Toddler Activity: Safari Animal Hunt

With rainy days ahead, there’s a ton of fun, indoor activities you can do with your toddler. Since Mila loves zoo animals right now and hide and seek, I’ve combined the two to a Safari Animal Hunt!

You can easily do this activity too! It’s a great way for toddlers to learn about different animals, find hidden objects, and be creative in hiding too.

Here’s what you’ll need:

I made this printable for Mila and she used it as a matching sheet for the animals she found. You’re more than welcome to download and print to use. We used a full sheet of paper, but they can easily be made into half sheets.

I make sure to challenge Mila in saying all of the animals full names. Her favorite to say is hippopotamus and it’s just as cute to hear her say it too.

Next time, I’ll have to make a water animal hunt. It could be a really cool sensory bin!

All you have to do for this activity is have your toddler cover their eyes or go into another room. Then hide all the animals around a single room or your house. We did just one room to make it a little easier for Mila. You can hide at whatever difficulty rating you think would be best for your toddler.

Then, have your toddler put the printable in the middle of the room. Instruct them to find the different animals and match them to the paper.

After they find everything, have them tell you what animal is which.

At this point, they may want to hide their animals for you. Mila had a blast at hiding her animals for me. It was fun watching her try to keep her hiding places a secret.

This is an activity that can last for a while.

It might be good to find out your toddler’s hiding spots. Especially if you’re missing markets, crayons, and scissors! You learn as much about your toddler as they do about safari animals.

If you do this activity, let me know in the comments!

Before you go, check out these other indoor activities you can do with your kids.

5 Reasons We Love the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Ohio is full of things to do. One of our favorite places to go are the many zoos our state has to offer. This time, we visited the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo!

To celebrate Jensen’s fifth birthday, I thought it’d be a fun idea to go. Mila is really into animals right now and I love seeing them as well. We found out that April is a perfect time to go, even though we had a sprinkle of rain.

This zoo is HUGE. We didn’t even get to go to two big attractions because there was so much to go through. There’s always next time though.

One tip for when you explore this zoo is to bring your walking shoes! There’s a lot of walking to get to the different attractions. When you do check out these five things we loved about the Cleveland Metroparks zoo.

The Interaction

One of the best parts of this zoo is all the interactions toddlers through adults can utilize.

The zoo key program allows visitors to receive so much information. All you have to do is purchase them and go to the front of different exhibits to find out all about the animals. Mila will love this even more when she’s older.

Her favorite interaction was the animal statues. I think she sat on every single one she could. It was a way for her to get an up close view of the actual animals she just seen. She was very observant and pointed out all of their features. Every parent was respectful of this and wiped down the statues afterwards. I really do think these interactions let Mila explore and understand more.

Hopefully by the next time we visit this zoo, all the playground and other explorative areas will be open. All of these areas are my favorite part of the zoo, but unfortunately they’re closed. The play area in the Australia section is huge and I’m sure Mila would have loved it.

There’s also opportunities to feed different animals and other interactive parts that we didn’t get to do because I thought Mila was a little too young.

The Animals

I’m unsure if it was the time of the year or the animals were just in a really good mood, but they were all out to impress.

Every attraction we went to we could see the animals. Usually in the summer they’re trying to cool off. Since it was a chilly April day, they all wanted to walk around and play. It was amazing to see some of the animals we normally don’t get to see.

Two of my favorites were the big cats and the red pandas.

There are a few different species of big cats, but I was obsessed with the tiger and snow leopard. The tiger was just walking around and kept going right in front of us. He was absolutely beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that close up and moving around. The snow leopard, on the other hand, just made me laugh. He was sleepy and hanging out on a little perch just watching. I came to the conclusion that’s how I would be if I was a big cat too.

Then, the red pandas were out to play. It was like they were playing tag. It was adorable and I think we spent way too much time just watching and giggling at them. Again, this isn’t an animal we get to see often, so it was a different experience.

Mila loved the tundra exhibit, especially the wolves. She also enjoyed seeing the African animals, such as the elephants, giraffes, and the lions. They’re all animals she’s very familiar with and she was amazed that she could actually see them in person. The only animals that scared her were the kangaroos. She said they looked like big rats!

The Flamingos

No matter how much we loved all the other animals, the flamingos hold a special place in Mila’s heart. They were the last animals we saw and she asked about them the entire time.

Before we left, we stood for at least twenty minutes just watching them.

