Spring has Sprung – It’s Time to Play!

*Disclosure: This is part of a sponsored collaboration with DiMe Media and Dreft.  All opinions are 100% mine.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been having a serious case of cabin fever lately. The twins are now four months old, and I feel like we never get out of the house. In fact, the only times the babies get out of the house is for church, or for a doctor’s appointment. Sad, right? Well, with the change in the weather, it’s about time we start to change that.

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Last week, for the very first time, I took the twins out for something other than a doctor’s appointment. We went to the ZOO! And we had a great time too. We only stayed to see a few exhibits, and the outing was anything BUT stress-free, but it was still fun.

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Some helpful tips for the next time you bring infants to the zoo:

  • Bring their bibs. Better yet – have a checklist of everything you need to bring. Somehow I forgot their bibs, hand sanitizer, thin blankets, and a few other items. I totally should’ve made a list.
  • Keep the sunscreen out of your baby’s eyes. Not proud of this one, but it happened. I think she must’ve rubbed her face while the sunscreen was still wet, and rubbed her eye at the same time. We got LOTS of stares during her scream-fest. Be real careful about this one.
  • Related – Keep babies out of direct sunlight. Another one of the things I forgot was sunhats, and the car seat covers I had were made out of thick material. It was TOUGH to keep them out of the sun. According to Dr. Dyan Hes, mom and medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics, babies younger than 6 months, like mine, should be kept out of direct sunlight. You can protect your baby from sun exposure by dressing him or her in protective clothing, a hat with a brim and sunglasses.
  • Don’t visit the zoo alone with infant twins. I had my mom with me, and there’s no way I would have survived the day without her.

Overall, though, it was a really good trip. Seeing some animals with the family, and being able to bring the twins was awesome. And the warm, sunny day sure didn’t hurt either.

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Although I’m loving the fact that the weather is getting nicer, I am aware that the spring season brings more allergens to the air and rising temperatures can trigger skin irritations for little ones. Keeping this in mind, it’s important that we seek out products that are gentle on baby’s sensitive skin. My kids are no stranger to this either. They’ve had sensitive skin since birth, and I’m afraid the change in seasons might further irritate their skin. Couple that with our recent zoo trip where I forgot their bibs and they got super-dirty. All my fault, of course. But regardless, parenthood and babyhood is messy. But those messy and imperfect moments are often the most memorable and thanks to Dreft, we, as parents, can embrace the mess of #Amazinghood. Because, let’s face it- parenthood is pretty amazing.

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Thankfully, we do use Dreft* for all our baby laundry. Did you know that Dreft is the #1 baby laundry detergent choice of pediatricians and the #1 dermatologist recommended brand for baby clothes? Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. Cleaning our babies’ clothes with a gentle, hypoallergenic product, like Dreft, is one of the ways we help keep them comfortable, and their clothes clean, during the spring season.

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Brookfield Zoo Goes Blue for Autism Awareness

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in 2014, one in 68 children are diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Although not replacing this official estimate, a new government survey of parents reported the number to be 1 in 45 children, ages 3 through 17, have been diagnosed with autism, which indicates there may be more prevalence of autism in the United States as once thought to be.

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To bring awareness of one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the country, Brookfield Zoo is partnering with Autism Speaks for the annual Zoos Go Blue Campaign on Saturday, April 2, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. To commemorate the day, the water in the zoo’s Roosevelt Fountain will be dyed blue and there will be blue flags decorating the park’s grounds.

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In light of research that has shown that the presence of an animal can significantly increase positive social behaviors among children with autism spectrum disorder, the animal care staff will be on hand to provide special Zoo Chats. These informal talks will allow families to enjoy up-close experiences with some of the animals. Also, joining in the activities will be representatives from Autism Speaks, who will have booths set up at both the zoo’s north and south gates distributing information and answering questions.

Throughout the day, there will be special activities for families who have children on the autism spectrum. Youngsters can participate in a craft activity at the Hamill Family Play Zoo. The zoo’s Carousel will feature a quiet hour from 11:00 a.m. to noon, which will allow families to ride the popular attraction without loud music. In addition, at 1:00 p.m., there will be a sensory-friendly Dolphins In Action presentation. And, there will be a designated area in the Riverside Room, located in the lower level of BZ Red Hots, where families can go for some quiet time.

