Oklahoma City Zoo Giraffe Feeding
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Do You Speak Giraffe?

Giraffe encounters or feeding experiences make a normal day at the zoo exceptional. There is a certain elegance and mystery surrounding these regal inhabitants of the Sahara.

Reid Park Zoo Giraffe Encouter

Giraffes have really long tongues and big brown eyes with glamorous lashes.

So if you have small children in your life no doubt have from time to time been required to make animal sounds while sharing a book or story. Lions “RRRoaRRR” chimpanzees appear to laugh “ooh, ooh, augh, augh” but what do you say when you turn to a page with a giraffe?

Even if the mystery of what sound giraffes make is not solved, giraffe encounters or feeding experiences will be memorable. Here’s why.

When nurturing young children there is no substitute for being there even if you don’t speak the language and that applies to penguins, seals, goats, and a variety of interactive wild life experiences offered by zoos. I have found that with giraffes it’s really all about eye contact not just their amazing tongue action.

Giraffe feeding opportunities are now available at dozens of zoos across the country. Not surprising no two experiences will be the same because giraffes have their own personality quirks. I have noticed locations have their own style of communication with participants. Some zookeepers offer facts and suggestions while others, Reid Park Zoo in Tucson and Oklahoma City Zoo, actively engage youngsters in the experience, posing questions and answering questions.

Oklahoma City Zoo Giraffe Feeding

Nevertheless giraffes are gentle, curious and appear to enjoy interacting with humans of all sizes. Just how far will his neck stretch?

The calming experience has the potential to become a vacation highlight and certainly memorable. Like any interactive experience, the degree of success depends not just on the zookeeper but also the advanced information set up by parents. For example in the case of giraffes the tongue is long, very long and black which may be alarming to an unsuspecting participant of any age. Size and gangling movements which appear non-threatening at a distance intimidate when up close.

Giraffe feeding at Kansas City Zoo.

Staring down a giraffe is nearly impossible. They are curious and clever, quickly determine who has the lettuce. Just how long will its tongue stretch?

From our most recent giraffe encounter my five-year-old grandson learned that giraffes spend most of their time each day browsing for food, munching on leaves, flavorful plants, and bark from trees. Giraffes have a bony ridge instead of top front top teeth and a tongue which is capable of grasping, described as prehensile for vocabulary builders.

Curious Giraffe

Each giraffe has its own way of engaging with humans. The youngest ones seem more suspicious even though the are curious.

My grandson had two questions after patiently listening. How many spots do they have? He is in to counting everything. And, can giraffes kiss? I think he did not wish to be kissed or maybe he did. Our shared experience made a lasting impression on both of us. We are looking forward to meeting penguins in Tampa or maybe manta rays in Dallas.

If a zoo adventure is in your future and your zoo of choice offers giraffe time, just do it. Before the big day, I suggest acquiring a book about giraffes beforehand. A terrific, most enjoyable read is Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae with illustrations by Guy Parker-Rees. It is slightly silly yet inspirational for a young mind. And is a great set up for a zoo adventure. And because we all need to see the humor in situations, Shel Silverstein classic (from my children’s early days), Giraffe and a Half is enjoyable for all ages.

No need to speak giraffe, all you have to do is show up and listen.

Nancy Nelson-Duac,

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.

 

 

Boomerang! A Feast for Curious Minds.

How about an audio gift for the whole family? If you have children or grandchildren between the ages of six and 14 obtaining a subscription to Boomerang! is a sneaky way to have more fun with your kids. Imaginative, fast-paced and timely, each Boomerang! episode provides an audio treat for families with curious minds who want to know more about our world, past, present and future.

Boomkids Episode 33

Boomkids report on big ideas in a unique kid-style in a no nonsense way that is informative and entertaining for all ages.

The mix of topics and liveliness of the reporters is what appeals most to the kids. Hearing facts and listening to opinions presented by other kids makes all the difference. The bonus for adults is that the episodes provide platforms for fascinating family discussions. For years our kids spoke of Dave Shmave – the Elevator Man as if he were a long lost uncle.

The innovative series introduces kids to the world of big ideas and makes useful connections to science, current events, economics, history, poetry and geography, jokes, mysteries, music and interviews – think NPR by kids and for kids. Classic episodes, all still available for download, include “Thomas Jefferson and Greed,” “Michelangelo and Dinosaurs,” and “Nikola Tesla and Globalization” and of course Dave Shmave stories which often leave listeners, no matter what age, speechless.

On road trips and plane trips, as well as carpooling to swim practice, Boomerang entertained and informed all of us. In addition to the timely topics, I appreciate the sense of community engendered with each episode.

Whether you download each episode to your I-Phone or listen (old style) from a CD it will be an audio feast which includes dessert.  Boomerang! is engaging, inspirational, screen-free fun for the whole family.

Are you listening?

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files

Summer Road Trips to the 16th Century.

Renaissance festivals can be the perfect stress reliever for an over scheduled family. My family and I have enjoyed more than a dozen Ren faires in various locations always dressing the part and melding with the faire atmosphere.  I know from experience that one of the best parts of any Ren faire experience is imagining together about another time in history and play acting along with everyone else. There really is no substitute for being there.

Renaissance faire magic.

Being a princess for a day is part of the Renaissance faire magic.

The best Ren faires create a 16th century time capsule (sometimes loosely translated) where royalty reigns and jousts are the order of the day. There’s music and dance, royal parades and artisan shops plus scrumptious food. It is a place where bards, jesters, puppeteers, falconers, magicians and fairy folk mingle with gallant knights, beautiful princesses, an occasional dastardly dragon, and uncommon folk from this century.

Ren faires create an atmosphere punctuated by lively entertainment and living history moments, creating the perfect setting for a carefree family experience difficult to duplicate on your own. Where else can you dress up and pretend to be a pirate, or a jester, lady in waiting or a forest fairy? Where else can you practice speaking like a citizen of the shire; enjoy falconry, human-powered rides, enchanted mazes and organized quests? Where else can you hear storytellers, see a royal court, watch jousting, puppeteers, and jesters? And where else can you eat with your fingers?

Bristol Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin.

Huzzah! Bristol Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin makes summer in the 16th century magical for everyone who attends.

The faire atmosphere creates the ultimate interactive family experience with seeing, doing, and pretending all part of the fun. It’s an easy way practice imaging together without the aid of electronic devices. The immersive experience is bound to stretch your child’s comfort zone with 16tth century activities, sights, sounds, aromas and costumes all part of the day.

If a road trip to the 16th century makes sense then head for one of the best locations. My suggestions include Bristol Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin, Great Lakes Medieval Faire in Ohio, Holly Michigan Renaissance Festival, Ohio Renaissance Festival, Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, New York Renaissance Faire, and Minnesota Renaissance Festival.

Huzzah!

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files