Real Wild Life
While visiting Kronkosky’s Tiny Tot Nature Spot, parents are encouraged to take their children out of their strollers (and in many cases their shoes and socks) for a hands-on encounter with REAL.WILD.LIFE! Specially designed areas and well-trained staff, called playleaders, assist children and their families immerse themselves in nature. Because different activities are planned each day, no two visits to this exhibit are the same. On one day, children may participate in a ladybug release. Later that same day, or on another visit, they may uncover worms, play in a riverbank, or dig up carrots to feed the guinea pigs.
Kronkosky’s Tiny Tot Nature Spot consists of seven major areas with a total of 19 sub areas. At the Pier and Pond, kids play in a boat, pretend to fish, explore pond life, and create fish prints. Traveling through the Underwater Adventure, children can get face-to-fin with giant fish. My Backyard features gardens where children can use compost, plant seeds, and water and transplant seedling. At the Coati/Sloth Hang and Dig area, young adventurers climb and hang like a monkey or dig and tunnel like a coati. There’s even an oversized sloth that kinds can climb! In the Campground, kids explore tents, play in the stream, and uncover animal tracks. At the Riverbank, tiny tots play in the water, dig in the sand, and climb on giant tortoise shells.
Located in the center of Kronkosky’s Tiny Tot Nature Spot is the Discovery House, an interior exhibit that features three distinct exhibit rooms, each connected to the outside by wall-sized windows. In Explore Your Underground, children explore the underground world of prairie dogs and earthworms. In the Explore Your Pond room, they can play in an indoor pond, or enter a child-sized aquarium. Another unique feature within the Discovery House is the Explore Your Zoo room, which encourages children to discover the various jobs, functions, and roles of Zoo staff. Props allow them to become Zookeepers, Veterinarians, and even the Zoo Director, as they dress up, build enclosures for the animals with blocks, and care for animals. In each of these exhibits, children are encouraged to play, pretend, and share their understanding of the natural world with parents and playleaders.
During each and every visit, children are immersed in natural experiences that encourage the sense, including the sense of discovery. Whether brushing a goat, uncovering pretend tortoise eggs, wading in the stream, holding a worm, climbing like a monkey, creating a leaf collage, looking for insects, floating twigs down the stream, or meeting a frog for the very first time, each experience will enhance the child’s emotional, physical, and social development. BUT WAIT…the exhibit is not just for kids! Parents are a very important part of Kronkosky’s Tiny Tot Nature Spot. As a child’s first teacher, the Zoo encourages parents to explore, to get wet, to get dirty, and to play with their children. By encouraging parents and young children to rediscover and explore the natural world, Kronkosky’s Tiny Tot Nature Spot will not only help develop physically, socially, cognitively, and emotionally, but also environmentally…and that benefits everyone.