A stay at home Mum who doesn't stay at home much; too many exciting things to be discovering in this city...
Published June 12th 2012
Braving the cold this long weekend, we decided to head over to Melbourne Zoo for some animal action. After a full day exploring the animals (and the playground), we were on our way towards the exit when a building bearing the sign, 'Keeper Kids', jumped out at us. Whilst I and my husband had been freezing our backsides off watching our little one on the outdoor playground, we could have been in the cosy warmth of the oh-so-kid-friendly, Keeper Kids interactive play space.
Keeper Kids is a new edition to Melbourne Zoo and its opening coincided with the 150th birthday celebrations. It features a large open space with lots of different kiddie activities designed to help the children understand the different elements involved in running the zoo. It is open daily between 9am and 4pm.
One area features a large table painted with fields, lakes and paths, and a veritable plethora of plastic animals to move around said table. There are fences and trees also, so the kids can create their own enclosures for the various animals and think about the different habitats each animal prefers.
Another area is assigned to the weighing out and distributing of food for the animals. Wooden and plastic fruit and vegetables are available; along with wooden knives to cut up the fruit (it splits into sections and fastens back together with Velcro). There are scales to weigh out the right amount of food and baskets nailed to pretend trees so the children can distribute it just like the real keepers do.
Perhaps the best area (in my humble opinion) is the space set up as a veterinary clinic. Stuffed animals abound along with syringes, stethoscopes and magnifying glasses in order to diagnose these ailing creatures. A row of small cages along one wall provides space for the patients to recuperate; each cage with its own chart. There is a fantastic x-ray section with real x-rays and a light panel to study them. And of course who can be a vet without their very own lab coat? There are also high visibility jackets for the horticultural workers and if I remember correctly, overalls for the maintenance workers.
A quiet corner is equipped with animal related books and cushions for some down time, although I felt this area was the only one which could benefit from a bit more attention – it just seemed a bit empty and lifeless. There is also a 'campground' for research in the field, complete with nets for catching specimens. Various other activities are on offer and there are staff on hand who have the thankless task of constantly tidying up after your little lovelies.
Sadly my son and I only had a short time in this wonderful space as my husband was champing at the bit to leave (we had been at the zoo for 5 hours by this point...). However, our almost 3 year old was totally engaged in the role playing aspect of Keeper Kids and enthralled by everything on offer. I definitely recommend visiting this part of the zoo, particularly if your children are in the 3 – 8 years category. Whoever is/was responsible for creating Keeper Kids has done so with interactivity and imagination very much in mind and they deserve recognition for designing such a thoughtful, entertaining and educational zone for little ones. Well done Melbourne Zoo!