing is important. If you're in a petting zoo and your children are wearing really fluffy, loose clothing, then goats, deer, and animals in the petting zoo -- that's the first thing they want to eat.And the kid won't even notice it at first. And then when it's already in the animal's mouth, then the child gets frightened because the animal is pulling her favorite dress. And maybe it doesn't hurt the child, it just hurts the garment. You can wash it, but to the children, it's a horrible thing. And they think, "Oh my goodness, look what just happened to my dress or my shirt." So dress children in clothing that's comfortable, but not flowing loosely like that.And if children don't really want to wear something on their heads, then don't make a big deal about it because children take their hats off and they swat animals with it, and it frightens the animals. And if you're in a petting zoo and you swat a goat and he jumps away or does something quickly, then it may injure another child. That's why supervision is so important. It's imperative that you always keep up with your children, because they're just as creative as possible and you never know what they're going to do. Now you mix that energy in with the animals and that's a good combination for excitement, but not necessarily the kind you may really want.Can visiting a petting zoo make my child ill? People are so frightened about E. Coli. -- and it should be a thing to be frightened about. However, the simplest things can be done to provide your kids with safety. Just simply using soap and water -- washing their hands more than just once. If you wash them before you go it does not mean you don't need to wash them again. If you have sanitizing wipes, that's nice to use, too. But make sure when you finish the day at the park -- they've gone to the bathroom, they've had food there, they've petted the animals (and who knows what kids have done) -- wash their hands again as soon as possible. And if you're going to eat later, wash them again.Is it ok to bring food for the animals? Children are going to want to bring their own little food; they're also going to want to bring their own teddy bears to impress the monkeys. It makes them feel happy, but not necessarily the animals. If you're going to feed the animals in the park, it's important that you only feed the food provided to you by the park staff because it's been inspected, it's good for the animals.If you brought food, the kids may break it up and feed little pieces to the animals. Look how close their fingers are to the animal's teeth. But the petting zoo is going to furnish you with nice wafers like this and you can show your children how to feed the animals. You say "Feed a zebra like this" and she takes the food with her lips. But look what happens if I don't do that, and I give a little piece to a goat. She's going to take it and she may think that my fingers are peanuts also. So always use just the food they provide.Do you have any other safety tips for parents? Feed your children before you get to the park. And if you think you've got little ones that, no matter how much you give them, they're going to eat little tidbits and be hungry again in 30 minutes, then bring special foods that you've prepared for them. But don't think, "Oh yeah, I'll have food for my kids and I'll also have extra for the animals in the park." No, bring kid food, and the food for the animals will be furnished by the park.Thanks for visiting with us and watch us again on About.com.