The zoo also has several BZ Care Kits that can be checked out during a zoo visit. These kits include noise-reducing headphones, hard copies of visual schedules, autism stickers, and safety alert badges and ID bracelets in case a child gets separated from his or her family.

How will you support Autism Awareness on April 2nd?

Hamill Family Wild Encounters at Brookfield Zoo

A visit to Brookfield Zoo is a must if you are visiting the Chicago area, but this year there’s an added incentive to check out this world-class zoo – Hamill Family Wild Encounters! This new, permanent exhibit officially opened up last week, and it replaces the old children’s zoo that closed a few years ago to make way for this fabulous new experience.

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Christopher Family Plaza

The first thing you’ll see when you walk in the all-new Hamill Family Wild Encounters is the Christopher Family Plaza, the central focal point of the exhibit, which features three captivating whimsical kinesthetic sculptures. The one-of-a-kind moving pieces of art, which range from 10 to 14 feet high, are made of metal and brilliant shapes of glass that spin and rotate with the slightest breeze.

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The rest of the exhibit features up-close encounters and multisensory experiences, where guests of all ages will have the opportunity to interact with Brookfield Zoo’s animal ambassadors and, inspired to action, become active conservationists.

The Plaza is also a place where guests can gather to meet Brookfield Zoo’s animal ambassadors, where they introduce a variety of animals to the zoo’s guests. While we visited, we met a tamandua – a small anteater.

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GOATS

The goat habitat features 25 to 30 Nigerian dwarf goats, and guests have the opportunity to get close with the goats by petting, feeding, and brushing them. Not to worry parents – there are plenty of hand sanitizing stations right outside the exhibit.

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LLAMAS and ALPACAS

The llamas and alpacas can not be pet, however, they interact with guests throughout the day during walks and grooming demonstrations. And they sit around being cute, of course.

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BENNETT’S WALLABIES and EMUS

A walk-in wallaby yard houses more than 20 Bennett’s wallabies. Guests of all ages have the chance to connect with these Australian marsupials, along with emus, the second largest flightless bird in the world. It was interesting to see how fearless the wallabies were among the guests. Hopping throughout the enclosure, it was like we weren’t even there. My son loved it!

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RED PANDAS

The red panda habitat, although not one where you can interact with the animals, still gets you up-close to these gorgeous animals. The exhibit features two female pandas and a man-made bonsai tree, which measures 13 feet tall and 35 feet wide, has many nooks and crannies for animal care staff to place food items. Plus, they’re just really pretty to look at.

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PARAKEET AVIARY

This was, by far, our favorite part of the exhibit. My son could have spent hours here – and we nearly did! Featuring more than 700 parakeets, this is one of the largest indoor parakeet aviaries in North America. Seed sticks are available for purchase to allow guests opportunities to feed birds throughout the day. Best part of the day! A large area with hand wash stations and hand sanitizers are located at the exit.

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One of the things that really impressed me about the Hamill Family Wild Encounters exhibit (aside from all the animal interactions, of course) was the number of educational opportunities throughout – giving parents the knowledge to teach their kids more about the animals they saw.

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Admission to Hamill Family Wild Encounters is $5 for adults and $3 for children 3-11 and seniors 65 and over. Children 2 and under are admitted free (Brookfield Zoo members pay half price).

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Making Memories at Brookfield Zoo #BZBloggers

I have been going to Brookfield Zoo ever since I was a kid.  I remember watching (& loving) the dolphin show, taking pictures in front of the fountain, watching the ducks splash around in the pond, and taking a ride on a motor safari.  Some of the best memories I have as a kid took place within the walls of the Brookfield Zoo.

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So believe me when I say that I am so thankful to be able to share these memories with my 3-year-old, and make some new ones as well.  My heart swells watching him take in the same dolphin shows and ride the same motor safari that I did as a kid.

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We usually visit Brookfield Zoo every year, but here’s a little taste of what we did on our last visit with cousins!  Spoiler:  The kids had a blast!

We were guests of Brookfield Zoo on our last visit, and they were nice enough to set-up a little Meet & Greet with some of the animals.  We got to pet an adorable wallaby.

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And watch a little tamandua (a member of the anteater species).  I’ll admit that I wanted to take this guy home in my purse.

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And watch an expert handle a hawk – and she was super-friendly too!

