We like animals but due to allergies (cats), lack of time and money (dogs) and a broken heart (my beautiful missed rabbits) the creatures we look after at home are a little more unorthodox. We have stick insects (including eggs so about to have a darn site more of them) and about seven millipedes in varying sizes and colours. My youngest daughter adores them all and has also been known to look after worms, ants and woodlice too, but they aren’t the most exciting of creatures. Unless of course you accidentally throw a stick insect at your daughter but that’s another story. Hence we need to seek some out sometimes to make life even more interesting. Here are some ideas:
- Yorkshire Wildlife Park – I know lots of people dislike zoos but of every zoo I’ve ever visited this is the best by a country mile. Conservation at the heart of everything. We literally cannot wait to visit the newly rehomed brown bears and to watch the polar bears yet again. Such a positive place.
- Xotics, Sheffield – We’ve just discovered this gem of a place on London Road. It’s tiny and crammed with fascinating creatures. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable and I can’t believe we didn’t know it existed (especially since they see millipede substrate – much better getting it there than Amazon). My other half took the girls on Wednesday and they came back absolutely buzzing. Snakes, tiny geckos, taratanulas, shiny blue stick insects and the absolute pinnacle of excitement, baby tortoises. We’ve wanted a tortoise for a long time and now all our collective pennies are saving up for one from Xotic along with a tortoise table. It’s all very exciting. (We had a tortoise once when I was little. The story goes that it turned up one day and stayed a while, then left again when my Dad was digging the rhubarb patch. I like to think of him as the Littlest Hobo helping families out with problems before moving on. Maybe our problem was rhubarb growing related and he felt he’d done enough).
- Pets at Home – they do some events where you can handle animals, ideal for younger kids. We just wander about looking at the fish and trying not to buy another rabbit.
- Borrow someone else’s dog. I think this is a great idea, apart from the fact that my youngest is petrified of dogs. You’d get to take a dog for a walk which if you don’t have one would be quite fun I think.
- Tropical Butterfly House – I rather like it here – especially the butterfly house itself. The kids are growing out of it a little as much of the play equipment is aimed at younger kids, but who doesn’t like butterflies, terrapins and the odd snake around your neck
- Graves Park – This has the added benefit that it’s totally free, apart from buying the obligatory bag of animal food of course. Any age I think wandering around animals (especially when there are piglets and kids about) is a good thing, even if older kids might not admit to it. Anyway you can take a frisbee for afterwards
- Weston Park Museum – I might be pushing it here but they have lots of animals, even though they are all dead. My eldest cannot stand taxidermy so it doesn’t work for her. The new circus exhibition was great until she discovered the stuffed chimp at the back of the room. But you know, some kids like all that.
- Old Moor RSPB reserve – you do need to like birdwatching to visit here with older kids, but I rather like it. Encouraging them to be mindful for a while is no bad thing.
- Go otter spotting. OK so this one is tricky. You may have to be prepared to walk 29 miles between Sheffield and Doncaster and you still might not see one but they are there. Chances are you will catch sight of a heron at least and as everyone will be so exhausted they’ll be too tired to argue with each other. No we’ve never done this, do you think I’m mad?
- So this last one is for autumn and winter, not summer but everyone should see at least one murmuration in their lifetime, hopefully many. Awe inspiring enough to stun any noisy preteen/teenager/adult into silence. We caught one last year outside Chesterfield but take a look online at where they often happen.
So there are my animal suggestions – some free, some pricey, some downright stupid and one that will probably result in the purchase of a tortoise.