We talked about why they were pink and how their ‘knees’ are actually their ankles. She asked why they were squawking at each other too. Mostly, she kept saying she wanted to bet them and let them know they were being ‘good boys.’

Of course we didn’t let her in the enclosure, but she did get her flamingo fix in for the day!

The Carrousel

As mentioned before, there was a little rain that happened. Thankfully, we were right by the carrousel.

Mila has been on one before, but not since she’s been able to remember. While we were in line, she was determined to ride the shark, but a little boy got to it first. After much deliberation, she finally chose the donkey to ride.

She really had a blast. We were able to escape the sprinkle and enjoy a fun ride. It was also great seeing her be independent and wanting to ride by herself.

After the ride was over, she wanted to go back on again and again. It actually lasted for quite awhile which was nice! The carrousel only costed three dollars per adult, which was definitely worth the cost!

The Dippin’ Dots

I mean, this is totally self explanatory.

Believe me, I know Dippin’ Dots are available at most zoos throughout the country. Yet, they’re just extra special when you’re there.

We absolutely loved this visit to the zoo and will definitely be headed back in the near future. Next time we go, we want to make sure to visit “The Rainforest” and the primate area since we missed them this visit.

It truly was a great way to celebrate Jensen’s day!

A big thank you to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo for having a great place for families to go and learn about animals we normally would never see. It’s always nice to see animals happy and well taken care of! All the zoo employees that we encountered were nice and helpful too!

Have you ever been to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo? Or where is your favorite zoo that Mila and I can visit in the future? Ohio and beyond!

Jensen is FIVE.

I always need a few days after Jensen’s birthday to collect all my thoughts.

Five feels really big. He should be half a decade old. That realization is hard to wrap my mind around. Then I remember, I have to live the rest of my life without him. It’s a mix of seeing Mila grow older and knowing five holds so much that really brought me to a dark space this year.

Not that every year isn’t hard because having your child die really sucks.

Anyways, Jensen’s actual birthday was everything it needed to be. We still celebrate his birthday and I probably always will.

This year, I wanted to do an activity a five-year-old would love to do. So, we went to the zoo.

I want to go over how much we loved the Cleveland Zoo in a future post, but it was a huge part of Jensen’s fifth birthday. It would be silly not to share the highlights of the day.

My favorite part of going to the zoo was that all the animals were out. Since it was a cooler day, they were playing and being active. The big cats were all out and not napping. Even the bears were out of their caves and showing off.

Honestly, I thought of Jensen’s birthday eve book. We read On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman. In the book, the animals were all dancing the night the baby was born. It felt like the animals were out at the zoo for Jensen. I know that sounds silly, but those little connections are my only ones to him.

As with anything during child loss, I also wondered what animal Jensen would like seeing the most at the zoo. At five, he’d definitely have a favorite. Part of me felt like he’d have liked the red pandas the most. I wonder if he’d want his face painted too. Just those little things that constantly pop up.

I’ve finally realized it’s okay to have those sad moments in a happy day. Grief and happiness coexist in the strangest way, especially on their birthdays.

Of course we had dippin’ dots at the zoo!

After the zoo, we went out to eat.

There were a few birthdays that got celebrated and it was hard because Jensen didn’t get that. Mila is at an age where she wants to sing along with everyone else’s birthday celebrations when we go out. Yet, we didn’t get one for her brother at the restaurant.

I often wonder what Mila thinks of those types of things. It’s just our life, but it’s just something I think about.

When we got home, we had family over to celebrate Jensen and his birthday. There was ice cream cake, singing, and bubbles. Everyone said his name and that will always be the greatest gift of all.

Just knowing Jensen is remembered and loved brings me such happiness.

Throughout his birthday, I received so many birthday messages and love. I can’t thank everyone enough for that. The love that surrounds him and his memory is so beautiful.

I don’t know what this year of grief looks like. Whenever I try to plan something, it feels like it gets a little derailed.

One thing I want to do in honor of Jensen this year is a backpack drive to donate to a local school. Since he’d be a kindergartner this year, I feel like that would be a beautiful way to honor him. The closer we get to the summer, the more details and information I’ll have on this.

What I do know is that as we dive into year five, he is still so loved and missed.

I think about my little boy every single day. He is the reason I keep going forward and shapes the way I parent Mila. Jensen is a part of our lives in all ways. Even though he isn’t here with us doesn’t mean he isn’t in our hearts.

No matter how many years pass, I’m so proud to be his mom.