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The rest of the day was spent doing all the kiddie activities the zoo has to offer.  We touched some stingrays at Stingray Bay.  They also sell feed (small fish) for an additional $2 to help you attract some stingrays.  They were more active than I’ve ever seen them!

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We watched an energetic dolphin show in Brookfield Zoo’s gorgeous arena.

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We even released some energy at the zoo’s playground.

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We spent most of our time this trip at the Hamill Family Play Zoo.

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The kids had fun setting up a pretend animal cage,…

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petting some more animals,…

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and even “earning their admission” by going behind the scenes in the kids exhibit.  I loved watching them pretend to be zoo keepers and how the Hamill Family Play Zoo allows kids to be “hands-on”.  It’s this kind of creativity that make the play zoo a fun, educational activity for young kids.

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My son’s favorite part of the Hamill Family Play Zoo was the Zoo Greenhouse.

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He loved watering the plants.

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And this one.

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Oh, this one too.

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Can’t forget this guy.

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Wait…still more.  I swear, I think he just might have gotten every single one while we were there!  It was adorable.

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Finally, the kids started to get tired so we spent the end of our day expending some more energy outside. The Hamill Family Play Zoo also has an amazing outdoor play area where you can climb a camel,…

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climb through a tunnel,…

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play in the sand, and so much more!

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Brookfield Zoo is the ideal spot to spend the day with the kids in the Chicago area.  There are so many animals to see, you’re almost guaranteed to make a return trip!

General Information

Brookfield Zoo is located west of Chicago, approximately a 30 minute drive from the city at 8400 31st Street (1st Avenue and 31st Street) in Brookfield, IL.  General admission is $16.95 for adults, $11.65 for seniors 65 and over, and $11.95 for children ages 3 to 11.  Parking is $10.00.  The zoo is open 365 days a year.

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Disclosure:  My family received complimentary admission to Brookfield Zoo to facilitate this post. I was not asked to provide a particular point of view, and all opinions are 100% my own.

Chicagoland Spots: Brookfield Zoo Dinosaurs Alive!

Venue: Brookfield Zoo {Dinosaurs Alive!}

Website: http://www.brookfieldzoo.org/CZS/Dinosaurs-Alive

Location: 8400 W 31st Street, Brookfield, IL  60513.

Hours: M-S: 9:30am to 6:00pm; Su: 9:30am to 7:30pm

Admission:  Adults: $15.00; Seniors 65 and Over: $10.50; Children 3 to 11: $10.50  Dinosaurs Alive! admission: Adults $5.00; Children 11 and under $3.00; Seniors 65 and over $3.00; Children under 3 are FREE

Parking: Non-Members: $10/car; $12/van

Brookfield Zoo Dinosaurs Alive

Our Experience:  My son is a typical toddler boy.  He likes cars, trains, animals, and…dinosaurs!  He loves dinosaurs so much that he even has different “roars” for each one.  (I can’t tell them apart, but he’ll say “That’s my stegosaurus!” or “That’s a T-Rex!” after every growl and roar.)  We were so excited to hear that Brookfield Zoo opened a new Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit – we knew he’d just love it!  (Last year’s special exhibit was Extreme Bugs so, being the scaredy cat that I am, I wasn’t too inclined to visit that one.)

We are members of Brookfield Zoo, so our admission for the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit was discounted by 50%, otherwise it’s an extra cost {see admission prices above} to enter the exhibit.

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As you roam a winding wooded trail with many life-like animatronic prehistoric creatures, you can hear the dinosaurs make sounds and some of them even move!  My family was impressed by their size and how real they looked and even learned about a few dinosaur species we never even heard of.  Have you heard of a Kosmoceratops?!?!  (And I’ll admit that I had to add a photo of the display because, well, it just made me chuckle.)

Kosmoceratops Facts

Another neat part of the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit that we loved was the Feathers & Fossils tent.  Inside the tent were real dinosaur artifacts on display and the tent showcased some recent paleontological findings.  For example, did you know that scientists now believe that some younger dinosaurs were born with feathers, and shed them once they got older?  Cool, right?  To learn more of these fun facts, you’ll just have to check out the exhibit at Brookfield Zoo!

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The Feathers & Fossils tent is also home to the Dino Dig Station.  My son got a kick out of “finding” dinosaur bones!

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The Brookfield Zoo Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit runs through October 27th, 2013 – come see it before it’s gone!

I received no compensation to write this review, this was simply a family outing I wanted to share.

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