What do you do for a childs fifth birthday if they dont like parties and dont have many friends? With my son we had the added problem of his birthday being four days before Christmas.
He is autistic, he doesnt like crowds and he doesnt like noisy places.
We asked him what he wanted to do and he said he wanted to feed penguins!
Now I dont know where he got the idea but it was a brilliant one and after a bit of wondering how to achieve it, I started contacting the zoos to find out if five year olds can feed penguins. It turns out they can, at Chester zoo. So Chester zoo it was.
The good thing was that not only was the zoo open, it was also really quiet as there are not that many people that think of going to the zoo on a cold December day right before Christmas. This was brilliant for us!
We arrived at the zoo and met Grandad (Grandad is my sons birthday guest).
First we got some time to look around as the penguins were not hungry yet so we visited the monkeys and the elephants.
Then it was time to make our way to the meeting point where my son was given his very own zoo keeper Jacket to wear and some gloves so he didnt have to touch fish. The nice lady explained clearly what we were going to do before taking us to see the penguin enclosure. She pointed out all the penguins, told us their names and where they were from and clearly answered any questions we had.
Following this we were led into the penguin kitchen where my son helped to prepare the fish and vitamins before going through the secret door onto penguin island.
It was feeding time and my son had the time of his life throwing fish into the water as far as he could and saying hello to his favourite animals.
When the penguins had finished their dinner we were led back through the secret door and my son was presented with a certificate and a cuddly penguin of his own to take home.
We went to the quiet cafe for some birthday cake and managed to see a few more animals before it was time to go home.
My son had a brilliant fifth birthday!
Feeding penguins with an autistic child?
If you have a child over the age of five who loves animals and is able to follow instructions (throw the fish in the water and not touch the penguins) then this activity is great!
I was able to help my child do the activity. This activity can be for more than one child at once but the groups are always small.
The lady leading the activity was very patient and instructions were clear. You are able to speak to staff on the phone beforehand to make sure the activity is suitable for your childs needs.
In December the zoo is very quiet and we found it to be ideal.
The Encounter is available for adults and children over the age of 5 years old, however children between the ages of 5 to 15 years old must be accompanied by a spectating parent or guardian paying normal zoo admission (1 adult per 1 child).
There may be 1 other participant taking part in the same Encounter. The price is from £89 and includes zoo admission. Members and adopters receive a 10% discount if booked by phone.
The chester zoo website is: http://www.chesterzoo.org